However there is a flip side of the above mentioned scenario too. Researches today prove that a healthy lifestyle can support your brain health and even encourage your brain to grow new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis.
Our brain’s hippocampus, commonly known as the memory center, is especially able to grow new cells and it’s now known that your hippocampus regenerates throughout your entire lifetime (even into your 90s), provided you give it the tools to do so.
The tools we share here to boost your memory are primarily lifestyle-based, which is wonderful news. You don’t need an expensive prescription medication or any medical procedure at all to boost your brain, and your memory.
7 Clues to Improve Your Memory
1. Eat Right
The foods you eat – and don’t eat – play a crucial role in your memory. Fresh vegetables are essential, as are healthy fats and avoiding sugar and grain carbohydrates. You can find detailed information about nine foods for brainpower here.
For instance, curry, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts contain antioxidants and other compounds that protect your brain health and may even stimulate the production of new brain cells.
Increasing your animal-based omega-3 fat intake and reducing consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (processed vegetable oils) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, is also important.
Coconut oil is another healthful fat for brain function. According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.
Exercise especially YOGA encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by stimulating nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. Exercising also greatly reduces stress and anxiety by releasing happy chemicals in your blood stream.
During exercise activity nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning.
Include high-intensity interval exercise, strength training, stretching, and core work, along with regular intermittent movement to get maximum benefit.
3. Stop Multitasking
Used for decades to describe the parallel processing abilities of computers, multitasking is now shorthand for the human attempt to do simultaneously as many things as possible, as quickly as possible. Ultimately, multitasking may actually slow you down, make you prone to errors as well as make you forgetful.
Research shows you actually need about eight seconds to commit a piece of information to your memory, so if you’re talking on your phone and carrying in groceries when you put down your car keys, you’re unlikely to remember where you left them.
The opposite of multitasking would be mindfulness, which helps you achieve undistracted focus. Students who took a mindfulness class improved reading comprehension test scores and working memory capacity, as well as experienced fewer distracting thoughts.
If you find yourself trying to complete five tasks at once, stop yourself and focus your attention back to the task at hand. If distracting thoughts enter your head, remind yourself that these are only “projections,” not reality, and allow them to pass by without stressing you out. You can then end your day with a 10- or 15-minute meditation session to help stop your mind from wandering and relax into a restful sleep.
4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Research from Harvard indicates that people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas after sleeping, but few realize that their performance has actually improved. Sleep is also known to enhance your memories and help you “practice” and improve your performance of challenging skills. In fact, a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.
Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation- a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.
As you might suspect, this holds true for infants too, and research shows that naps can give a boost to babies’ brainpower. Specifically, infants who slept in between learning and testing sessions had a better ability to recognize patterns in new information, which signals an important change in memory that plays an essential role in cognitive development.
5. Play Brain Games
If you don’t sufficiently challenge your brain with new, surprising information, it eventually begins to deteriorate. Research in Brain plasticity prove that by providing your brain with appropriate stimulus, you can counteract this degeneration.
An excellent way to stumilate your brain is via ‘brain games,’ which you can play online via Web sites like Lumosity.com. Dr. Michael Merzenich, a pioneer in brain plasticity research (also called neuroplasticity) for more than 30 years, has developed computer-based brain-training program that helps sharpen a range of skills, from reading and comprehension to improved memorization and more.
A daily investment of 20 minutes on brain games can significantly enhance your brain power, however spending longer amounts of time on a task, the benefits weaken.
6. Master a New Skill
Engaging in “purposeful and meaningful activities” stimulates your neurological system, counters the effects of stress-related diseases, reduces the risk of dementia and enhances health and well-being. A key factor necessary for improving your brain function or reversing functional decline is the seriousness of purpose with which you engage in a task. In other words, the task you do should be important to you, or somehow meaningful or interesting — your activity must hold your attention.
7. Try Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are memory tools to help you remember words, information or concepts. They help you to organize information into an easier-to-remember format. Try:
- Acronyms (such as JLT for “just like that”)
- Visualizations (such as imagining a cow to remember buying milk on way back home)
- Chunking, which is breaking up information into smaller “chunks” (such as organizing numbers into the format of a phone number).
Dr. Amitabh Singh is the founder of AadyantaLife. He provides alternative and complementary healing therapies to difficult ailments including cancer. He specializes in Mindfulness Meditation coaching for corporate and business leaders. His thought provoking enlightening lectures are for those who are interested in alternative ways to improve their lifestyle and well being.