Memory is something that every single person depends on, and sometimes we forget to take care of our memory-making abilities. As we age, our brain stores more and more information, allowing us to build on the knowledge we have and form brand new ones. However, unfortunately, with age comes a decline in memory capabilities. We find it harder to remember little details or dates and more likely to forget where we left things or what we needed to do. Fortunately, there are steps we can take, at any age, to help improve our memory and cognition.
1. Improve your diet
Diet has a huge impact on every aspect of our lives, including the capabilities of our memory. The foods that we eat fuel our bodies, and eating the wrong foods can do much more harm than good. Research has shown that high saturated fat and refined sugar diets have been associated with a decrease in the function of the hippocampus¹, which is the part of the brain that is largely responsible for forming, organizing, and storing memory.
Cutting down on processed sugar and excess fat can reduce the damage done on the hippocampus and promote memory.
Additionally, studies have found that increasing intake of omega-3s has improved cognitive function in aging adults². Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel. If you aren’t a fan of fish or are vegetarian or vegan, consider integrating an omega-3 supplement into your diet to make up for that nutrient deficiency.
2. Meditate more
Meditation has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and help you increase your attention span. Preliminary research has also found that consistent meditation in participants was correlated to an improvement in memory-recall tests³.
Meditation can seem like a daunting task, especially to someone with a busy schedule and lots to do, but take a moment out of your day to try it out. Check out our meditation e-book for an in-depth tutorial for different methods of meditation to help your mind!
3. Sleep more
It seems like almost every aspect of our lives could benefit from some more sleep. Memory is definitely one of them. When we sleep, our brain consolidates the memories we made during that day to ensure that these memories make it into stable, long-term memory. REM sleep is especially important for memory transformation⁴.
This means that we not only need enough sleep but also high-quality sleep. Research has also found that too much sleep can also be harmful for memory and attention, so aim for an average of 7 hours a night for the best outcomes⁵.
4. Practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness allows us to regulate and soothe key elements that are necessary to maintain memory: attention and consciousness. Research has found that practicing mindfulness helps memory by improving attention and awareness, which are necessary for learning new skills and encoding newly formed memories⁶. Mindfulness also helps us with emotional regulation, which allows us to better store and retrieve memories that are built on strong emotions⁷.
Read more about how to practice mindfulness and the other benefits of it here!
5. Drink less alcohol
Heavy alcohol use comes with a multitude of detrimental effects, and one of the most damaged organs as a result of alcohol use is the brain. Frequently consuming alcohol is linked with lapses in memory, and in extreme cases, can lead to permanent memory loss or damage. It can also cause brain damage that affects the formation of future memories and recall⁸.
Standard guidelines recommend that alcohol, if consumed, should be in moderation, no more than 1 drink for women, 2 for men. The occasional indulgence won’t do much harm, but overconsumption will lead to harmful effects.
6. Be creative
Studies have found that engaging in
creating art or viewing or interacting with art is associated with improved memory performance when compared to those who lack artistic interactions⁹. Consider bringing in some pieces of art into your workspace or living quarters to help stimulate your brain and improve memory.
Check out this article about neuroaesthetics to learn more about the benefits of art!
Definitely consider integrating some of these tips into your daily routine to help maintain and even improve your memory over time. Memory is something that is so important to us, so let’s do our best to take care of it!
Francis, H. M., Stevenson, R. J. (2011). Higher reported saturated fat and refined sugar intake is associated with reduced hippocampal-dependent memory and sensitivity to interoceptive signals. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125(6), 943–955. doi.org/10.1037/a0025998.
Beilharz, J. E., Maniam, J., Morris, M. J. (2015). Diet-Induced Cognitive Deficits: The Role of Fat and Sugar, Potential Mechanisms and Nutritional Interventions. Nutrients, 7(8), 6719-6738, doi.org/10.3390/nu7085307.
Newberg, A. B., Wintering, N., Khalsa, D. S., Roggenkamp, H., Waldman, M. R. (2010). Meditation Effects on Cognitive Function and Cerebral Blood Flow In Subjects with Memory Loss: A Preliminary Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20(2), 517-526.
Rasch, B., & Born, J. (2013). About sleep's role in memory. Physiological Reviews, 93(2), 681–766. doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00032.2012.
LeWine, H. (2014). Too little sleep, and too much, affect memory. Harvard Health.
Levi, U., Rosenstreich, E. (2019). Mindfulness and Memory: a Review of Findings and a Potential Model. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 3, 302-214, doi.org/10.1007/s41465-018-0099-7.
National Institute of Health. (2003). Alcohol’s Damaging Effects on the Brain. Alcohol Research & Health, 27(2). pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm.
Rosier, J. T. (2010). Art and Memory: An Examination of the Learning Benefits of Visual-Art Exposure. Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 436, digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/etd/436.