People of all ages have trouble remembering details in the deluge of information that is coming from all sides. From remembering passwords for each online shopping site and social media to determining when you need to take medicines or visit relatives, we are inundated with minutiae. As we age, our brains may slow down and not be as reliable as they were when we were younger. These normal changes in your brain’s function could cause you to forget why you went into a room or cause you to miss some specifics in a message, for instance. The good news is that these 5 easy strategies will help train your brain and sharpen your memory at any age.
1. Trust Yourself
This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you mistrust your memory you are reinforcing the idea that you should accept a cognitive decline. When you retain confidence in your mind and your abilities, you are that much more likely to reach out for ways to improve cognition and overall memory function. Keep control of your brain function by trusting in yourself!
2. Never Stop Learning
Becoming a consistent lifelong learner will encourage your brain to bend and stretch in new directions throughout your life. If your job is not keeping you mentally active, check out a new hobby or creative activity that can help exercise your mind. Learn to cook a new dish, play piano or guitar, or set a reading challenge for yourself. All of these activities together allow you to reach into various parts of your brain and preserve the connections that are critical for stimulating the brain cells that help build memory pathways.
3. Play Games
From Sudoku and crosswords to chess or other complex strategy games, there’s a lot to be said for doing puzzles or playing games as an older adult. Increasingly, there are online brain training platforms like Lumosity and BrainHQ that promise to improve memory. But according to researchers, even fun video games can provide a boost.
4. Exercise Regularly
Do not discount the benefits to your brain of staying in physical shape! When you get outside and get moving, your blood pumps more rapidly throughout your body — even to your brain! This added boost of energy that you feel helps slow down the aging process within your brain and pumps up processing speed and strengthens connections between neurons. Combine different types of exercise to get the greatest benefit to your memory:
- Walking, dancing and running are types of aerobic exercise that help improve verbal memory, attention and focus
- Using resistance bands and other strength training options supplement the part of your brain that creates a strategy and solves problems
- Stretching, balance and flexibility exercises provide gentle reminders to your mind of where each of your outlying body parts resides
- New research suggests deep breathing can improve brain function and memory.
Keeping your body in shape can also help reduce the “fog” you feel after sitting for long periods of time — something that can be dangerous for seniors for a variety of reasons.
5. Maintain a Healthy Diet
People in the Mediterranean really know how to eat! The healthy oils and grains, fruits and vegetables — plus a little seafood and wine — are known to be a heart-healthy combo, but you may not realize that this is also a recipe for a fabulous memory! Your brain needs clear pathways in which to send messages to and from other parts of your body. When your arteries are clogged with fatty food and your bad cholesterol is high, you could be reducing the space available for memory messages to pass. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the amount of brain mass lost in adults over a three-year period.
6. Stay Socially Active
Active conversation with a diverse group of individuals may be just what the doctor ordered to keep your brain in balance. When you connect with people on a regular basis, your brain is doing a fair bit of work in the background. Dredging up memories, making connections . . . these are all activities that are a great workout for your mind and your memory.
Keeping your brain fit and active is the best way to improve your overall memory. While there are some specific tactics such as memorization, grouping information together and linking to established memories that can boost certain types of recall, they are no replacement for a nutritious diet, moderate exercise and a good old fashioned group chat with friends.