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It happens—that so-called “senior moment” where you forget a word, completely miss an appointment, or can’t recognize the face of someone who so clearly knows you. But don’t worry; you can do something about those memory lapses. A number of simple routines you can adopt may increase memory power—and provide a little fun along the way.
We improve memory naturally most of our lives at school and at work. Those two places require that we learn new tasks, relate to a variety of people, and focus on finishing tasks on time. But once school and work demands subside, it’s easy to get lazy about learning. Like our muscles, the brain stays healthy through active engagement.
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How to Increase Memory Power: 4 Proven Methods
Research shows that a variety of methods can help us maintain and even improve brain health as we age. There is no single way to train your brain, but keep this important concept in mind: Your brain may love a challenge, but if a game or a puzzle is too hard, the frustration becomes stressful, and that’s not helpful.
Train your brain, but don’t strain to do it. Play just outside your comfort zone, and you can improve your memory in as little as two weeks, according to some experts, including Gary W. Small, Director, Geriatric Psychiatry at UCLA Longevity Center and author of the book 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain.
Variety is not only the spice of life, but also vital to brain health. So if you’re wondering how to increase memory power, here are four ways to stimulate your brain.
1. Play brain games
Sudoku, chess, and even video games can all be of benefit. Crossword puzzles in newspapers are an especially good choice because they tend to be easy in the beginning of the week and more difficult on the weekends. This allows you to find out which days challenge your current skillset and then move on to more difficult puzzles when you feel ready. Phone apps and computer games can also improve cognitive performance, multitasking ability, and short-term working memory, but if you allow technology to constantly distract you, performance can decline.
2. Be social
Studies show that staying connected to others can be good for “brain training.” Spending time with family, friends, and those with whom you share favorite activities helps build important social bonds. While it is not yet definitive as to why being social is helpful to brain health, researchers at the University of Chicago have shown that loneliness undermines health and can be as detrimental as smoking.
Also, the company you keep can make a positive difference. Playing games in person with others can be fun, whether you’re enjoying Bingo, chess, tennis, or any other type of activity. People who socialize with others who have healthy habits are more likely to maintain better healthy habits themselves. The reverse, however, is also true.
3. Move your body
The brain is highly vascular organ, meaning that good blood circulation is necessary to maintain a healthy brain and keep your memory sharp. A brisk walk, dancing, swimming—it doesn’t matter so much what you do, but that you move vigorously, preferably on daily basis. Recent research from the University of Kansas published in the journal PLOS ONE indicated that any exercise helps improve brain function, but the intensity of the exercise appeared to matter more than the duration.
4. Maintain a healthy diet
Your brain also operates best on a good nutrition just like the rest of your body. There is no magic pill or supplement; a diet high in fruits and vegetables as well as lean protein is recommended for overall body health.
Cooking meals with others is one way to maintain and create social bonds. The Mediterranean diet is touted by many experts as being excellent for heart health. And what’s good for your heart is also good for your mind. Why not make it a regular practice to work out with others, cook together, and then play a stimulating game? You just might find that this strategy makes for an enjoyable way to keep your mind, body, and spirit healthy and happy.
For further reading, see these University Health News posts: