Long-term memory is what helps us make sense of our reality — it’s our story. Short-term memory works like the random access memory (RAM) in our computers. It holds current experiences and information before either deleting or saving them.
In recent years, neuroscientists have come to realize that one of the most important functions of sleep is to consolidate the days events and store them. When it comes to the ability to improve memory, opinions tend to vary. One thing is certain, though: lifestyle plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy mind and a strong memory.
Here are some simple ways you can try to improve both your short-term and long-term memory:
A healthy diet plays a critical role in slowing cognitive decline.
- Minimizing or cutting back entirely on sugar and alcohol improves overall brain health.
- Fish oil supplements and berries, particularly strawberries and blueberries, work as antioxidants. Both contain vitamins C and E which prevent cell damage in the brain and throughout the body.
- Some studies have shown that caffeine can help stimulate the brain and improve memory. The same goes for red wine, dark chocolate, and almonds.
- Avocados contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids said to increase intelligence and improve overall brain function. Cinnamon has been known to have a similar effect used in small amounts.
- Eating lots of green vegetables and the recommended daily servings of fruit and limiting carbohydrates and red meat all contribute to a strong body and a healthy mind.
If you’ve ever experienced the so-called runner’s high, you know the benefits of exercising. More blood to the brain means more oxygen to strengthen the bond between neurons. It is these synapses that bond neurons where memories are formed and consolidated. Aerobic exercise also releases endorphins which affect both mood and energy levels, resulting in a higher level of awareness. Regular exercise has been said to actually increase the size of the hippocampus, which is believed to be the home of both our emotions and memories.
A good eight hours of sleep allows your brain to consolidate the day’s events and improve retention. Many individuals find a 20-minute nap following lunch can also boost mental performance. A short nap revives the mind and has been known to improve retention and promote creativity.
There are a number of different meditation practices. Mindful meditation has gained wide acceptance in recent years. When you meditate, you let your mind wander which can decrease stress and make it easier to learn and memorize.
5. Brain Training
Mnemonic devices have long been a tool to aid memory. Creating an acronym from the first letters of the seven items you need to pick up from the store on the way home helps you hold those items in your short term memory. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, and other games can also help focus the mind and improve overall cognitive function.
The Bottom Line
Like our computers, our brains can only store so much information. Over time, and as we age, old memories fade to make room to store new experiences. And, because our brains are not hard-wired, age and lifestyle impact both short- and long-term memory.
The many distractions of modern life can also impair our ability to remember. To be more productive, better retain information, and avoid stress, limit screen time and don’t multi-task. This and a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep all go a long way to promoting excellent brain health and a stronger memory.