Updated: Dec 2, 2019
The number one tip memory tip is to practice memory techniques that exercise your cognitive skills. Even 15 minutes of daily practice can make a major improvement in memory and cognitive ability.
But there are many other areas in our life that can have an important impact on our memory.
Move. Exercise has a surprisingly large influence, so don't ignore movement if you want to improve your memory. Aim for at least half an hour of pulse-raising exercise most days. It needs to be aerobic to have a memory impact. Dance stands out as great for boosting brain function and memory.
Eat well and widely. The emphasis should be on whole food : vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts and grains. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, as they have been shown to impair concentration and memory. Vegetable consumption is strongly correlated to improved semantic, or fact-based, memory, while higher whole fruit intake improves visuospatial and autobiographical memory. Berries such as blueberries are particularly good for improving both short and long term memory function, likely due to being high in flavonoid antioxidants. Unfortunately, strawberries aren’t a member of the flavonoid gang, but darn they are still tasty.
Get good sleep. For most this is 7- 8 hours a night. During sleep most of our memory consolidation occurs, so it’s the sleep after you memorise that is most important. If you are short on sleep, taking a nap after memorisation can help push recent memory storage from the more temporary hippocampus into the more permanent neocortex. If you have the luxury of naps, we all envy you.
Be social. Memory is stimulated when we have active social lives, with meaningful friendships and strong social networks. Studies show that highly socially engaged older people enjoy better memories, general cognition, health and happiness. On average they live a lot longer. What’s not to like?
Be attentive and practice mindfulness. This is a mental state where you focus on being aware of the detail of your surroundings, situation and your own attention levels. This improves concentration, memory absorption and later recall. You could even practice mindfulness meditation - a few months of this has been shown to improve concentration and recall.
Be happier and play. An improved mood has been shown to be associated with a better memory. Laughter really is the best medicine. This feeds into reducing chronic stress, which actively damages our brain health and memories. Meditation could help de-stress, and the other tips here are likely to help as well.
Minimise antibiotics, as they have been shown to have a significant detrimental impact on memory. Always follow your medical practitioner’s advice, of course, but steer clear where there is a choice.
Be well. By identifying and resolving health problems you avoid the cognitive impact of many diseases and their medications.
Aim for good gut health. When diverse good gut bacteria are not in place it hurts our memory, as well as our general health. We normally have 100 trillion bacteria working for us in our gut microbiome, and recent research is revealing the value of their contribution. A great start is all that good whole food, with its high fibre, plus dodging antibiotics.
Get some sun, especially if you are dark skinned. Low vitamin D levels create many serious health problems, including sizeable reductions in cognitive function. And low levels are very common - as an example, studies show that nearly half of all adults in the USA have a vitamin deficiency. If in doubt, consider a blood test. If it is winter, take a supplement. But getting your face in the sun is best, as it energises mood. Just keep that sun exposure to safe levels, especially in sunny latitudes.
Drink less alcohol. At least avoid ‘binge’ drinking, say more than 4 or 5 standard drinks in a day. This overload has a powerful and lasting negative mental impact, not the least because alcohol is a neurotoxin. Occasional moderate drinking is apparently OK.
Drink tea. Both black or green tea has the same effect on improving mental alertness and memory, likely due to their high concentration of flavonoid antioxidants.
Drink coffee. Sometimes. Recent research has shown that caffeine after learning helps consolidate memories. But watch out for that sleep : )