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June 22, 2017

4 Tips to Help Increase Your Memory Skills


If you’re noting signs of forgetfulness, have no worries. Numerous ways exist to upgrade your brain. This blog presents proven methods, each one creative, exciting, and fun. Say goodbye to memory lapses, and keep your mind bright and strong!

1. Utilize mnemonic devices.

Code and remember information, using association. With a mnemonic device, you condense data into a word, sentence, or image. Your brain links the code to the data and, like pushing a button, instant recall! There are several types of mnemonic devices. Here are two of the most common.

Acronyms

To form an acronym, take the first letter of each word from a list. Then arrange the letters to make the name of a person or a new word. Do you remember “ROY G. BIV” from school? Your teacher gave you this acronym, representing the colors of the light spectrum – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.

Another acronym is “RICE,” coding the instructions for treating a sprain:

  • Rest the injured body part
  • Ice it
  • Compress it with a bandage
  • Elevate it

Use acronyms to remember a grocery or To Do list. Let’s take the example of food shopping. A family member calls you and asks you to buy butter, onions, and yams. Take the first letter of each item to form the word “BOY.” Grocery lists will be a piece of cake!

Image Mnemonics

For an image mnemonic, create an odd mental picture. The unusual nature of the scene makes it memorable. The more bizarre and vivid, the easier it is to recall, especially if it evokes emotion.

Use image mnemonics to remember the names of people. For instance, when starting a new job, you meet the manager, whose name is Jay Gravino. To recall his last name, think of gray-colored wine. Pretend to pour the gray wine over his head. Now a bluejay makes a nest in his hair, giving you his first name. This visualization will help you remember his name and simultaneously smile. You’ve just made a great impression!

2. Consume brain food.

Three nutrients improve brain function, volume, and health. They are flavonoids, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin E. Here’s an acronym to help you remember them – FOE. Think of memory loss as your enemy or foe.

Flavonoids

Colorful foods contain flavonoids, plant pigments that prevent cellular damage. Flavonoids improve brain function by increasing neural connections and deterring plaques that cause dementia. A 2012 study reported in Annals of Neurology linked a greater intake of strawberries and blueberries to slower rates of cognitive aging. Women who ate berries at least once weekly delayed brain decline by an average of two years.

Try to eat either 1/2 cup of blueberries or 1 cup of strawberries per week. Other foods high in flavonoids are spinach, kale, plums, and red grapes. You can incorporate these into meals as well.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Did you know that over time, our brains shrink? The process begins around age 40. Neurons become smaller, producing less chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Cellular communication diminishes, causing memory loss.

However, our health habits affect the rate of brain atrophy. You can decelerate shrinkage with omega-3 fatty acids. Two types yield the best results, DHA and EPA. As the building blocks of brain tissue, these nutrients increase its volume. They also stimulate neural signaling, improving concentration and recall. A 2014 study cited by Neurology found that postmenopausal women with higher blood levels of DHA and EPA had larger brain volumes, slowing shrinkage by up to two years.

To maximize brain size, eat salmon, sardines, and leafy greens. By the way, rhyming is another type of mnemonic. To aid remembrance, repeat this rhyme – “Eat salmon, sardines, and leafy greens to get omega-3s.” Alternatively, imagine stuffing your brain with these foods. Then see your mind belch!

Leafy green powerhouses are Brussels sprouts and arugula. Other rich sources of omega-3s are flaxseed oil, eggs, and walnuts. Here’s a helpful acronym – FEW.

Vitamin E

Free radicals undermine brain health. These are molecules that become unstable by losing electrons. To rectify the imbalance, they rob other cells of their electrons, impairing function and making them unstable. The process of cellular theft is termed “oxidation.” This chain reaction causes brain cells to die.

Free radicals are produced by cigarette smoke, air pollutants, pesticides, UV radiation, alcohol, and fried foods. However, antioxidants come to the rescue, either by providing missing electrons or nullifying the unstable molecules. One of the most powerful antioxidants is Vitamin E.

To get your quota, consume almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. Here’s an acronym to help you remember – APS. Other excellent sources of Vitamin E are wheat germ and Swiss chard.

3. Exercise your mind.

Challenge your brain with tasks that involve learning a new activity. In the process, you’ll sustain existing brain cells and spur communication among them. You can play board games, volunteer, and do crossword puzzles. Just make sure the activities aren’t too easy.

Jigsaw puzzles enhance short-term memory. Sorting through shapes and colors keeps your brain engaged. Here’s an exciting finding! Fitting pieces together triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter needed for concentration.

Another way to spark your mind is to start a new hobby, such as gardening, scrapbooking, cooking, and dancing. Playing computer and video games is also effective. Even just taking a new route to work will tweak your memory.

There’s also brain yoga. Here are two “postures” that will tone your mind. One involves making a fist, alternating hands. By clenching your right hand, your left hemisphere is stimulated, used for logical thinking. Squeeze your left hand to engage your right hemisphere, involved in creativity. By increasing grip strength, you’ll develop a beefy brain.

For the second brain yoga posture, fist your left hand, and extend your thumb. Next, fist your right hand, and extend your pinky. Now switch hand positions. Squeeze your left hand, and extend your pinky. Clench your right hand, and extend your thumb. Repeat this sequence three times. The coordination required will fine-tune neural connections, improving your memory.

Here’s another way to boost your brain. Use your non-dominant hand for fine motor tasks. If you’re right-handed, eat or write with your left hand. In fact, do a crossword puzzle with your non-dominant hand, and you’ll double the benefits of a brain workout!

4. Get adequate sleep.

You know how foggy you feel after a night of poor slumber. If you don’t get sufficient sleep on a regular basis, your memory suffers. During the deep sleep stage, your brain processes memories, shifting them from short-term to long-term storage.

In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation issued new guidelines for sleep duration. Sleep range increased by one hour for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, young children, and teens. The numbers for adults ages 18-64 remained the same, at 7-9 hours nightly.

If you miss out on the ideal amount, you can subsidize it with a nap. Siesta length depends on how much time you have available.

If you can only fit in 10 to 20 minutes, this power nap will boost focus. If you can manage a one-hour nap, it will be easier to remember faces, facts, and places. You’ll just be slightly groggy upon awakening. If you can snooze for 90 minutes, you’ll achieve a full cycle of sleep, sparking creativity and helping you recall procedures. A Harvard University study found that students who napped after training had better recollection than those who didn’t.

Your Toolkit

Now you have several tools to keep your mind sharp. Let’s conclude with a visualization. Picture a toolbox like the one above. Now, see yourself filling it with RICE, your acronym. Add a salad of strawberries, salmon, spinach, walnuts, and almonds, your brain food. Pack a crossword puzzle and pencil for brain exercise, which you’ll do with your non-dominant hand. Lastly, tuck in a sleep mask and ear plugs for a power nap.

You’ll be the sharpest tool in the shed. No more memory lapses for you. Your mind is a powerful instrument. Keep it fine-tuned!

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