Living Well

7 tricks to boost your memory

Dream lifestyle - Keeping fit made easy for active couple

It’s perfectly normal to forget where you left the keys or go blank when trying to remember someone’s name. 

As we get older bouts of mild forgetfulness may come more often as our brains and bodies change. This is nothing to worry about and, on its own, is not a sign of dementia. 

But the good news is you can boost your memory. And the better news is you can have fun while you do it. 

7 tricks to boost your memory

Before we begin, it’s important to understand how memory works.  

Research is still on-going, but one popularly accepted theory is that we have a short-term memory, a working memory and a long-term memory.  

  • Short-term memory is super quick, lasting for only a few seconds – just long enough to hear a phone number and write it down.
  • Working memory is like short-term memory but we hang on to the information for a bit longer and act upon it. Examples include remembering a street address while asking for directions, recalling a story and telling it in the right sequence or totalling up the cost of a small grocery shop in your head.
  • Long-term memory is, as the name suggests, the ability to recall information stored over a longer period of time 

With time and practice, such as repeating and memorising a phone number, short-term memories get stored in long-term memory centres in the brain. 

So, what can we do to better retain short-term and working memories? 

1. Make sure you get enough sleep

Good sleep is vital for our health and well-being. It allows our body to repair itself, regulate hormones and blood sugar levels, reduce stress, and even control weight.  

It also helps our memory. If you’re tired, it is difficult to take in and retain information in your short-term and working memories.  

According to Harvard Health, memory consolidation occurs during the light sleep stage that occurs in the hours before awakening. Interestingly, REM or dream sleep is also important because this is the point where your newly integrated memories become interconnected with longer-term memories.

Tips for getting a good nights sleep

Establishing a sleep routine will not only help your memory but will also help you feel more energetic during the day and avoid the need for naps.

Use low lighting in the evenings to signal to your brain that it is time to rest and avoid eating meals or taking in caffeine too close to bedtime. 

Ensure your bedroom is a sanctuary. It should be quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature to ensure the best night’s sleep. Avoid using electronic devices or watching television before bed. 

If you suffer from sleep apnoeaand if you’re over the age of 65, you most likely do you may also be at risk of having memory and thinking problems too.

2. Opt for a nourishing diet

Eating well is one of the most enjoyable ways to boost your brain power. 

Many of your favourite foods contain essential nutrients that are good for the body as well as the brain. 

For instance, berries are high in antioxidants that protect the brain from oxidative damage, while grapes, rich in resveratrol, are also known as a memory booster. Avocadoes with their unsaturated fat improves memory by improving cholesterol levels.

Healthy vegetables, including a generous portion of leafy greens have also been shown to reduce cognitive decline.

Meat lovers can rejoice as oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines as well as red meat are found to have protective effects too. 

In short, eating a wide and varied diet with minimally processed foods will give your body, and brain, the nutrients you need. 

3. Stay physically active

One of the best ways to exercise the grey matter is to give your body a workout. 

Cardiovascular exercise brings oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the brain which helps stimulate all the brain’s natural processes including memory retention. 

As Brigham Young University’s cell biology and physiology professor Jeff Edwards notes:

“Exercise improves memory by increasing molecular targets like the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This molecular factor increases synaptogenesis, forming new synapses that mediate learning and memory, making it easier to absorb information and form long-term memories.” 

Making exercise a habit – around 30 minutes each day – will help your cognitive function within six months, but the overall physical benefits – including better sleep can be enjoyed much sooner.

Ready, set, go! GC Running Festival inspires fitness and fun

4. Exercise those brain muscles

The old saying of ‘use it or lose it’ really applies to keeping your memory sharp and active. Scientists have discovered that the brain’s neurons make connections every time you learn something new. This is known as neuroplasticity.

In your post-working years, without the stimulus of mastering the day job to keep you occupied, you may need to go out of your way to find those learning opportunities.

Our brains do enjoy variety, so taking the time to learn something new is a great way to train your brain to hold onto information and best of all, it’s fun! 

Let’s look at some of the new skills you can try to boost your memory and executive function. 

Music

It’s never too late to learn how to play an instrument and there are some great brain-boosting reasons to give it a try. 

Studies have shown that musicians tend to have better short-term memory. Scientists at the University of California wanted to know whether teaching simple drum rhythm patterns to older people who had never played an instrument would help their memory too – and the results were fascinating.

The reason appears to be that the region of the brain associated with memory degenerated at a slower rate in adults who took part in music lessons.

Even listening to your favourite music can also boost your mood which in turn can help improve recall – not just nostalgic ones but also new memories too. Research has shown that listening to music also causes people to perform better in reasoning tests.

Additional Languages

Parlez vous francais? Sprechende deutch? Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka? 

If you already know and regularly use a second language, you have a head start in improving your memory and retaining cognitive ability over those who only speak their mother tongue.

Learning another language has been described as a ‘training gym for the mind’ because it requires both hemispheres of the brain to identify the sounds and to interpret their meaning. All of this adds to better short term memory and problem-solving skills 

You don’t need to be particularly fluent either. Just the act of learning a language can improve cognitive function.

Reading

Put down that TV remote control and pick up a book instead if you want to keep your memory sharp. 

Longitudinal studies have shown that older people who regularly sit down with a good book experience less cognitive decline.

Reading requires concentration and focus, which helps improve memory. It also helps with language, vocabulary and understanding complex ideas and plots. Reading a book before bed – as opposed to watching TV or scrolling on your phone or tablet – helps your body relax ahead of drifting off to sleep.  

Games

Playing games is one of the most enjoyable ways to boost your memory. And it really doesn’t matter which games you play. Choose something that involves strategy and problem solving as it stimulates the part of the brain called the hippocampus, associated with memory, learning and emotion.

Competitive game play with other people boosts social connections and improves mood, which is also linked to better memory while there is also plenty of evidence that reveals that depression is associated with forgetfulness.

Have you considered playing video games? There is an increasing amount of data which suggests playing computer games that the grandkids enjoy also helps older adults too, from hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills to exercising the working memory.

Learn more about other activities you can do with your grandkids.

5. Lean into meditation and mindfulness

Improving memory isn’t all about fun and games.  

Meditation and mindfulness exercises have also been positively associated with better memory by helping you be more conscious of your mood, frame of mind and general surroundings.

They can also improve your mood and help control anxiety – all of which can affect your memory.

6. Spend time with friends

One of the very best things you can do to keep your memory in tip-top condition is spending plenty of time with family and friends. We human beings are social creatures, and we need time with other people to spark memories, talk through problems or simply have a chat. 

Taking part in group activities can also help keep you physically active and to reduce incidence of loneliness and depression.

Single & retired? Here’s how a GemLife resort can give your social life a boost.

7. Stay organised

Being organised not only helps reduce the incidences of missing car keys and sunglasses, but it also helps improve your memory overall. 

There is a school of thought which suggests that our brains work a bit like a computer. We have a hard drive where long-term memories are stored, and we have a working memory which is a bit like the computer processor. 

In the same way a computer might freeze or run slow when we demand too many things of it at once, our brains do the same thing. This is called cognitive overload.

The best way to make cognitive load more manageable is to improve your organisational skills. This will help reduce the mental weight and that constant dread that you might be forgetting something important. 

Decluttering is a great practical exercise that will help you to focus better, process information and increase productivity – all of which has a net positive effect on our working memory as well as our overall mental wellbeing.

Having a logicallyarranged home means you don’t have to think as hard to remember where anything is – just as long as you put an object back in the same spot when you’re finished. Also, using tools such as calendars and sticky notes will keep you on top of paying bills and remembering appointments. 

Establishing these as habits means you can concentrate on doing other, more enjoyable things. 

 

Maintain an active, healthy lifestyle with GemLife

Your post-working years should be all about having fun and creating new memories.  

Downsizing to a GemLife over-50s lifestyle resort is a great way to be part of an active and vibrant community. 

Rightsized homes with plenty of storage and luxury inclusions give you more time to relax or pursue other activities at the resort or to head off on travel adventures. 

GemLife resorts are designed to ensure there is always something to do and lots of likeminded people to do it with. At the heart of the community is an impressive Country Club with games rooms, creative arts studio, indoor heated swimming pool and gym, ten-pin bowling, library and private cinema.

And there is plenty to please sports lovers with golf simulators, tennis and pickleball courts and lawn bowls green. 

GemLife has resorts in some of the most desirable sea change and tree change locations across Australia. If you would like to know more, contact our specialist team or request an info pack.