Having great intellectual abilities and maintaining mental sharpness is very important, in every aspect of life. Not just during our time as students or during our professional lives. In any and all cases, having a good memory depends on our brain’s health and vitality. Gray matter ages, just like the rest of our body.
The good news is that it’s also possible to exercise the brain, to keep it healthy and take full advantage of it’s potential, and even increase it’s capacity. The human brain has an incredible ability to change and adapt, even in old age. This ability is known as neuroplasticity. When the brain is properly stimulated, it can form new neural pathways, alter existing connections and adapt itself to surrounding changes. Thanks to our brain’s neuroplasticity, it’s possible to augment our cognitive capacity, improve our learning ability, and even our memory.
Tips to improve your memory
While performing physical activity, our brain gets a workout, too. In fact, treating our bodies well helps us to process and remember information. Physical activity increases brain oxygenation and reduces the risk of developing disorders which cause memory loss, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. In addition, exercise increases our brain’s chemical effects, which are very helpful in protecting our neurons.
2. Get enough sleep
When you don’t get enough rest, your brain can’t function at its full capacity. Abilities like creativity, conflict-resolution, critical thinking skills and other intellectual abilities are severely compromised by lack of sleep.
Sleep is also essential to learning and memory. Research shows that sleep is especially necessary for the consolidation of memory that occurs whilst in the deep stages of sleep.
3. Don’t lay off your social life, and have fun!
Several studies prove that a lifestyle filled with social activity and good times has important cognitive benefits. In fact, as humans we are highly social beings, and can’t prosper when living in isolation. Moreover, social relationships stimulate our brains, seeing as interaction with others is the best kind of brain exercise.
Research has also shown that having significant relationships and a strong support system is vital, not only to our emotional health, but to our mental health, as well. In a recent study by the School of Public Health at Harvard, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.
Having fun is also great for our brains. If laughing is the best medicine for our body, it’s definitely the best one for our brain. Unlike emotional responses, which are limited to specific areas of the brain, laughter involves several regions throughout the brain. Moreover, laughing activates areas of the brain that are vital for learning and creativity. Just as psychologist Daniel Goleman pointed out in his book Emotional Intelligence: “Laughter … seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely.”
4. Manage your stress effectively
Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. If it’s not controlled, with time, it turns into chronic stress which destroys our brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the brain region involved in forming new memories and retrieving the old. Relaxation techniques are very helpful for stress management.
Aside from stress, depression, anxiety, and chronic concern are also very damaging to our brains. In fact, some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety involve difficulty concentrating, making decisions and remembering things.
5. Eat well
Your brain needs fuel, just like the rest of your body. However, there isn’t a specific food that’s meant for your brain, since the recommended diet for being in good physical health is the same for having good intellectual health. Meaning, a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, “healthy” fats (like olive oil, nuts and fish) and lean protein. This style of eating promotes a great deal of health benefits and helps to improve our memory.
When it comes to mental energy, it’s best to choose complex carbohydrates. Carbs feed our brains, but simple carbs (such as sugar, white bread and refined cereals) give us a quick boost, followed by an equally-as-quick decline. There is also evidence that suggests that diets rich in simple carbohydrates greatly increase the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly. In order to have good fuel and healthy energy that lasts, we must consume complex carbs, such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat rice and oats, cereals rich in fibers and legumes.
On the other hand, it’s completely inadvisable to abuse calories, saturated fats and alcohol if you’re looking to maintain good mental health; this is also the case when it comes physical health.
6. Train your brain
By the time we’ve reached adulthood, our brain has developed millions of neural pathways that help us process information quickly, solve day-to-day problems and perform routine tasks with minimum mental effort. But if we always focus on doing the same thing, we’re not giving the brain the boost it needs to continue growing and developing.
Memory, much like muscular strength, must be used if you do not want to lose it. Therefore, you have to exercise it and propose new challenges, which in turn will improve it’s ability to process information and remember information. The best cerebral activities for mental exercise are those that make us break away from routines and challenge us to develop new brain pathways.