It’s normal to feel a bit sluggish. We all have bad days, but if you find yourself increasingly forgetting things it might be time to improve your memory. Brain health is an important part of overall happiness. You can train your brain just like you train your body.
Staying sharp is easier than ever as more and more people realize the importance of mental exercise at staving off certain late onsetting diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. If you care about your brain, the time to start maintaining it is now.
Here are 101 Ways on How to Improve Memory & Keep Your Brain Sharp
1. Keep Interested
The best way to stay sharp is to find a subject or hobby that interests you. Once you find that, you can read about it, study it, and improve. Having a hobby is a great way to maintain mental aptitude.
Reading is good for everyone, but it’s especially important for those looking to keep keen. Following a story and picking up new vocabulary helps train your brain.
3. Try Something New
Breaking your routine can test your brain’s ability to adapt. However, it’s necessary to maintain mental health. It can be hard to get out of rut but it will pay dividends in the long run.
4. Take a Class
Learning late into life is a perfect way to stay sharp. Taking a class on a variety of subjects will get you out of the house and keep you learning. Doesn’t matter really. Educational courses, like computer or language courses can be seriously challenging for older people but ensure a great level of mental rigor. If that seems too intense try latching onto an existing interest like cooking, art, or horticulture.
5. Take IQ Tests
Have you ever done one of those IQ tests online? They really work the brain as you problem solve each question. IQ tests try to measure your intelligence potential, so test questions aim to measure verbal skills, spatial relations, math skills, reasoning, or non-verbal, etc.
6. Join a Club
A book club is a great way to maintain a pace. It doesn’t have to be reading, cards, gardening, or community services clubs are amazing ways to meet new people and have consistent mental stimulation.
Sleep is the time we formalize our memories. So if you’re having trouble with memory, you may not be giving the brain time to store them correctly. Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest.
8. Write it Down
If you really need to remember something, write it down. I don’t mean so you can look at it later. Writing things down creates a visual memory to couple with the mental task. You’ll find if you don’t find the piece of paper, you will still remember.
Repeating things over and over is a great way to remember things. With repetition comes true memory. If you’re having trouble with a certain detail, repeat it aloud or write it down multiple times to cement it in your brain.
10. Make it a Song
Giving things rhythm makes them easier to grasp. That’s why we all remember the lyrics to our favorite songs. Putting things in a musical pattern gives them a context for you to find them again.
11. Make it a Game
For example, when meeting people in rapid succession at a party challenge yourself to remember as many names as possible. This goal will give you a reason to actually listen and focus when people introduce themselves.
12. Make it Rhyme
Rhyme is a great tool to use. It focuses more on the sounds than the words, making it much easier to get started. Once you get a portion you use the previous words as clues to the next.
13. Make it Specific
It may be difficult to place a face with a name, but everyone has distinctive features that make them unique. Latch on to these items as tools to memorize names or facts. For example, if Mike has white teeth, repeating both facts will help you remember the name.
14. Make Connections
Connected new information to things you already know. So if you know Mike is a singer, you can use Mike to remind you of a mic or microphone.
15. Use Alliteration and Assonance
Alliteration occurs when two or more words in a row have the same first consonant sound.
E.g. Juvenile Jude jumps jubilantly in July.
Assonance is when words in a row have the same sounds, like the “oo” sound.
E.g. Pam eats jam as she crams for her exam.
In the case of Mike, if he has a big mustache, calling him moustache Mike will help you connect his physical features to the name. The alliteration gives you a clue just in case you get forgetful.
Or if he rides a Harley, you can remember him through this assonance: Mike has a bike that I like.
16. Learn a Language
It sounds like a daunting task, but learning a language provides many brain benefits, including providing you a challenging daily task to keep you interested in learning.
17. Work in the Afternoon
Studies have shown the mind is most active in the early afternoon. So if you’re a morning or night person, make sure you’re not neglecting midday.
18. Create a Tree
Imagine the things you need to remember as a tree. Use major facts as the trunk and big branches. From there, you can spread out using context clues to remember the smaller, less important facts.
19. Establish a Memory Point
Use a specific point as a tunnel to your memory. For example, if you’re often at your desk, you can use a post-it or photo as your access point. Look at the same object every time you need to remember something and it will actually help.
20. Stack ‘Em Up
It can be hard to remind yourself to do many tasks at once. That is unless you stack them into one image. For example, if you have to remember to wake up, get your laundry, grab your laptop, and lunch. Imagine all those things sitting on top of your alarm clock. When you look at the clock you’ll be reminded of all the tasks. Memory improvement tasks stack!
21. Get Mnemonic
We remember these devices from school because they work. If you have a bunch of things to do, create an acronym that helps you remember.
22. Stash Reminders
Keep reminders on things you know you need to complete the following task. To make sure you bring your computer to work, leave a note on your car keys.
23. Ask a Friend
If you really must remember something, it’s always an option to ask someone to help you. Just keep it in mind, they are more likely to forget since it’s a favor for someone else.
24. Use your Body
Associate a certain movement with an often forgotten action. A body movement can help jog your memory. For example, if you need to remember to respond to an email later, stretch at your desk, then every time you stretch you’ll be reminded to check your inbox.
25. Smell’s Good
Smell can be a powerful mental stimulant. Every morning if you do something right after spraying perfume or cologne, the smell will help you establish a routine.
26. Use the Mirror
The bathroom mirror is a perfect place to stash notes. It’s one of the only places in your home without any other stimuli to distract you.
27. Use your Phone
Send yourself texts or create reminds that pop up on your screen. When something pops-up on our phones we are excited and more likely to listen and remember.
28. Give Yourself Credit
When you remember something you thought was lost, give yourself credit. This will go a long way the next time, as your brain will crave that positive reinforcement.
29. On the Other Hand
Don’t get too down or panic, it’s very normal to forget things. It’s usually not a sign of a great decline.
30. Game it Out
Brain training games are excellent at improving problem solving, hand eye coordination, and memory. Repeating the same levels over and over helps you establish a pattern and forces you to remember in context, unless you like to lose.
31. Stick to the Classics
Games like tetris, chess, and backgammon are continuous sources of new mental challenges. These games keep your brain sharp by creating new problems in a familiar arena. There are many online brain training games you can play to enhance your cognitive functions.
32. Get a Newspaper
Reading the news keeps you attached to local and worldwide events. This is essential to maintaining reference points for goings on in your personal life and giving you topics to discuss with other.
Newspapers also come with a variety of puzzles that can help mental clarity. Crosswords, word searches, and Sudoku are great ways to make mental exercise fun.
34. Laugh it Out
Humor can be a powerful trigger. If you really need to remember something, think about the hilarious consequences that would ensue if you forget.
35. The Sound of Music
Have a specific song you use to help you remember. After a few times, your brain will activate your memory with increased force while it’s playing.
36. Make it Crazy
It’s easy to omit normal things like addresses, but making them absurd or gross can help you recall certain facts. The more outlandish your device the better.
37. Use More Than One Memory Trick
Utilize multiple tools such as alliteration and rhyme and a physical movement to make sure your brain knows what’s going on, especially for remembering things. Variety is good to decrease boredom and enhancing memory.
38. Sign up for Brain Training Program
Brain training regimens, such as Lumosity, offers specific games designed to improve your mental faculties. These tasks are fun and engineered to assist you with memory, spatial reasoning, and creative thinking.
If you have a lot of information to grasp. Write a quick summary immediately after you digest it. This allows you to establish what matters immediately and focus only on this information.
40. Take Care of Yourself
The healthier your body, the healthier your mind (in general).
41. Manage Expectations
Don’t expect to improve rapidly. Working your brain takes time. You won’t go from space cadet to super observant in a week.
42. Pay Attention
One of the biggest impediments to memory is simply not trying to form it. Trying to form a memory is often all you need, which starts with paying attention and being alert to what you want to remember.
43. 8 Second Rule
If you can focus on one thing exclusively for 8 seconds you will likely remember it. Don’t get distracted during this time.
44. Stay in the Room
Walking through a doorway can clear the tracks of your train of thought. So if you really want to find something, stay put.
45. Use Your Fists
Making a fist or squeezing a stress ball whilst trying to remember can stimulate mental processes and make that information accessible.
It’s basically a golden cure. Get up, get that blood flowing and you may see some of those cobwebs fly away. Tried and true method to improve memory.
47. Fonts Are Your Friend
Type something in a strange font so it stands out. You’ll be more likely to recall it since it’s represented differently.
48. Keep Doodling
During a boring class or meeting, drawing keeps the brain involved in the proceedings. While it may look like you don’t care, you are actually keeping your brain engaged.
49. Chew Gum
Likewise, chewing gum is an activity that requires a little bit of processing power. That means you can’t fall asleep or totally drift out.
If you’re listening to something, imagine it being written on the wall. This visual cue will help you focus on the words being said.
51. Change Your Diet
This doesn’t mean cutting calories but changing your intake to more brain friendly foods. For example, a Mediterranean diet high in fruits and veggies has been shown to improve brain function.
52. Keep the Fat
Fatty foods like nuts, avocados, fish, olive oil, and eggs are known to help with brain health.
53. Cut the Sugar
Refined sugar is one the worst foods for you. It reduces your attention span and increases the likelihood of diabetes and alzheimer’s.
54. Stay hydrated
Your brain needs water to function correctly. If you’re not hydrated, you’re not working at top capacity.
55. Other Drinks
Some studies show that a limited amount of alcohol can benefit the brain by releasing endorphins and improving short term mood.
That’s only in moderation, as binge drinking can permanently damage your memory.
57. Be Careful with Caffeine
We all use caffeine to increase focus and productivity, but too much can have the opposite effect. Too much caffeine makes you scattered and makes focus nearly impossible. It can also interfere with sleep patterns.
Omega-3 fatty acids are proven to improve brain function. These are most often found in cold water fish.
59. Supplement It
If that’s hard to incorporate in your diet, look into taking a supplement. Make sure to ask your doctor if it’s a good idea.
60. Vitamins Can Help
Overall, a daily multivitamin can ensure you’re not lacking any elemental building blocks for mental processes.
61. Rosemary and Peppermint
Ancient Greeks scholars spoke of these substances ability to snap people into focus. Now science has suggested they may increase brainwave frequency.
62. Say No To Maps
Using a GPS to get everywhere saps a daily challenge. Turn by turn navigation makes driving mindless when it could be mental exercise.
63. New Music
Listening to new music often tests your brain to understand new structures and can keep your brain young. The temptation is to give up trying to understand new music past a certain age, but this effort can be fruitful.
Meditation is one of the best activities to improve your brain. When you meditate, not only does it reduce stress, but it also improves short and long term memory, attention, focus, and concentration.
65. Walk More
Walking more gives you more opportunity to think about a myriad of things (not just driving) and also is sneaky way to exercise.
Yoga is perfect for mental health because it stresses the connection between breathing, physical exercise, and thinking. Yoga combines all three facets into an enjoyable form of exertion.
67. Get Outside
Being outside gives your body much needed vitamin D that allows you to absorb certain nutrients. Plus it is proven to improve general mood.
68. Breathe Right
Take deep breaths from the diaphragm. The brain needs a ton of oxygen to work correctly. Breathing correctly can help your head. What’s even better, is if you practice yoga out in nature and breathing deeply and properly.
69. Family is Key
Family should be a constant source of support, and positivity. Keeping in touch with them makes you happier and understanding their lives is a worthwhile task to occupy mental space.
70. Friends Too
People with active social lives are constantly challenged with maintaining a variety of relationships and activities. This is proven to slow brain decline and provides a constant source of stimulus.
71. Quit Smoking
We all know smoking is bad for the body, so it makes sense it’s bad for the mind too.
72. Drop Some Pounds
Losing just a few pounds can reduce stress on all your organs, muscles, and joints. This means more resources for the thing between your ears.
73. Chunk it Out
Break difficult things into smaller portions. This is why phone and social security numbers are split into more manageable sections.
74. Make a “Mind Palace”
Create an imaginary place where you go to find things you’ve lost. When you walk in the door try to imagine the thing you forgot on a table or counter.
75. Become a Grazer
Keep your mind going with small amounts of food evenly throughout the day. This will stop the spikes and troughs of function that accompany meal time.
76. Do Nothing
Relaxing on a beach or outdoors without doing anything gives your brain a chance to recharge.
77. Get Offline
Disconnect from the sources that constantly stress you out. Stress is not good for mind or body.
78. Turn off the TV
Mindlessly watching TV you don’t enjoy contributes to a sedentary lifestyle and doesn’t hold your attention.
You are mentally engaged in a program and it makes you laugh or consider larger life themes.
80. Get Creative
The arts are proven to stimulate brain function. That means putting your thoughts on paper or canvas. This could be diary writing, fiction, painting, or sculpting, anything that helps you out let your personality.
81. Wear Heels
Heels turn walking into a full body and mind exercise.
82. Change Hands
Do routine tasks with your weaker hand. This makes ordinary routines more difficult and keeps the brain guessing.
83. Switch the Senses
Try closing your eyes and trying to pick smells out of the kitchen. Or listening to the TV without looking. This forces your brain to improve other senses often not as strong as our sight.
Use a day planner to write down mundane events and use your mental faculties for problem solving and more complicated memories.
85. Eat with Chopsticks
If they’re not your everyday utensil, it will be a fun and interesting way to spice up mealtime. Plus you’ll eat slower.
86. Do Things Backwards
Try doing your chores backwards or writing in reverse. This was a tool used by Leonardo Da Vinci for mental stimulation.
87. Turn it Around
Flip your watch or calendar upside down to force your brain to focus on mundane tasks.
88. Read Aloud
You probably haven’t read books aloud since grade school, but hearing the words helps you remember. It also provokes imagination as you can create voices and personalities for certain characters.
89. Take New Routes
If you go the same way every single day, you’re on autopilot. Mix it up. Try to avoid traffic with a side street, see if those two roads connect.
90. Get Lost
Getting lost is a powerful test which engages all your senses and has you searching for familiar patterns.
91. Do Things the Old Fashioned Way
Washing clothes by hand or using a paper map takes more time, but it can have mental benefits.
92. Move Past Mastery
If you feel you’ve mastered a certain skill, move on to a new activity, or see if there’s a way to up the difficulty.
93. Teach Others
If you’re a master at something, teaching it to someone else can still be worthwhile endeavor. You will be forced to find new ways to explain things you find obvious.
94. Get Out of Character
Think of something no one would expect you to do, and do it.
95. Embrace Difference
If all your acquaintances have similar views it can be quite boring mentally. Make sure you’re surrounded with folks from different backgrounds so you are constantly tussling with new perspectives.
96. Play Secret Agent
Go to a public place and observe people. See how many details you can guess about them and any bits of conversation you can pick up and remember. Bring a friend for a delightful afternoon.
97. Memorize a Poem
Memorizing a poem is an easy way to test some of the skills in this article. See how quickly you can grasp it. Come back to it weeks later, and see how much you’ve retained.
98. Drink Tea
Tea is proven to help you relax and the shock of mint can clear brain fog.
Routines can help you remember certain annoying things, like where you put your keys, but if you don’t mix it up once in a while, when something is out of place it can be hard to cope.
100. Believe in Yourself
If you believe your brain is slipping it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Give yourself credit and know you are doing your best.
101. Never Stop Learning
The most important advice. Take every day as a learning opportunity and it’s hard to get bored. Always try to be better, no matter what you’re doing. That’s the ideal goal to keep the mind sharp.
Care to add to the list? Share in the comments.