Increase Memory

Jul 2, 2012 by

Increase MemoryWith everything neuroscience has discovered about memory and learning, it’s still unclear whether it is possible to increase memory in human beings. It could be that our long-term memory has a limit to the amount of information it can store, but that we die long before that limit is reached. However, as far as expanding memory and recall in individuals goes, it turns out there are lots of ways to increase your memory. Below, we’ll look at some of the fun and little known ways you can increase memory and recall in both the short and long term.

Some of the best ways to increase memory are, not surprisingly, activities that are also linked to your overall health: getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet are all lifestyle elements that can contribute to a better memory, partly because they help guard against chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease that can interfere with memory. As a bonus, moving around on a regular basis has been shown to facilitate neural connections, enhancing your brain’s flexibility and contributing to increased memory.

Then there are the less obvious ways to increase memory. Improving your recall doesn’t always require you to labor over the New York Times crossword puzzle or endless games of chess: there are ways to increase your memory and neural flexibility that are also fun in themselves! For instance, one of the best ways to preserve your memory and mental faculties lies in forming and maintaining healthy social relationships. Research has already shown that cultivating social ties into old age leads to better emotional health and reduced risk of depression for elderly adults; follow-up studies are now suggesting that a vibrant social life may be just as crucial to a healthy memory: people with active social lives exhibit the slowest rates of memory decline, and being social may even correlate with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. There are lots of ways you can be more social in order to take advantage of these benefits: join a club, sign up for a class in an activity you enjoy, make a point to see friends and family more often, or engage in volunteer activities. Even spending time with non-human friends has a preserving effect on memory: people who socialized with pets exhibited similar memory benefits as those who spent time with humans.

Laughter is another fun and easy way to engage your brain and increase memory. It turns out the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine” is turning out to be even truer than many people thought, especially in the field of brain health: laughing is good for the brain because responding to a joke or humorous situation usually involves multiple areas of the brain working together, instead of only one as is the case in other emotional responses. Figuring out the punch line to a joke engages parts of the brain involved in learning, creativity, and nonlinear thinking, helping the brain maintain its flexibility and plasticity. Some people discover that they need to learn how to laugh, or are out of practice at it; luckily, the ways to laugh are almost as numerous as the things human beings find funny! For example, in a social situation like a party, seek out other people who are laughing: people usually like sharing humor with others, not least because it gives them the chance to laugh at the joke all over again. Try sharing funny stories about yourself: it often becomes easier to laugh once we learn to loosen up and stop taking ourselves so seriously. Keep items around your home and workplace that make you laugh: comics, funny screensavers, and funny posters are a few suggestions. Finally, make friends with people who laugh easily and can poke fun at themselves; after all, laughter is contagious.

Busting stress can also help you increase memory. Chronic stress is literally damaging to the brain in that it degrades neural connections and causes brain structures to shrink. However, you can combat stress not only by following a healthy lifestyle as outlined above, but also by making time to relax and have fun. Make time to do things “just for fun”: go out for a picnic or swimming on a hot day, see a movie, or get together with friends to chat and unwind. Meditation is also proving its chops in the field of stress reduction: regular meditators exhibit more activity in their left prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that generates feelings of joy and equanimity. Meditation can grant you greater emotional control in difficult situations, as well as improve your focus, creativity, problem-solving and reasoning skills.

Perhaps most surprisingly, some studies have shown you can even increase memory with moderate alcohol consumption! People who consumed the equivalent of a glass of wine per day exhibited better performance on memory and cognition tests compared to heavier drinkers as well as people who did not drink. Another study conducted in France surveyed the habits of about 4,000 people over age 65 and found that moderate consumption of red wine was correlated to a 45% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Keep in mind that this beneficial effect disappears among heavier drinkers; moderate alcohol consumption seems to be the key if you want to increase memory and aid cognition. And if you don’t drink, you can still derive the same benefit of red wine from red grapes or red grape juice, which also contain resveratrol, the protective antioxidant in red wine.

Increasing memory, it seems, is as much a function of improving your overall health as it is about stretching your brain. By incorporating a few fun and interesting activities into your life, as well as adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can easily improve your memory and mental flexibility, not to mention lead a more fun and interesting life in the process!

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