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How to Improve Your Memory

As the years roll by and the wrinkles start to develop, we have more to look back on but less faculty for doing so. While decreasing memory as we get older might seem like one of life's tricks, there are lots of things we can do to improve our recall and upgrade our state of mind. Memory is a complicated process that’s made up of numerous brain activities, which means this task can be tackled in a few different ways.

What you consider to be your memory is actually a three-part process that includes creating a memory, consolidating a memory, and recalling a memory. While the creation of memories involves sending brain signals in a particular pattern between our neurons, consolidation is needed to turn short-term memories into long-term memories, and recall is necessary whenever you want to access the memories and integrate them with present day information.

Meditation has proved to be useful in helping people improve their working or short-term memory. This makes sense if you think about it, with meditation intricately connected with the process of mindfulness. Despite its esoteric connection with eastern religions and new-age philosophies, mindfulness simply means the act of paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical responses as they happen. When you actively practice mindfulness, you can improve your working memory in just a few short weeks. It's not all about your short-term memory, however, with different strategies needed to improve memory consolidation and recovery.

People often use stimulants in order to improve their productivity, with some studies showing links between caffeine consumption and memory consolidation. According to a study published in Nature, "Caffeine enhanced performance 24 h after administration according to an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve; this effect was specific to consolidation and not retrieval. We conclude that caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories in humans." Memory improvements because of caffeine are due to a process called pattern separation, which according to researchers reflects a “deeper level of memory retention.”

Other foods have also been shown to improve memory, with a study from the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School finding that supplementing a normal diet with blueberries for twelve weeks improved performance on spatial working memory tasks. While more study is needed in this area, blueberries are high in flavonoids, which are known to strengthen existing connections in the brain. Even red wine and dark chocolate consumption can be beneficial to memory recall. In a study of overweight adults, those who took resveratrol supplements for six months, a substance commonly found in red wine and chocolate, had better short-term recall than those who took a placebo.

Meditation and diet can only take you so far, however, with regular exercise often noted as the best way to improve memory recall. A number of studies have taken place in this area, with regular exercise capable of improving spatial memory along with a range of other cognitive abilities. Regular exercise also helps you to get better sleep, which is the primary way that memories are solidified and consolidated. When we combine regular exercise and meditation with a healthy diet and sleep regime, we can make new connections as they happen and access the information from memories in order to improve our waking performance.

Image source: kentoh/Shutterstock

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