These suggestions can be useful if you want to improve your mental performance, keep your memory strong as you become older, or both.
Shot of a man’s hand holding a pawn in the air while making a move on the chess board in close-up.
How to increase mental capacity at any age
The strength of your memory is based on how healthy and active your brain is. There are many things you can do to enhance your memory and mental performance, whether you’re a student preparing for final exams, a working professional trying to maintain your mental acuity, or a senior aiming to retain and enhance your grey matter as you age.
The cliche “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is said to be untrue when it comes to the brain, according to scientific research. Even as we age, the human brain retains a remarkable capacity for adaptation and change. Neuroplasticity is the term for this skill. Your brain may create new neural pathways, change connections between existing pathways, and adapt and react in ever-changing ways with the correct stimuli.
When it comes to memory and learning, the brain’s amazing capacity to change itself is genuine. At any age, you can use the inherent power of neuroplasticity to boost your cognitive abilities, improve your capacity for learning new information, and strengthen your memory. These nine suggestions will show you how.
Tip 1: Exercise your intellect.
By the time you reach maturity, your brain has created millions of synaptic connections that facilitate speedy information processing and memory, familiar problem solving, and the execution of routine tasks with the least amount of mental effort. But if you consistently follow these well-traveled roads, your brain won’t receive the stimulation it needs to continue expanding and maturing. You occasionally need to mix things up!
You must “use it or lose it” with memory, much like with muscular power. The more mentally challenging activities you engage in, the better you’ll be able to process and retain information. But not all pursuits are created equal. The best brain exercises shake up your daily routine and test your ability to utilize and create new neural pathways.
Four Important Components of a Brain-Boosting Activity
You learn something fresh from it. No matter how mentally taxing the activity, if you are already proficient at it, it is not a useful brain exercise. The action must be challenging and outside of your comfort zone. You must continue to learn and pick up new talents if you want to strengthen your brain.
It’s difficult. The best mental exercises require your complete and undivided attention. It is insufficient that you initially found the activity difficult. There must still be some mental work involved. For instance, mastering a difficult new piece of music counts; performing a demanding piece of music that you have already remembered does not.
What about cognitive training courses?
Numerous online courses and brain-training apps claim to improve memory, problem-solving abilities, attention, and even IQ with regular use. But do they actually function?
Evidence to the contrary is mounting. These brain-training exercises might help you get better at whatever game you’ve been practicing or task you’ve been working on, but they don’t seem to increase your general IQ, memory, or other cognitive skills.
Tip 2: Don’t neglect physical activity.
While engaging in mental exercise is beneficial for brain health, physical activity is not entirely unnecessary. Your brain stays sharp while you work out. It improves blood flow to the brain and lowers your risk of diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease that impair memory.
Exercise suggestions to improve brain function
Make sure to choose activities that keep your blood moving because aerobic exercise is very beneficial for the brain. Everything that is beneficial for your heart is generally excellent for your brain as well.
When you wake up, does it take you a while to get past the sleep haze? If so, you could discover that working out first thing in the morning, before you begin your day, has a significant impact. It also prepares you for learning throughout the day in addition to eliminating the cobwebs.
Physical exercises that demand fine motor control or complicated motor skills are very good for developing the brain.
You can overcome midday slumps and mental exhaustion by taking short pauses to exercise. Your brain can be reset by performing a few jumping jacks or a brief walk.
3. Get some Zs.
The quantity of sleep you need to perform at your best and the amount you can get by on varied significantly. The reality is that in order to prevent sleep deprivation, over 95% of adults require between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Even a few hours are worth investing less in! The ability to recall information, be creative, solve problems, and exercise critical thought are all impaired.
But on a more fundamental level, sleep is important for memory and learning. According to research, sleep is essential for memory consolidation, with the most important memory-improving activity taking place during the deepest phases of sleep.
Establish a consistent sleeping regimen. Every night, go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Even on weekends and holidays, try to maintain your schedule.
How to Get Better Sleep
For at least an hour before bed, stay away from all screens. The blue light released by TVs, tablets, phones, and computers promotes wakefulness while inhibiting chemicals that promote sleep, like melatonin.
Reduce your caffeine intake. People react to caffeine in different ways. Some people are very sensitive, and even a cup of coffee in the morning can keep them up at night. If you think it’s keeping you up, try taking it out completely or limiting your intake.
Tip 4: Schedule time with friends.
Do “serious” activities like tackling the New York Times crossword puzzle or perfecting your chess strategy come to mind when you consider how to improve memory, or do more lighthearted pursuits like hanging out with friends or watching a hilarious movie come to mind? It’s probably the former if you’re like the majority of us. But several studies demonstrate the cognitive advantages of a social and enjoyable existence.
Good relationships are the best brain boosters.
Humans are extremely sociable creatures. We weren’t designed to live in isolation, much less prosper. Our brains are stimulated by relationships; in fact, interacting with people may be the finest form of mental workout.
According to research, friendships that truly matter and a solid support network are essential for both emotional and mental well-being. According to a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for instance, those with the busiest social lives experienced the slowest rate of memory loss.
The benefits of socializing for the brain and memory can be reaped in a variety of ways. Make an effort to see them more frequently, volunteer, join a club, or call them on the phone. Don’t undervalue the value of a pet, especially the extremely social dog, if a person is not around.
Tip 5: Manage your stress.
One of the deadliest enemies of the brain is stress. Chronic stress gradually kills brain cells and harms the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for creating new memories and retrieving old ones. Stress and memory loss have been related in studies.
- Advice on reducing stress.
- Set reasonable goals (and be prepared to refuse!).
- Take breaks throughout the day. Instead of keeping your emotions inside, express them.
- Maintain a good balance between work and play.
- Instead of attempting to multitask, concentrate on one task at a time.
- Stress Reduction.
The advantages of meditation for reducing stress and improving memory
The benefits of meditation for mental health are supported by increasing amounts of scientific research. Numerous diseases, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, diabetes, and high blood pressure, have been shown in studies to be improved by meditation. Additionally, meditation can enhance your ability to concentrate, focus, be creative, remember things, and learn new things.
Tip 6: Laugh.
You’ve probably heard that the best medicine is laughing, and this is true for both the body and the brain, including memory. Unlike emotional responses, which are restricted to particular parts of the brain, laughter stimulates a variety of brain regions.
Additionally, practicing punchlines and listening to jokes stimulates the brain’s learning and creative regions. In his book Emotional Intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman writes that laughter “seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely.”
Are you looking for strategies to laugh more often? Start with the fundamentals:
Make fun of oneself. Describe your embarrassing experiences. Talking about the instances when we took ourselves too seriously is the best method to do so.
Move in the direction of the laughter you hear. Most of the time, sharing comedy makes others very pleased since it allows them to laugh again and benefit from the humor you find in it. Find the laughing when you hear it, and try to join in.
Observe children and try to imitate their behavior. They are the foremost authorities on having fun, living lightly, and laughing.
7. Follow a diet that will help your brain.
The brain needs sustenance just like the body does. It goes without saying that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, “good” fats (such as olive oil, nuts, and fish), and lean protein will have a positive impact on your health, but it can also help your memory. But it’s not just what you eat that affects your brain health; it’s also what you don’t eat.
Healthy Eating as You Age
The foods listed below will increase your mental capacity and lower your chances of dementia.
Obtain some omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly good for brain function, according to research. Fish, especially cold water “fatty fish” like salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring, is a particularly good source of omega-3.
Seaweed, walnuts, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, winter squash, kidney and pinto beans, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans are other non-fish sources of omega-3s to take into account if you don’t like seafood.
Cut back on both calories and saturated fat. According to research, diets high in saturated fat (found in foods like red meat, whole milk, butter, cheese, cream, and ice cream) raise your chance of developing dementia and reduce your ability to focus and recall information.
eat more produce, especially fruit. Antioxidants, which shield your brain cells from harm, are abundant in produce. Colorful produce is a particularly good source of antioxidant “superfoods.”
Sip some green tea. Polyphenols, potent antioxidants found in green tea, offer defense against free radicals that can harm brain tissue. Regular green tea consumption may improve memory and mental alertness, among other advantages, and slow brain aging.
Tip 8: Recognize and address health issues
Do you feel that your memory has declined mysteriously? If so, a lifestyle or health issue may be to fault.
Memory loss can occur for other reasons besides dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Numerous illnesses, mental health conditions, and drugs can affect memory.
cardiovascular disease risk factors. Mild cognitive impairment has been linked to cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors, such as excessive cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Brain Function and Blood Pressure
Diabetes. According to studies, people with diabetes face a much larger rate of cognitive impairment than people without the condition.
imbalance in hormones. When estrogen levels fall, menopausal women frequently develop memory issues. Low testosterone in men can lead to problems. Additionally, confusion, slow thinking, and forgetfulness can all be symptoms of thyroid abnormalities.
Medications. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can impair memory and rational thought. Medications for colds and allergies, sleep aids, and antidepressants are typical offenders. Inform your physician or pharmacist of any potential adverse effects.
Does depression exist?
Both physical and emotional issues can have a detrimental effect on the brain. In fact, sadness frequently manifests as mental lassitude, trouble focusing, and forgetfulness. In elderly adults who are depressed, memory problems can be especially severe—so severe that they are occasionally mistaken for dementia. The good news is that memory should return to normal once the depression has been treated.
Tip 9: Take actionable measures to aid memory and learning.
Be mindful. Nothing you’ve never learned can be retained in your memory, and nothing you don’t pay enough attention to can be learned and retained in your memory. To process a piece of information into your memory, it takes around eight seconds of laser-like attention. If you’re easily distracted, choose a spot that is calm and unintimidating.
Use as many senses as you can. When relating information, try to use the senses of taste, smell, and color. Rewriting information can help it stick in your brain because it is a physical act. Even if you learn best visually, read aloud the information you want to retain. Even better if you can recite it in time.
Connect new information to what you already understand. Connect new information to what you already know, whether it’s fresh knowledge that expands on what you already know or something as straightforward as the address of someone who lives on a street where someone you already know lives.
Focus on comprehending fundamental concepts rather than memorization of discrete details when studying more difficult subjects. Practice articulating the concepts to another person in your own words.