Forgetfulness isn’t fun. Spacing out on names, appointments, tasks, and facts we used to recall easily can rattle our self-esteem. And struggling to remember where we put our keys or phones often adds stress to an already-overloaded day.
Everyone forgets things from time to time. The good news is, there are several steps you can take to sharpen your memory.
1. Eat a diet beneficial for your brain
Following a healthy diet to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke is one of the best ways to improve your memory. You can start by reducing or eliminating alcohol and limiting your intake of sugary and processed foods.
As you cut unhealthy foods, add in healthy options that actually support brain health, such as the following:
2. Exercise regularly
Working up a sweat is a great way to boost brain health — especially when done consistently. A 2020 study found that adults who get regular physical activity are significantly less likely to report confusion and memory loss than those who are inactive.
Physical activity keeps blood flowing through your body, including the brain. This can help you think, learn, and problem-solve — and ward off memory loss. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., brisk walking). Try to spread out this activity throughout the week.
3. Stay mentally active
Just as you work your muscles to keep them strong, engage your brain to keep it sharp. Stimulating your mind promotes the growth of new brain cells, strengthens brain pathways, and, in turn, enhances memory.
Do activities that make you think, like these:
- Crossword puzzles
- Play games
- Learn a new skill, language, or musical instrument
There are also plenty of mobile apps geared toward brain health. Many offer problem-solving challenges, word games, and daily brain workouts to strengthen memory.
4. Get social
Social interaction is a must for improving your memory. Research shows that regularly engaging in conversations helps build executive function, a set of mental skills that includes memory.
Plus, spending time with friends and loved ones helps fight depression and stress — two significant contributors to memory loss. So, look for opportunities to get social. Attend networking events, meet friends and coworkers for lunch or coffee, join a running club or support group, participate in group workouts, or sign up for in-person workshops and classes.
5. Sleep well
Poor sleep equals poor memory. Research shows that sleep deprivation makes us more forgetful, with extended periods leading to more severe effects. This is because sleep is the time our brains sort through recent memories and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.
6. Stay organized
It’s easy to become forgetful if your home or office is a mess. Give your brain a helping hand by getting organized. Start by decluttering your work or living space. Then, keep track of tasks and appointments in a notebook or calendar. Reciting each entry aloud may help solidify it in your memory.
Finally, get in the habit of storing essential items, such as your wallet, keys, and glasses, in a dedicated spot. This way, you don’t strain to remember where you put them every day.
7. Limit distractions
It’s tempting to multitask when life gets busy. But doing too many things at once can make it challenging for your brain to tell what information it needs to remember and what it can eliminate. In contrast, focusing on important information can help you easily recall it later.
8. Make a connection
Research suggests that we remember things more easily when we associate meaning with the thought or idea. So, if you really want to make information stick, try connecting it to a favorite song or movie, or even another memory.
For example, if you’re trying to remember someone’s name, see if you can associate it with another person, book, or movie with the same name.
The path to better memory
If you’re fed up with forgetfulness, take steps to improve your memory. Tweaking your diet, socializing, prioritizing quality sleep, and flexing your brain muscles are just a handful of approaches you can take to boost brain health.
Visit your healthcare provider if you’re worried about memory loss or if a loved one expresses concern. Your doctor can help identify potential causes, such as side effects from medication or a possible underlying medical condition like depression.