If you’re like most people, chances are you would love to improve your memory. Because let’s face it, there isn’t much worse than forgetting someone’s name, losing your keys, or struggling to remember a fun memory with friends.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to sharpen your memory, regardless of age. Here are six science-backed tips to help improve your memory.
1. Jim Kwik’s 3-Part “Mom” Method
If you’re looking to improve your memory and overall brain health, listen to an expert like Jim Kwik. After a childhood injury, doctors deemed him “The boy with the broken brain” and didn’t think he would ever have normal cognitive function. Despite the odds, he learned how to rebuild his brain and use it for good to help inspire others with his company, Kwik Learning.
He is now a go-to brain coach, author, and speaker. Not to mention, he’s worked with all kinds of people including Hugh Jackman, Will Smith, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and others.
When it comes to improving memory, use Jim’s 3-part “MOM” method which stands for Motivation, Observation, and Mechanics.
Jim says the first step to improving memory is having the right motivation to do so.
For example, maybe you’re someone who notoriously forgets names as soon as you meet someone. If this sounds like you, to improve your memory, you need to first establish the motivation to change and remember names.
By setting a goal like “I will remember everyone I meet so that I make more connections and grow my business” is extremely important. As Jim said, “If you can’t come up with a reason, you won’t remember. Reasons reap results.”
Once you have your motivation to improve, the second step Jim says is to observe yourself and your self-talk. As he said, “Many of us believe we’re bad at remembering names. Eliminate this negative self-talk – because when you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them.”
The second part of the observation step is to focus on being present and pay attention more in social situations. He said that leaders like Bill Clinton are exceptionally present and, thus, better at recalling names and events.
To observe better, Jim recommends listening more intently, instead of waiting to speak. This will help your brain remember names and events more effectively.
Mechanics to Train Your Brain
The final step in his memory method is the mechanics side of it.
This is actually practicing certain techniques and strategies to rewire your brain for success. As Jim has pointed out, it’s important to remember that your brain is a muscle and that it needs exercise just like the body.
One of his top mechanical tips is to block out 30-minute “white space” in your calendar. During that time, turn off all notifications and try to memorize the phone numbers of people you call on a regular basis.
Aside from these three tips from Jim, here are some other brain hacks to sharpen your memory.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation is one of the most effective practices you can take advantage of in your life; specifically for better memory too.
In a Berkeley study involving 18-50 year olds, they found that “Mindfulness could be useful for treating people who may have memory problems and concurrently smaller hippocampi—for example, older adults or people suffering from depression, past childhood trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder. And, since short-term memory is often important for other cognitive functions—including executive functioning and problem-solving.”
Mindfulness meditation helps with both short and long- term memory, not to mention other functions like problem-solving.
If you’ve never meditated before, don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Prior to starting my own meditation practice in 2018, I was like a lot of people and made it more difficult in the beginning.
In reality, you can sit in silence for five minutes each morning as a form of meditation. Or, go on a walk without your phone and enjoy the silence. Or, you can opt for a formal practice of meditation, use an app like Headspace, or visit a meditation center.
The benefits of meditation are nearly limitless, so make sure to try it out if you haven’t already. While you shouldn’t expect results overnight, it can create a positive compound effect in many areas of your life.
3. Regular Exercise
Exercise does wonders for the body, but also a ton of positive benefits for your mind as well. According to a Harvard study, “Exercise can also boost memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep, and by reducing stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.”
You might be thinking, is one form of exercise better than another?
According to the same study, they haven’t found that answer yet, but research suggests that aerobic exercise that gets the heart pumping has tons of benefits.
Plus, aside from improving your memory, regular exercise can help decrease anxiety, improve mood, and reduce stress. Needless to say, if you don’t have a regular exercise routine in your life yet, do everything you can to make it a priority.
Like meditation, sometimes you need to start slow so that you don’t burn out and miss out on the long- term benefits. Even if it’s a 20-minute walk each morning, start to make it a priority so that you improve your memory and overall health.
4. Eat Brain Food
While exercise and meditation can help improve your memory a ton, don’t forget you are what your diet is too. If you constantly eat high fat, high calorie, salty foods, your brain won’t function at optimal levels.
A Healthline article said, “The foods you eat play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks, such as memory and concentration.” They recommend these foods to superpower your brain:
- Fatty Fish: Fish like salmon and albacore tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is crucial as your brain is made up of 60% fat!
- Coffee: If you’re like most people, chances are you love coffee and can’t imagine starting the day without it. But studies have shown that coffee also supports brain health, improves mood, and sharpens your concentration.
- Dark Chocolate: I bet you didn’t think this would be on the list, did you? According to the same Healthline article, dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa) have flavonoids that gather in the area of learning and memory. Plus, who doesn’t love dark chocolate!
Other foods to eat for memory include blueberries, turmeric, pumpkin seeds, nuts, oranges, and eggs.
And make it a point to avoid foods like sugar, butter, fried foods, and excess salt. Your mind and body will likely feel the positive benefits of an improved diet.
5. Take Supplements
Even if your diet is dialed in, chances are you probably still won’t get 100% of all your essential vitamins and minerals. To help offset any deficiencies, make sure to take supplements and multivitamins to offset your diet. Even if you do eat clean, this is a good way to ensure your brain is getting everything it needs for optimal performance.
6. Improve Your Sleep
Sleep is kind of like meditation, it seems to be a sort of “super drug” and can help with all kinds of benefits. Sleep isn’t just about the quantity of sleep, but also the quality of your sleep too.
A Sleep Foundation study found that an adult sleeping cycle is actually four distinct stages. The first two are known as NREM Sleep, the third is deep sleep, and REM sleep.
The study found that, “During these NREM stages, the brain also sorts through your various memories from the previous day, filtering out important memories and eliminating other information. These selected memories will become more concrete as deep NREM sleep begins, and this process will continue during REM sleep.”
They also said that, “Not sleeping or getting enough sleep can lower your learning abilities by as much as 40%.” Not enough sleep can also lead to trouble learning and difficulties focusing, and poor emotional behavior.
Needless to say, sleep is wildly important for your memory and overall health. Some ways to improve your sleep include:
- Wearing a sleep mask.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day.
- Use a melatonin supplement before bed.
- Increase bright light exposure during the day.
- Create a consistent sleep and wake-up schedule.
- Avoiding screens and technology, 30-60 minutes before bed.
Or, if you can’t always get as much sleep as you would like, try out power naps to help with memory. But don’t make them too long or late in the day, as it can also affect your sleep schedule.
Hopefully, these tips will help your memory improve and improve other areas of your life. Remember, though, it’s natural to still forget things from time to time. Whether it’s a name of a person you just met, where you left the keys, etc., it's human nature.
But these tips should help strengthen your memory if you put in the work.