4 tips for a better memory

The human brain is amazing, baffling scientists and doctors for centuries with its impressive abilities. No other species can make beautiful symphonies and poems, build such impressive palaces and find ingenious solutions like us. But we couldn't do any of these things without the help of our wonderful brains.

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Two very important components of our brain are our memory, which lets us accumulate a wealth of knowledge, and our ability to solve problems. Even though our brains are truly amazing and capable of great things, there are still moments when we forget things. We have assembled four tips that will help you get through those moments

Tip 1 - Pay attention to your emotions

When you have strong emotional experiences tied to memories - a first kiss, graduation, or a promotion - these memories often resonate and are hard to forget. Can you remember where you were when 9/11 happened? This is a great example of a memory that resonated in our minds because of the emotional response associated. Most of us felt scared, sad and perhaps even angry, and can easily recall the details. This is very different to remembering what we ate for lunch yesterday.

Making our memories meaningful means we can hang onto them for longer. One theory as to why simultaneously experienced emotions can make a memory so powerful is that emotions provoke physical arousal - from being excited or agitated to calm or soothed. Indeed, advertisers use this strategy to make advertisements provoking emotions, making them stay in our minds longer. By tying seemingly mundane information to emotions, you can enhance your ability to remember new information better and longer.

Furthermore, research has shown that we need to feel fit and physically active in order to be able to remember new information [1]. This means that whenever we want to absorb and memorize new information, we should make sure we feel alert, fit, and physically active.

Tip 2 - Practice mindfulness training

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment - and accepting it for what it is. Your awareness can be trained by mindfulness practice as well as your ability to focus on your body, your breathing, and your thoughts in the present moment. Ask yourself: how often do you live in the present moment and how often do you let go of all worries about the future or thoughts about the past? Through mindfulness practice, you can learn to live in the now, and not let yourself be distracted by things around you. A study at the University of Santa Barbara found that after 2 weeks of mindfulness training, participants showed significant improvements in concentration and other cognitive functions [2]. We could all do with a little boost in concentration - especially in today’s world where we are constantly being bombarded by different stimuli at once. By meditating, doing yoga, or even taking five minutes in the morning to let your mind tune into your body, see how you are feeling, and observing your emotions without judging them, you can boost your concentration and working memory, and studies have shown that mindfulness practice can even raise your happiness levels as well.

Tip 3 - Trail mix

Nutritionists agree that certain foods are stimulating for your brain's activity. These foods are important for the production of substances in your brain that are responsible for the transmission of information between neurons. Such substances are known as neurotransmitters. Certain amino acids have been proven to ensure that these neurotransmitters can word smoothly. Amino acids can be found in foods like nuts, fish, and legumes. Nuts are particularly pleasant for your brain as they are also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are also relevant to boost memory and brain performance [3]. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are 48% more likely to score in the lowest quartile of IQ tests. The reason for this is that 8% of the human brain is comprised of omega-3 fatty acids - the building block for an estimated 100 billion neurons and a number of neurotransmitters. When you don’t have enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, your brain cannot grow like it should, and send the important messages it has to transmit. When needing to remember something highly important, omega-3 rich foods could be your brain’s best friend.

Tip 4 - Strengthen your working memory

When you learn new information, it is first stored in your working memory before it goes on to be memorized in your long-term memory. Ever since psychologist George Miller published his findings in 1956, that the untrained brain can only memorize seven things at once, interest surfaced regarding memory training and improving the brain’s capacities. For a long time we thought the brain's capacity couldn’t really change, that the way it is today is the way it will forever be. But groundbreaking research in 2008 by Susanne Jaeggi, a Swiss psychologist, discovered that our working memory can be trained through an effective brain training [4]. Participants in her study not only improved their ability to store information in their working memory, but also found it easier to find solutions to complex problems.

It was shown that through a regular training with exercises, such as the Neuronation exercise Memoflow, working memory performance can be enhanced. This has positive effects on both your memory, as well as your logical thinking.

Your brain's health is up to you

As you can see, to a large extent you can influence how well your brain works. A proper diet, mindful living, memory techniques and brain training are the ideal ingredients to put your brain on the fast lane to high performance. With NeuroNation you have a strong partner by your side helping you to achieve a fitter brain.

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Sources:

1: Kleinsmith, L., & Kaplan, S. (1964). Interaction of arousal and recall interval in nonsense syllable paired-associate learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol 67(2), 124-126.

2: Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D. W., Baird, B., & Schooler, J. W. (2012). Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering. Psychological Science, 24(5), 776-781.

3: Raji. C., Erickson, K., Lopez, O., Kuller, L., Gach, M., Thompson, P., Riverol, M., & Becker, J. (2014). Regular Fish Consumption and Age-Related Brain Gray Matter Loss.

4: Jaeggi S. M., Buschkuehl M., Jonides J., Perrig W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801268105

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