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11 Tricks to Improving Your Memory

04/15/2011

My mother always said she lost her brain when she had me – and I thought (until Baby #1) that was a total cop-out. Of course, when Baby #1 started growing my muffin top into a frontal watermelon, I learned otherwise. There would be moments when I would point at something and moan “What is that called?!” My husband was very patient: “That’s the checkbook, dear….”

Right. I know there are herbs (Gingko, etc.) that can assist with brain boosting, but even herbs only go so far. Working full-time as a non-profit organization’s Director of Operations, I have to keep on my toes and can’t use the excuse nearly as readily that “I’ve had 2 children.”

1. Exercise – Not only does this make one feel better physically, help you sleep better, and de-stress your day, exercise also increases the flow of your blood that pump blood and thus oxygen to your brain. Suffocated blood cells in the brain cause cell death. When your blood doesn’t flow properly to your brain, it reduced the amount of oxygen that can flow; even if it’s just a brisk walk around your office building, getting your heart rate up and your blood pumping will help to keep your brain healthy.

2. Eliminate Stress – Anything that causes you anxiety, anger, or worry will eat away at the memory parts of your brain. Depression causes a higher level of cortisol in your bloodstream, which carry up to your brain, and high levels of cortisol will particularly damage your short-term memory sections. As cliche as it sounds – focus on the positive, give the rest up, and seek help if you’re struggling with maintaining a depression-free lifestyle.

3. Sleep – Getting a good night’s sleep (7-8 hours of uninterrupted rest are vital to many aspects of health) consistently allows your brain to firm recently acquired information in storage. If you’ve just learned something new (say, been in a class or read online a long and thorough article), take a short (20 minutes is optimal) nap.

4. Music – Research shows that music is helpful in recalling memories. Particularly assigning a specific song or collection to a memory can assist in re-recalling that memory later on. We’ve all heard how playing Mozart improves the brain – can’t hurt to play background music when trying to learn, eh?

5. Write it down – Writing a particle of thought oxygenates blood flow to your brain responsible for remembering, and actually exercises that area. Reading what you’ve written also improves the ability to recollec later. Journaling is a great way to keep your long-term memory intact, and creating lists for short-term To-Do’s does the trick.

6. Visualize – Pay attention to charts, photographs, diagrams and other graphics when learning something. Assign an item, animal or action in your mind to a particular fact to remind you later. There’s a whole book on Memory Mechanics such as these available.

7. Crossword Puzzles – Reading, crosswords, word and card games not only keep you sharp, studies show they also delay memory loss and can be very helpful in pausing the onset of dementia.

8. Eat breakfast – We’ve all heard it’s best to eat breakfast for both weight loss/maintenance, but it’s also shown to improve performance for the rest of the day. The best breakfast contains eggs, lean proteins and fruit. Avoid processed foods and high fructose corn syrup (goodbye, Aunt Jemima Toaster Waffles and Artificial Syrup). Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants that keep cells firing at optimal speed, burn glucose and protect neurons are all found in eggs: the superfood. Of course, cage free, fertile, (and preferably farm fresh) eggs are the best.

9. Teach – Reading and working through material out loud significantly improves the ability to retain the information. It also increases understanding and recall prowess to teach new concepts to someone else.

10. Feed your brain fat – That’s right. Skim milk, fat-free yogurt, low-fat, non-fat, 2% fat, -2% fat, fat-less, no-fat diets are actually detrimental to your brain’s functionality, not to mention tastebuds. 50-60% of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which insulates billions of nerve cells. Skimming on fats is devastating, as the better a cell is insulated by fat, the faster it sends messages and the quicker you’ll think. Of course, avoid bad fatty foods like deep-fried twinkies, but do seek out dark, leafy greens (*see below*) and fish for optimal good nutritional brain-feeding fat.

11. Drink water – And enough water. The average height/weight person should drink 7-8 glasses of water per day. Not only does this help regulate your weight, keep you hydrated, help your skin and energy, and boost your immune system and sleep cycles, enough water flushes sodium out of your kidneys. Too much sodium build-up in your kidneys, your blood becomes thick and succumbs to high pressure. High pressure in your bloodstream chokes out the oxygen that flows to your brain. What kills brain cells? Suffocated cells (no oxygen). Water is invaluable.

*Dark Green Leafy Vegetables*

Kale typically brings a wrinkled nose, but it is absolutely one of the best gifts to your body you can get. There are more nutrients in a bowl of Kale than in 12 bowls of oatmeal. A friend sautes Kale in a saucepan with garlic, olive oil, and onion, then adds kalamata olives and feta cheese.

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