Improving your memory: 9 tips for boosting brain power at any age
They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when it
comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this old adage
simply isn’t true. The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt
and change—even into old age. This ability is known as
neuroplasticity. With the right stimulation, your brain can
form new neural pathways, alter existing connections, and adapt and
react in ever-changing ways.
The brain’s incredible ability to reshape itself holds true when it
comes to learning and memory. You can harness the natural power of
neuroplasticity to increase your cognitive abilities, enhance your
ability to learn new information, and improve your memory at any age.
These 9 tips can show you how:
- Give your brain a workout
- Don’t skip the physical exercise
- Get your Zs
- Make time for friends
- Keep stress in check
- Have a laugh
- Eat a brain-boosting diet
- Identify and treat health problems
- Take practical steps to support learning and memory
Tip 1: Give your brain a workout
By the time you’ve reached adulthood, your brain has developed
millions of neural pathways that help you process and recall information
quickly, solve familiar problems, and execute familiar tasks with a
minimum of mental effort. But if you always stick to these well-worn
paths, you aren’t giving your brain the stimulation it needs to keep
growing and developing. You have to shake things up from time to time!
Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.”
The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process
and remember information. But not all activities are equal. The best
brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop
new brain pathways.
Four key elements of a good brain-boosting activity
- It teaches you something new. No
matter how intellectually demanding the activity, if it’s something
you’re already good at, it’s not a good brain exercise. The activity
needs to be something that’s unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone. To
strengthen the brain, you need to keep learning and developing new
- It’s challenging. The best brain-boosting
activities demand your full and close attention. It’s not enough that
you found the activity challenging at one point. It must still be
something that requires mental effort. For example, learning to play a
challenging new piece of music counts. Playing a difficult piece you’ve
already memorized does not.
- It’s a skill you can build on. Look for activities
that allow you to start at an easy level and work your way up as your
skills improve —always pushing the envelope so you continue to stretch
your capabilities. When a previously difficult level starts to feel
comfortable, that means it’s time to tackle the next level of
- It’s rewarding. Rewards support the brain’s
learning process. The more interested and engaged you are in the
activity, the more likely you’ll be to continue doing it and the greater
the benefits you’ll experience. So choose activities that, while
challenging, are still enjoyable and satisfying.
Think of something new you’ve always wanted to try, like learning how
to play the guitar, make pottery, juggle, play chess, speak French,
dance the tango, or master your golf swing. Any of these activities can
help you improve your memory, so long as they keep you challenged and
What about brain-training programs?
There are countless brain-training apps and online programs that
promise to boost memory, problem-solving, attention, and even IQ with
daily practice. But do they really work? Increasingly, the evidence says
no. While these brain-training programs may lead to short-term
improvements in whatever task or specific game you’ve been practicing,
they don’t appear to do anything to strengthen or improve overall
intelligence, memory, or other cognitive abilities.
Tip 2: Don’t skip the physical exercise
While mental exercise is important for brain health, that doesn’t mean you never need to break a sweat. Physical exercise helps
your brain stay sharp. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces
the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and
cardiovascular disease. Exercise also enhances the effects of helpful
brain chemicals and reduces stress hormones. Perhaps most importantly,
exercise plays an important role in neuroplasticity by boosting growth
factors and stimulating new neuronal connections.
Brain-boosting exercise tips
- Aerobic exercise is particularly good for the brain, so choose
activities that keep your blood pumping. In general, anything that is
good for your heart is great for your brain.
- Does it take you long time to clear out the sleep fog when you wake
up? If so, you may find that exercising in the morning before you start
your day makes a big difference. In addition to clearing out the
cobwebs, it also primes you for learning throughout the day.
- Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are particularly beneficial for brain building.
- Exercise breaks can help you get past mental fatigue and afternoon
slumps. Even a short walk or a few jumping jacks can be enough to reboot
If you are experiencing traumatic stress or find yourself stuck in repetitive, unhealthy behavior…
…Try exercising the muscles connected to fight-or-flight with
attention. Exercises that use both your arms and legs—and are done in a
focused way with mindful awareness of your physical and emotional
experience—are especially good at reducing traumatic stress. Exercises
like walking, running, swimming, or rock-climbing, activate your senses
and make you more aware of yourself and others when they are done with
We shall update this post by Friday 14th April for the remaining parts.
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