If you ever find yourself in the aisles of a supermarket not remembering what you’re there to buy, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We all have days when our memory seems to let us down and we forget not just the finer details, but basic information too.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to optimise your brain’s health and sharpen your mind.
1. Put an end to multitasking
Trying to do too much at once time can leave you feeling flustered and forgetful. Juggling several tasks at once won’t make you super-efficient, it will only increase the likelihood you’ll forget to do something important, or even make a mistake. Writing a list of your tasks may help, or pay attention to the task at hand before moving on to the next thing. If your mind always seems to be racing ahead, contemplate meditation and practise screening out irrelevant distractions.
2. Exercise yourself … and your mind
When you exercise, you produce more of a chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF stimulates the growth and proliferation of brain cells, especially in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is largely responsible for memory), so your mind and body will benefit from a brisk walk, bike ride or swim. You could also use “brain training” apps and online games or attempt a crossword, word search or sudoku for the same benefits.
3. Learn a new skill
Challenging your brain to tackle something new forces it to work harder, thereby increasing its memory capacity. Think of an activity that’s unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone but at the same time interesting and engaging. It might be learning a new language or a musical instrument. If you find the learning process satisfying, it will hold your attention for longer and allow you to enjoy greater benefits.
4. Eat well
There are certain foods that will protect your brain’s health and boost your memory. Eggplants, blueberries and cherries are all rich sources of anthocyanin, said to boost cognition and memory. Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids help the brain operate more efficiently, and a handful of walnuts may stimulate the production of new brain cells.
5. Get enough sleep
Sleeping soundly for seven hours a night will make a difference to your memory. A clear, alert brain can think critically, solve problems, be creative and remember and retain more information. Getting sufficient sleep is also essential for staving off heart disease and diabetes, according to the latest research.
6. Use mnemonic devices
These are techniques that allow your brain to better encode, store and recall important information. Acronyms, abbreviations and initials exist everywhere. We’re all familiar with DOB referring to “date of birth” and AKA is shorthand for “also known as”. Organisations are also known by their acronyms – think ABC, BHP, Qantas. Reciting rhymes or using alliteration, where you repeat sounds or syllables, can work wonders too: “30 days hath September, April, June and November”. Why not apply this technique when meeting people for the first time? “Paul is tall” is a simple but effective way to remember a man’s name. Imagery can help us remember PINs and the more bizarre the better. Say you own a bank account with the PIN 2399; you could remember it by thinking 23 was your age when you were married and this was in 1999. For more complicated codes, building a mental story, strange or realistic, through images can help make arbitrary strings of numbers and/or letters more memorable.