Memory is a very important human function. It allows the brain to store and access information. It is essential to learning and communicating with others.
Do you ever walk into a room and forget what you were looking for in the first place? Do you have trouble recalling names or dates? You are not alone. Most people have experienced some sort of memory loss.
Luckily, however, there are several ways you can improve your memory naturally and easily.
What is Memory?
Memory is the ongoing process through which we retain and store information for later use. We are always storing memories, known as memory consolidation, of things we learn and experiences we have throughout our life so that we remain able to recall information.
There are two main types of memory:
Short Term Memory
Our short-term memory is where new information is stored. Because our short-term memory has a limited capacity, most information is stored for only about 20 to 30 seconds unless deemed important by the brain. Adults are only able to store five to nine items in their short-term memories.
Long Term Memory
Our long-term memory holds a larger capacity of information than our short-term memory, and for longer periods of time. This is where important information and skills are stored. Short-term memories that are actively maintained, used, or repeated become long-term memories.
Memories are formed and stored in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which also impacts learning, spatial memory, and behavior.
Memories are formed through three different stages:
- Memory Encoding - Humans gather information through their senses. The first step in forming memories of these observations is encoding the incoming information or converting it into data that the brain can process. Incoming information is encoded based on its visual, auditory, or semantic characteristics.
- Memory Storage - After pieces of information are encoded, the brain assesses their importance and usefulness. “Important” pieces of information will be given priority storage space and will be stored for a longer period of time.
- Memory Retrieval - The last stage in the memory formation cycle is the retrieval of stored information. The brain stores this information because it deems it useful for future use. Memory recall occurs when the memories apply to a current situation or task.
Causes of Memory Loss
Most people experience forgetfulness here and there throughout their day-to-day lives. However, if you are experiencing severe memory loss that significantly impacts your quality of life, we suggest you speak to your doctor.
Memory loss can be more common in older adults, and sometimes memory declines can be caused by severe illnesses leading to cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Most instances of memory loss result from common causes:
- Sleep deprivation can interfere with the brain’s ability to retain and store information.
- Depression affects memory because it can impair focus.
- Stress and trauma can cause memory loss due to distraction and over-stimulation of the brain. Those who have suffered trauma may block out hurtful memories as a method of self-preservation.
- Nutrition deficiency can cause memory loss because the brain needs certain nutrients in order to function efficiently.
- Certain prescription medications can cause memory loss. This includes antidepressants, antihistamines, and sleeping pills. Speak to your doctor if you suspect your prescription medication is affecting your memory.
- Drug use can negatively impact memory. This includes illicit substances as well as alcohol and tobacco.
- Natural aging can cause memory loss as body functions slow down with time.
How Can I Improve My Memory Naturally?
Like all of the body’s processes, you can improve memory formation by establishing a healthy lifestyle. It is important we practice habits that support our overall health, and therefore also our memory.
Now that we know how memory is formed in the brain and are familiar with some common causes of memory loss, it’s time to learn how we can improve and prevent our memory.
Start with these steps for a healthy body and brain:
Get some sleep
While you are asleep, your body repairs itself and processes information retained throughout the day. A tired brain cannot effectively take in information and store it where it needs to be stored. Proper sleep hygiene ensures that you receive quality sleep so that you feel refreshed in the morning. Get enough hours of sleep, and do your best to maintain a sleep schedule.
Eat nutritious food
Our cells cannot function without the nutrients they need. To make sure your engine is running at its full capacity, make sure to incorporate essential nutrients into your day-to-day diet. Berries like blueberries, vegetables, whole grains, and antioxidants can work wonders for the human brain.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Did you know that our bodies are 60 percent water? Out of all our organs, the brain is made up of the most water, up to 85 percent! For a fully functioning body and brain, make sure to drink water.
Get some exercise!
Getting regular exercise can improve your brain health. Physical exercise helps support your wellbeing overall, and trying new things like aerobic exercise can make it fun, too.
Tips To Help Improve Memory
A healthy lifestyle supports all body functions. To further protect your brain and improve your memory, here are some helpful tips:
Incorporate supplements into your routine to target brain health. Brain health supplements include turmeric, omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex vitamins
Focus on mental health. Because stress and depression can lead to memory loss, it is important that you put your mental health first. You can do this by:
- Practicing mindfulness meditation
- Making time for rest and relaxation
- Using herbal supplements, such as ashwagandha, to help improve mood
Activate your mind! The sharpest brains are the ones that are constantly put in use throughout a daily routine. Here are some ways you can practice mental exercise:
- Keep a journal
- Learn a language or new skill
- Play memory tests and puzzle games like chess, sudoku, or crossword puzzles to stimulate your brain cells
- Read books and listen to music
- Use mnemonics or mnemonic devices
While occasional memory loss can be bothersome, rest assured. By applying the right habits and supporting your diet with clean supplements, your memory can improve with time.
Your memory has several different functions, and maintaining a proper diet and lifestyle can help you support your cognitive health and memory function.