Memory Improvement Tips: Memory Exercises, Foods, and Supplements

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” This thought provoking quote by Elie Wiesel ultimately tells us just how powerful our memories are. If we couldn’t recall the little things that happened last week or the unique things that happened in childhood we would never be able to have fulfilling lives. Memory is malleable, and there are ways that you can train your brain to improve your memory.

Having a good memory is obviously important to everybody, but it’s especially essential for college students. College is an environment where retention of facts, figures, and knowledge can play a large role in your success as a student. In this post, we try to give you some useful tips for memory improvement. We’ll go over exercises you can do to keep your brain sharp, some specific techniques that might be useful for students. We’ll also talk about foods, vitamins, and supplements that can help improve your memory.

Memory can be somewhat complicated to define, but in simplified terms it is really the process by which information is stored, encoded and received. Of course experts will tell you that it is far more complex than what the dictionary might state, but since we already have issues with memory loss, lets stick to the simplified version.

Memory Improvement Exercises

Memory Improvement Tips for College Students

In the same way that the body needs targeted exercises to perform at optimal level; your brain also requires exercise in order to retain learnt information. This article by Everyday Health further validates this point; “researchers now believe that following a brain-healthy lifestyle and performing regular, targeted brain exercises can also increase your brain’s cognitive reserve.” At the end of the day, memory is just like any other skill – some people are more talented than others, but everyone has room for improvement, and practice will help you improve. Here are a few exercises that you can do to keep your brain sharp.

  • Try to pick up a foreign language – The listening and hearing involved in learning a foreign language is said to stimulate the brain.
  • Memorize lists- Whether it’s your grocery list, ‘to-do’ list, names of countries, names of people; whatever it may be try to make a list of things and memorize them as often as possible until your brain retains the information. The more you practice this, the better you’ll get at it – and this will definitely come in handy when you’re memorizing a list of facts for your history exam.
  • Listen to music- Listening to the right kind of music can enhance memory and learning. There is research that suggests that our brains are hardwired to connect music with long term memory. This memory recall method is most often used with  people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, bu it’s also a generally applicable principle.
  • Recall information in reverse order- While on your way to the office, during your lunch break or whenever you have a few minutes to spare, put your brain to work; don’t just try and remember something, do it in reverse, it will seem hard at first but it gets easier with practice. This is the kind of deliberate practice that will help you improve your memory.
  • Recount daily events- Before you go to sleep every night try to recount the events of your day from the minute you woke up to the last thing you did before going to bed- and don’t overlook the small details. The more you practise this exercise the more improvement you’ll see in your memory.

Memory Improvement Exercises For College Students

As much as college is supposed to be about “higher-learning”, it’s still undeniably true that memorization of facts and concepts plays a large role in success at the college level – especially in entry-level classes with a large number of students. It can be quite frustrating for students who learn and understand something one day, only to forget the information a few days later. Don’t be discouraged though – there are definitely exercises and techniques that you can use to help improve your memory, and as an extension of that, your performance in class.

  • Pay attention! Yes, sometimes the subject is boring or the teacher’s voice literally puts you to sleep, but you can’t remember something that you never learnt in the first place. Some students are shocked when it turns out that they didn’t learn anything even though they attended all their classes – and while showing up is half the battle, the other half of the battle is actually being engaged in class. You can’t learn if you’re daydreaming or thinking about something else rather than focusing on class.
  • Different people learn differently – some people prefer reading, some people prefer listening, and some people prefer seeing. Experiment with different learning techniques and see what works best for you. If you’re an auditory learner, try recording your lectures and listening back to them or watching youtube videos on the topic. If you learn best by reading, settle down with the textbook and just grind through it. If you’re a visual learner, use diagrams, graphs, and mind maps to your advantage.
  • Connect the material to other things in your life. A lot of memory and recall works via association. Have you ever stepped foot into a restaurant and had a memory just pop straight into your head? This is likely due to the aroma of the food – it triggers your brain into serving up a bunch of related memories. The more you  associate what you’re learning to other things in your life (e.g the design of the lecture hall, the smell of your deodorant, the taste of that gum your chewing, etc), the more deeply you’ll remember what you’ve learned.
  • Utilize mnemonic techniques. These are memory improvement tools that aid in connecting everyday items to information you are trying to remember. Some mnemonic techniques include; the Loci method where you place items you want to remember in specific locations in a familiar space, or the Chaining method where you create a story where each word you have to recollect will cue the next idea that you need to remember. Here’s a good overview of the various mnemonic techniques that you can use – these are the kinds of techniques that people who want to achieve photographic memory will use.

Foods that can Boost your Memory

Another step in boosting memory is ensuring a healthy well-rounded diet. As you probably already know, whole grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables have countless health benefits for your body – but did you know these foods also improve brain power? Here are some great options to consider:

  • Oily fish – These include sardine, herring, tuna, mackerel, trout and salmon. Oily fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for optimum brain health. To get a healthy dose of Omega-3, it’s recommended that you replace meat with fish a couple times per week.
  • Green, leafy vegetables – All vegetables are good for overall health, but broccoli, collard greens, kale and spinach are particularly vital for memory improvement; they contain antioxidants that safeguard brain cells from damage. In addition to vegetables, colorful fruits are also good for brain health and memory.
  • Avocado – Avocado is rich in vitamin E and C is associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Obviously, anything that can help you avoid Alzheimer’s in the long run is a ‘win’ for memory.
  • Green Tea – Consuming green tea regularly can boost memory and mental alertness and slow down the brain-aging process. Green tea contains potent antioxidants known as polyphenols, which protect against free radicals thus ensuring healthy brain cells.
  • Nuts –Health experts believe that there are a variety off nuts can have a positive impact on brain function.
  • Berries – There is research that suggests that berries (especially strawberries, blueberries and acai berries) may help to delay memory decline.
  • Wine – We’re not encouraging college students to drink – who could imagine such a thing – but science is science. When consumed in moderation, wine (specifically red wine) may improve cognition and memory. Red wine contains resveratrol, which is supposed to boost blood flow in the brain, which can help brain functions like cognition and recall.

Vitamins and Supplements for Memory Improvement

If some of the foods mentioned above aren’t to your liking, you can always opt for vitamins and supplements that specifically target brain health and memory enhancement. One very popular option is Ginkgo. It is widely used in many herbalists’ communities thanks to its ability to improve memory. Also known as ‘brain herb’ ginkgo is commonly used in Europe to treat a type of dementia which occurs due to reduced blood flow.

Persons may also suffer from memory loss due to Vitamin B12 deficiency. This to be the most common vitamin deficiency in the United States- particularly among seniors. Animal meat contains this vitamin, but if you are vegan or vegetarian you can opt for vitamin B12 supplements instead.

Folate is another important vitamin known to increase memory and focus. Folate helps to lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that damages brain cells. The recommended daily amount is 400 grams each day, so consume an adequate supply of fruits, beans, lentils and green leafy vegetables for your daily folate intake.

Magnesium is also great for sustaining the memory as it protects the brain against neurotoxins.

Vitamin C is often used for cold and allergies, but Jean Carper in his book, Your Miracle Brain, reasons that Vitamin C supplements can improve mental functions such as IQ, memory and a host of others. Other sources also note that vitamin C protects against age-related brain degeneration, which include Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When it comes to diet and health, you should remember to (pun intended) try an build healthy lifestyle habits – eat right, get adequate rest, and exercise regularly. Living an unhealthy lifestyle by staying up all night studying, eating terribly and skipping out on exercise won’t make you a better student – in fact, it will almost certainly have a negative impact on your results in college.

What the Research on Memory Tells Us

Science is continually finding ways of improving memory, but in order to find solutions, much research is necessary. Before we learn how we remember (scientifically), we must first examine why we forget. When we forget something, we are unable to recall data that was previously learned. According to  psychologists think there are two major reasons why we forget things:

  1. The information is stored in your memory; but you just can’t remember it when you need to. You may however be able to recall the information at a later time.
  2. You forget the material, permanently, and all physical traces of the memory disappear.

Additionally, how we forget also depends on where the information is stored (whether in long-term or short-term memory).

Short Term Memory

If the information is stored here you may forget it due to decay, inference or displacement.

  • Decay – This is the loss of memory due to the passage of time.
  • Inference – This theory suggests that memories compete and interfere with each other. There are two types of interference. Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with old memories. Proactive interference is when a deep-rooted memory makes it challenging, or at times even impossible to remember a recent memory.
  • Displacement- This involves forgetting when new memories replace old ones due to the limited capacity of the short-term memory.

Long- Term Memory

Unlike short term memory which can only store a certain amount of information, long term memory is thought to be immeasurable in its capacity to store data and in the length of time the data can be retained. However, inference and decay can also affect long-term memory and cause us to forget things.

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