How to Improve Memory: 25 Steps to Take to Remember Things Better

This science-backed guide for students and young adults is full of tips and advice on how to improve memory, both long-term and short-term.

Memory decline is one of the hardest parts of aging for most people. It can be even worse if you start to see short-term memory loss at a young age.

Although memory loss can be scary, there are ways to help improve your memory and prevent cognitive decline. While genetics can often play a role in memory loss, so too can lifestyle habits. 

Want to learn some science-backed ways for improving memory, bettering your mental health, and fighting of cognitive problems?

Read our guide below!

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Understanding Memory

To understand why you may have memory loss, you need to know the full cycle of memory. Many professionals believe there are three separate stages of memory.

A good way to think of the brain’s three stages of memory is like a computer. Although nobody truly knows where memories are stored or how they are stored, this is a good analogy.

As scientists gain more information about the brain, the three stages could change. Knowledge about the brain has grown immensely in the past few years. 

By understanding the three stages of memory, you can put yourself in a better position to improve your memory performance, increase cognitive performance, and simply keep your brain healthy.

Sensory Memory

This is a memory that lasts less than a second. Sensory memory will allow you to store a memory of a picture, the smell of a freshly baked pie, or any memory from any of the five senses.

These super-short memories will directly lead to short-term memory, the next memory type, as these memories are stored only as long as is needed to transfer them to short-term memory.

Short-Term Memory

This stage in the memory process is like a filter. Short-term memory will also be a place for temporary storage. In this stage, those quick sensory memories will either be forgotten or put into long-term memory.

Short-term memory is like your computer’s RAM. This function on a computer generates a working atmosphere for short actions. Short-term memories often last several seconds, with a select few making it to a minute or more.

Long-Term Memory

This is where valuable memories are. Your brain has deemed the memories here important and valuable. Long-term memory has no limit. You can have as many or as few long-term memories as your brain deems necessary. 

This acts like your computer’s storage or hard drive. This is where data is stored for the long-haul, sometimes for years or even decades. It is further divided into two sub-types: explicit memories, which are mostly conscious in nature, and implicit memories, which are mostly unconscious.

Related Read: 10 Tips on How to Concentrate and Improve Your Brain’s Ability to Focus

Understanding Short-Term Memory

As mentioned above, short-term memory works like a filter. Your brain decides what to keep and what not to keep. It acts similar to the RAM function on any computer.

Short-term memory is stored for less than 30 seconds. The small bits of information have a small life span unless the brain decides to keep the memory.

Scientists don’t believe there is a place in the brain for memory. However, there is evidence leading scientists to believe that short-term memories are made into long-term memories in the hippocampus. Memory is believed to be a mental process and not a devoted space in your brain.

Short-term memory is used to remember food orders or a phone number. You use it to remember things for the time being until you can write them down or don’t need them anymore.

Without your short-term memory filter, you would most likely remember everything that has happened to you. Not to be confused with a photographic memory. Without the filter, the brain would be overwhelmed with information overload.

Short-term memory truly can’t hold a lot of information. Researchers have recently found that your brain can only store four memory inputs. Each brain might have a buffer of 1-2 additional memory than another. 

Related Read: 15+ Best Study Tips: Top Advice & Effective Ways to Study Better

How to Improve Your Memory

Knowing how to improve your memory is a powerful tool. Memory loss can be frustrating and embarrassing. But mainly, if your reading this article, it has become a problem in your life.

To improve memory, you need to improve your brain health. Memory improvement and brain health correlate directly with each other. 

Proven ways to improve brain health include eating a healthy diet, cutting out added sugars, sleeping consistently, exercising, avoiding stress, and taking vitamins. These are not the only ways in which you can improve short-term memory loss. 

Your Diet

Have trouble with figuring out how to remember things? Start with your diet. There are several measures you can take with your diet, from going on a consistent diet to cutting out a few bad foods when you can (lower blood sugar) to increasing your intake of particular foods.

Memory loss can be decreased by cutting out foods with high sugars or large amounts of cholesterol. But, of course, there are also foods thought to improve short-term memory.

Ginger

Ginger is a truly great addition to almost any diet. Ginger can be eaten regularly or taken daily as a nutritional supplement to help with your memory loss. Ginger extract, in particular, has been proven to improve working memory and may be a potential cognitive enhancer.

Water

One of the best short-term memory tips is to drink lots of water. Dehydration can cause memory issues, as well as a variety of other physical health issues. Because 75% of the brain consists of water, even a short period of dehydration can lead to memory declines and a decreased ability to maintain attention.

Chocolate

Knowing how to improve memory can be as easy as eating chocolate. The main ingredient in chocolate, cocoa, has several benefits. Cocoa flavonoids have been proven to increase processing speed, short-term memory, and attention. 

Although milk chocolate is generally more liked, dark chocolate has more benefits for your brain. Not only does it have less sugar, but it is also rich in flavonoids. According to studies, flavonoid-rich foods like dark chocolate can better your spatial awareness and spatial working memory, improve executive functions, up the oxygen in your brain and blood flow, and create new neuronal connections.

Caffeine

Caffeine can improve memory for a short time. If you are in a rush and need to remember something, coffee or another source of caffeine is not a bad idea.

Scientists have found that caffeine can enhance certain memory stages for 24 hours after consumption. But, be sure to not drink too much caffeine or you could do more damage than good. 

Related Read: 10+ Tips on How to Stay Healthy Studying or Working From Home

Supplements to Take

If a diet isn’t for you, try supplements. Many supplements can help with your brain, but only a few have been proven to help directly with short-term memory.

Magnesium L-Threonate

This new magnesium chelate has been designed to allow for more magnesium to enter the brain. Magnesium L-threonate has been proven to aid learning and improve short-term and long-term memory, based on a study testing memory through a novel object recognition test (NORT) followed by recording of long-term potentiation (LTP).

If you are selecting a magnesium supplement for brain health, try to stay away from magnesium sulfate. Magnesium sulfate is helpful if you have sore muscles but may be actually harmful to your brain. Magnesium sulfate can even increase your short-term memory loss.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba has grown increasingly popular, regarded as one of the most popular brain supplements in the world, and for good reason. 

Researchers have conducted many studies on the supplement and found great results. One such double-blind clinical trial found that Ginkgo Biloba significantly improved short-term memory in healthy adults. 

DHA

DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is important for all kinds of brain function, an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential to having a healthy brain. 

One study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that DHA supplementation improved memory, both episodic memory and working memory, and decreased reaction time. Another study concluded that people who do not get enough DHA have 23% structurally smaller brains.

American Ginseng

Panax quinquefolius, better known as American ginseng, seems to help boost memory and improve cognitive function. It’s different in properties from Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), and studies show significant improvements in working memory performance, along with better choice reaction time accuracy and some other cognitive functions.

It has been proven to work quickly. Research has shown that American ginseng gets to work within one hour of a single dose, meaning proven memory supplements with a high amount of standardized ginsenosides will improve reaction and short-term memory very quickly.

Curcumin

If you have ever had turmeric, then you have also had curcumin. It is the primary compound within turmeric. It is known to lower high cholesterol, help you manage inflammation, lessen the effects of arthritis, and other physical health benefits.

Curcumin has also been proven to improve brain health. The supplement increases short-term memory, mood, and attention and help prevent age-related cognitive decline, dementia, and mood disorders, according to scientists.

Utilize Sleep

There is no denying that sleep is important. Sleep can improve almost every aspect of your life. Getting a good night’s sleep with a solid seven to nine hours has so many benefits for your brain. Sleep is directly tied to brain health and function, as it helps with memory consolidation and increasing how optimally you focus and learn, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Having bad sleep quality can have negative effects. If you do not prioritize your sleep, you will have worse creativity, memory, and attention. 

During sleep, your brain is incredibly active. While you are sleeping, your brain is filtering all your memories for the day. During this time, the brain is also regenerating cells. Your brain needs this time to get access to the short-term memory stage. Without this time, your brain doesn’t have the access to clear the memories and prepare for the day ahead.

If you do not get enough sleep, your brain will not be able to hold as much information as usual. With enough sleep, you can hold much more information in your short-term stage than if you were to get an insufficient amount of sleep.

Related Read: How to Set Goals You Can Actually Achieve (7+ Tips for Success)

Make Lifestyle Changes

As a college student or young professional, you are at your best and brightest when your mental function is at peak performance, and improving memory is certainly a big part of that.

There are lifestyle changes you can make that will help with your brain function. In short, increased brain function means much better short-term and long-term memory. Utilize some of these tips to increase your memory.

Socialize

There is a relationship between human interaction and brain function, according to an Ohio State University study. According to the researchers, “these findings suggest that group housing led to better memory function and reduced markers of neuroinflammation… More broadly, they support a causative link between social ties and hippocampal function, suggesting that merely having a larger social network can positively influence the aging brain.”

There are many social opportunities you can select from. Find a local calendar from where you live and experience how socializing can improve your memory firsthand. A short conversation lasting no more than 10-minutes can have a large impact on your cognitive function. And, having a strong support system in place has all kinds of benefits aside from preventing memory decline, of course.

Outdoors and Walks

If you are stressed with an assignment or another part of life, take a walk. Walking outside and enjoying nature will help with your short-term memory, along with a variety of other cognitive abilities.

If you cannot walk, look at images of the great outdoors and nature. Looking at pictures of nature can help clear the mental fog or fatigue that you may be experiencing.

Limit Alcohol

Heavy alcohol consumption is not good for the brain. When taken into access, alcohol can eliminate information that you need. Alcohol slows the rate at which your brain can process information and filter what you need. This is why you might not remember names after a night out.

In severe cases, if you drink too much, you can severely damage your memory. You could cause a lot of nerve damage to your hippocampus. If you are noticing memory loss from drinking, you should consider taking a break or cutting back.

Exercise

Maintaining regular exercise has incredible benefits for your entire body, including cognitive benefits on mental health. This is an important lifestyle change that can help you notice improved memory almost immediately.

You do not have to exercise for hours on end, 20-30 minutes a day is good enough. You do not need to perform a strenuous exercise to see these benefits. Exercise will help maintain the health of your hippocampus.

As mentioned above, getting outside and enjoying nature is beneficial. If you have the chance to exercise outside, do so as much as possible.

Meditation and Yoga

Yoga has many benefits. Performing 20 minutes of yoga a day has been proven to yield significant concentration and memory benefits. 

Meditation and yoga will allow you to clear your head of any worries. By focusing on yourself and your current state, your brain will be able to relax for the duration.

If you are new to meditation or yoga, you can see memory improvement quickly. Meditation and yoga can give participants improved memory, energy, and mood.

Keep a Healthy Weight

Your weight could be affecting your memory without you knowing it. It is proven that being overweight can lead to memory issues as well as confusion. On the other side, being underweight can cause challenges with decision-making and concentration. 

Obesity can cause a loss of C-reactive protein in the blood. This results in a quicker loss of memory function. If you are concerned about your weight being linked to brain function, see your doctor.

Reduce Stress

Life can be stressful. With so many moving pieces in life, it can be easy for everything to become overwhelming. If you can limit stress in your life, your memory performance and brain health will improve, according to research.

Stress affects the brain and brain cells on a molecular level, meaning it can even affect your DNA. Stress has a direct impact on your brain’s short-term memory receptors. Taking measures to eliminate as much stress as you can lead to benefits in your memory and brain function.

Related Read: How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Use Proven Techniques

There are many techniques that you can do that will help with memory. These techniques will not only help you with memory loss but will also help expand your memory.

If you have poor short-term memory, there are ways to fix it. Memory can be viewed as a skill. How does anyone get better at a skill? Perfecting certain methods that can help them reach their goal.

These are some of the best techniques that can help you attain your memory goals. 

One Thing at a Time

If you have many things you are doing at once, your brain can become overwhelmed. By sticking to just one task at a time, you will get into a habit of remembering all parts of a certain task or what you’re doing.

Don’t let your brain filter out what to remember and forget. Stick to a single thing at a time before moving on to the next.

Be in the Present

Don’t think about what will happen tomorrow or what happened yesterday. Focus on what is happening now. By concentrating on what is happening to yourself now, you can increase your ability to remember and retain information you’re currently processing.

This will also help you receive peace of mind and eliminate stress. Stress can arise from worrying about yesterday or getting anxious about tomorrow. Focusing on you at the moment can help.

Write Things Out

If you are worried about forgetting something, simply write it down. Writing out something will help you concentrate on it and give your brain more details about it, which acts as a mental exercise to help you to remember it, according to a study from the University of Tokyo,

Writing on physical paper is better for your memory than typing. If you have paper and a writing utensil nearby, write out what you want to better remember and see the benefits. You’ll also help improve your handwriting, as well!

Memory Bait

Memorize basics about certain things. If you are looking to learn something, try to think of all the basics about whatever it is. If you are trying to learn something, recall the foundations of the topic to help your brain keep the information relevant and new, kinda like a memory game.

Don’t Move

Short-term memory can be gone in the blink of an eye, especially if there is a lot of sensory input. With a lot of things happening, forgetting can be even easier.

If you have ever walked into a room and forgot why you went in there, this pertains to you. Even a slight movement or change in scenery can make you forget something. Try to stay still and process information as it happens. 

Speak It

To improve how well you remember names, facts, or something you want to learn, you need to speak it. Say whatever it is out loud multiple times.

Speaking whatever it is will help your brain prioritize its importance. This simple technique helps you not forget it, according to many peer-reviewed studies.

Related Read: How to Use the Feynman Technique to Learn Anything Fast & Effectively

Keep Your Noggin’ Engaged

There are several science-backed ways you can keep your brain engaged. Keeping a mentally active life is important at any age, but especially so as we get older and want to fend off scary, age-related memory loss.

Learn a Language

Learning a language is one of the most brain-engaging actions you can do, so it’s no wonder it also helps to enhance memory. Not only will it give you something to look forward to, but it’s also extremely accessible.

Learning a language will make your brain flex its muscles the entire time you are learning. By engaging in something new and exciting, your brain will opt to retain the information while filtering. Make sure to practice long enough to take advantage of memory consolidation.

Pick up Art

Is art something that you have always had a passion for? Do you have time in your schedule to get creative? Want to prevent memory problems? If you answered yes to all three, then you should consider creating your own art.

You don’t have to be a pro, you just have to enjoy it. Similar to learning a language, picking up a form of art will excite your brain and relax it at the same time. Art can be a great escape from the stresses of life, and a great way to stem age-related cognitive decline and improve your mental performance.

Read

Reading can be therapeutic, and it’s a great way to improve a range of cognitive abilities. Your brain will need to remember each part of the book to help complete the story. By reminding yourself of things that happened earlier in the story, you will be able to achieve this.

You can also read anywhere. Reading outside can be one of the most relaxing things for your brain. You should give it a try!

Contact a Doctor

If you are worried about memory loss, you should make an appointment with a doctor. Several conditions can lead to memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease. Despite these tips and tricks, some conditions will require medical advice and treatment. 

You should consult a doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Severe confusion
  • Losing interest very easily
  • Not remembering anyone’s names
  • Getting lost
  • Mood swings
  • Unable to find the right words often

Related Read: How to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

Improving Memory is a Lifelong Process

The brain is not an easy thing to navigate. When you start losing memory, whether it’s from mild cognitive impairment from age or something else, it can be scary and stressful.

If you remember to stay patient and follow the tips and tricks listed above, you should see an improvement in your overall brain health, including how well you remember things.

However, if you are really concerned about your memory, you should make an appointment to see a doctor. They will be able to give you the best advice and treatment for your individual needs.

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Goodwall Team
Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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