Did you know the brain has the ability to adapt, change, and grow? Known in the medical field as neuroplasticity, this ability to adapt can actually transform our brains into higher-functioning organs.
Whether you're a student preparing for a test, or you feel like your memory's starting to let you down, there are proven ways to boost your brainpower and improve your memory at any age.
We often hear the adage that "we are what we eat." The foods we eat don't just affect our digestive systems! They can significantly affect our brain too, altering our energy levels and moods. They can even prevent disease.
Here's a sampling of some of the best foods to fuel the brain:
Fatty Fish - Fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, are rich in omega-3, which provides a lot of protein and vitamin B12. Protein forms mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 promotes a healthy brain and nervous system.
Eggs - Eggs are beneficial due to their levels of protein and vitamin B12.
Berries - Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries contain a lot of flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that protect brain cells.
Avocados - Avocados produce acetylcholine, a brain chemical that promotes memory and learning.
Kale - Kale, and other green leafy vegetables, produces more of those wonderful B-vitamins, which can prevent memory loss, brain aging, and depression. They also contain vitamins A and K which fight inflammation and strengthen bones.
If you're truly wondering how to improve memorization, consider this: getting the recommended eight hours' sleep each night is not an indulgence. It's an absolute requirement for brain health. Your time spent asleep is the brain's opportunity to consolidate memories and repair itself.
According to Kermit Pattison of Experience Life, while we sleep, "Some of our bodies most sophisticated mechanisms rev up to do the hard work involved in repairing and maintaining nearly every aspect of our physiology and psychology."
Interestingly enough, exercise doesn't just build the muscles within our body. It, quite literally, expands our brains. As we exercise, we raise levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that creates new brain cells.
Philosophers in ancient Greece believed walking promoted better thinking. Sure enough, 21st century medicine has proven these ancient philosophers right.
As we walk, our hearts pump faster, circulating more oxygen to all our muscles and organs, including the brain. Oxygen surely promotes the clarity we need to think like ancient philosophers.
Stress is a constant distraction. It's no wonder that, when under tremendous stress, the brain can't focus or recall like it usually does.
Of course, there are times when stress is completely unavoidable. However, if it's something you can regain control over, know that medical evidence is very clear on stress's ability to deteriorate the brain.
When the body acknowledges stress, it produces cortisol, a hormone responsible for mental health disorders and many physical diseases. It's been proven that high levels of cortisol can even go so far as to kill brain cells.
The brain can be trained to improve its function and grow, much like the muscles in your body. There are endless activities and games we can practice throughout the day to keep the brain healthy and properly stimulated. Here are some tips to enhance memory:
A good way to challenge your brain and boost memory is play brain games. Online brain-training games are popular, but simple word games played in a group or classroom setting also have the added benefit of socialization. Completing a daily crossword, word scramble or sudoku puzzle can also have positive effects on your brain power.
Each of these types of brain game will increase concentration, test your memory and strengthen your brain's ability to recall.
Mnemonic devices, or acronyms, can help us remember short lists. For example, if it's time to go to the grocery store, but you only need a few items, you might commit the word COFFEE to memory. When you get to the store, you'll remember that you need C-coffee, O-orange juice, F-fish sticks, F-fruit, E-eggs, and E-echinacea.
The memory palace, or mind palace, makes remembering lists fun. The best way to use the memory palace is to refer to your house or apartment as the point of reference. Let's use the weekly grocery list again.
In your mind, place each item you need to buy somewhere in your home.
For example, place the coffee on the kitchen counter, fruit on the dining table, and echinacea by the bathroom sink.
As you walk through your house, you'll visualize each of these items in each room.
When you arrive at the supermarket, all you have to do is mentally stroll through your house to remember each item on your grocery list.
Fun, right? This may only work for shorter lists. The point is that you're performing double duty here. You're shopping for groceries and increasing the mental capacity of your brain. Win-win.
Mind mapping has an organizational function that focuses on one core element. For example, consider if you're trying to remember your itinerary for an upcoming trip:
Place your destination at the center of your mental map.
That main city would then branch out into another key element, such as museums.
From the "museum" branch, a list of the three museums you plan to visit would emerge.
Mind mapping organizes a series of thoughts, focusing on one central point that branches out into smaller segments.
There are three main kinds of learners: visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners.
For those who are visual learners, flashcards and other similar visual aids lend themselves well to memory games. They provide an opportunity to practice rote memorization, a surefire method for recall. These aids can contain images, blocks of text, or both.
The more you "exercise" your memory, the better able you will be to remember the prompts that visual aids can provide.
Yes, the brain is a magnificent organ. Its wonders, quite literally, never cease, and it never stops working. It's quite a treat to know you can increase its health and spark higher levels of functioning.
So many things are out of your control, but taking control of your brain health is within reach. Just a few simple activities like swapping kale chips for kettle chips, taking morning walks, and engaging in brain games will improve your ability to remember state capitals or where you left your keys. If you'd like to retain important grammar concepts you've learned over the years, check out these grammar games.