3 Easy Brain Boosters

Increase your ability to focus with these tricks for improving memory

brain boosters

Photo by: Aldo Murillo/iStock

You're bombarded with information all day; you couldn't possibly remember all of it. But when you focus on something—that is, when you look and listen carefully—it's much more likely the memory will endure. One thing that prevents most people from paying full attention is distraction. We’re talking about anything from your mind wandering (did I turn off the oven?) to the beeping of your smartphone. The fix: mindfulness—purposefully paying attention to what's happening in the present moment—so that you are aware of what's going on both inside and around you.

These three tips will help you gain mindfulness, to gain memory.

Notice more to remember more
What color hair did the barista who made your latte this morning have? Was your husband wearing a tie or not? Taking time to notice new details keeps your brain sharp. When you walk a familiar route, look up and down both sides of the street. Try to recognize businesses or homes you've never noticed before.

Being observant puts you in the present and makes you aware of what requires your attention. "That uncertainty keeps you attentive," says Ellen Langer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Harvard University who has written extensively about mindfulness. Even if you'll never need the information, observing and recalling the details of your day gets you off autopilot—and that's going to sharpen your memory.

Say it out loud
Locking the door, taking your calcium, unplugging the iron, transferring the laundry from the washer to the dryer—there's a reason they're called mindless tasks. When you want to get a routine activity lodged in your brain so you don't forget it, say it out loud as you do it ("it's morning; time for my calcium").

You know that feeling when you walk into a room and stand there wondering why you came in? The same trick—repeating aloud, "I'm getting the scissors," while en route—fends off distraction as you head into the kitchen to get them.

Minimize multitasking
If you're not walking the dog to pick up a carton of milk while talking on the phone, you're eating lunch in the car as you shuttle your kids to soccer practice (and listen to the news on the radio). Sometimes there's no choice: to get through your day, you have to do lots of things at once. However, research shows that quickly switching from one thing to another (and back) interferes with so-called "working memory"—your ability to keep in mind something that just happened or absorb something you just learned.