3 Ways to Strengthen Your Memory

Try these easy tricks for improving your memory retention

memory improvement tips

Photo by: Getty Images/Onoky

It’s not unusual to feel frustrated when you can’t remember something, especially if you need that information or item in a hurry. But getting upset only exacerbates the problem, in both the long and the short term. Instead, try these strategies:

Defuse anxiety The more you worry about drawing a blank, the harder it is to remember. In fact, when you’re frantic, it’s possible to look directly at a lost object and not see it. “We become so agitated, we don’t perceive what’s right in front of us,” says Michael Solomon, a self-described “findologist” based in Baltimore. Before you begin looking for a lost item or trying to recall information, collect your wits and calm down. Refuse to allow your mind to race: Breathe deeply for a few minutes. Make a cup of tea or drink a glass of water. Recite some soothing words. Then tap your mental reserves again; this time you’ll be more likely to find what you’re looking for.

Short-circuit stress When you get anxious, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. A chronically elevated level of cortisol—often the result of living a tension-filled life—has been connected to many health problems as well as memory impairment. When blood levels of cortisol increase, it may damage neurons, interfering with encoding or retrieving information. The anti-anxiety steps outlined above can help you regain your composure—and your memory.

Meditate to remember Just as stress can downgrade recall, relaxation can give it a boost. In the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, researchers found that those who meditated regularly had more gray matter (nerve cell–rich tissue in the brain) than people who didn’t. Researchers also found that meditators had stronger connections between brain regions and less age-related atrophy. The researchers didn’t look at whether the meditators actually did better on memory tests, but their results are intriguing nonetheless—and offer a good reason to take up the practice. Don’t procrastinate: it’s not clear how long it takes to get the effect, but the people studied had been meditating for a minimum of five years.