From yoga to laughter: 25 ways to improve your memory
From munching fish to climbing trees, there's lots you can do to keep those little grey cells sharp. Ella Walker has 25 of the most simple mental exercises
Hands up if you wish your memory was a little better? Forgetfulness is something most of us can relate to, whether it's losing those darn keys time and time again, bumping into someone you went to school with and having to awkwardly sidestep the fact that you can't for the life of you remember their name, or setting yourself up for another last-minute mad dash for so-and-so's birthday/that meeting/the form you were meant to send back.
While it may sometimes seem that a failing memory is an inevitable part of growing older, it's actually easier than you might think to get your brain's cogs ticking over more smoothly.
Here are 25 simple steps for keeping your memory in tip-top shape.
1. Get lots of sleep
A good night's sleep is basically a wonder cure. It's intrinsic for mental and physical health, and, if you haven't had enough, can affect the quality of the memories you store, and your ability to recall them the next day.
2. Drink lots of water
Are you getting your six glasses a day? The brain is 75% water so even if you're only a little bit dehydrated, it will shrink. Stay topped up for optimum memory power.
3. Drink coffee
The caffeine in coffee is a great stimulant for sharpening your memory and general brain functions. If you don't like coffee, try green tea instead, it contains the amino acid L-theanine which releases neurotransmitters that jump-start recall and boost your capacity to learn.
4. Read a book
Is there anything a good book can't do? Read to enhance imagination, vocabulary, mood, intelligence, memory, analytical thinking - and to escape from the world a little bit.
Getting enough exercise will help combat everything from heart disease to diabetes and stroke, and of course, boosts memory. Go swimming, running, cycling - whatever best suits you, and your brain will thank you for it.
6. Listen to music
Apparently, listening to your favourite album uses both sides of your brain, which is unusual and hugely beneficial. Try classical to kick-start your brain power even further.
7. Learn a language
Getting your head (and tongue) around a brand new language is like putting your brain through a daily - and rigorous - obstacle course. The process will boost intelligence and hone your memory skills, as well as make you look good at parties.
Giving your brain a complete rest - no thinking, no problem solving, no distractions - just peace and quiet for 15 minutes or so, will keep stress at bay, put you in a good mood and increase your focus and attention span, all contributing to better skills when it comes to remembering things.
9. Do yoga
Combine meditation with yoga and you'll be ticking all the boxes: exercise plus increased oxygen intake and a peaceful mind equals one very happy brain.
10. Quit smoking
Puffing away increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's, and releases free radicals (unattached oxygen cells) which attack and kill brain cells. Step away from the nicotine.
You haven't lost any of your memories really, they're just tucked away inside your brain for safe keeping. The more you dredge them up, by talking and reminiscing with friends and family, the more you'll reinforce neural pathways, making accessing memories easier over time. And it's fun.
Laughing has recently been found to tackle the stress hormone cortisol, which, left to its own devices, can cause damage to the brain. So, have a good giggle and beat age-related memory loss.
13. Eat berries
Scoff blueberries - they're packed with everything from vitamin C and fibre, to manganese and numerous antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. In particular, they are a great source of anthocyanins which have been linked to improving memory and spatial learning.
14. Don't binge
Don't take this blueberry news as an excuse to start loading up on pancakes, though. As a hangover from our hunter-gatherer days, humans are most efficient and productive when they are hungry but aerobically fit. Scientists have also found obese people had eight per cent less brain tissue than people with a healthy weight, which impacts on cognitive reserves.
15. Eat oily fish
Omega3 fatty acids can do wonders for your memory, so make sure to have at least one portion of oily fish (mackerel, salmon, tuna) a week.
16. Climb a tree
A study by scientists in Florida has found that childhood pastimes, like running barefoot, crawling around and climbing trees, can boost our working memory -the kind we use to remember phone numbers and directions.
17. Get lots of vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital for strong bones, but a deficiency in it has been linked to memory loss. Stock up on it by getting enough sunlight and munching on fruit and veg.
18. Chew gum
Really! Chewing on a stick of gum uses your jaw muscles, which increases oxygen flow to the brain, and brains love oxygen.
19. Watch University Challenge
Yes, sometimes the questions don't even sound like questions, but it's great for getting the recesses of your brain in gear. Who knows what knowledge you might have stored away?
20. Play brain training games
Sudoku, crosswords and specific brain training apps can all be used to give your memory a workout.
21. Watch thrillers
US scientists have found our brains employ tunnel vision when focusing on a particularly tense moment during thrillers, and this has been suggested to enhance memory recall.
22. Breathe deeply
Fill your lungs, expel stale air properly and your brain will thank you for it. It relies on oxygen to function at the highest levels and to grow new brain cells which helps it encode information, so feed it with as much as you can.
23. Drink less alcohol
Mind blanks after a bottle and a half of wine aren't good for work the next day, and are definitely not conducive to a healthy, fully functioning brain. So best to lay off it.
24. Avoid drugs
Cannabis in particular has been found to directly affect the short-term memory.
25. Have a direction
If you have a plan of action, a project to finish, a book you've always wanted to read - do it. Being motivated lights up your brain, while paying attention to things you want to remember will increase your chances of being able to. Stay active mentally and creatively.