Erik Heyl // Content Marketing

If you’re looking for ways to improve memory, then you’ve come to the right place. This post will give you 5 ways to improve your memory, foods, and how to increase your recall in middle age (you might relate to this one, I know I do!).

We’ll start off with the most important one on this list, without which nothing else matters:

  1. Get Enough Sleep

Remember when you were in school, and you kept putting off that term paper until it was suddenly the night before? And then went with absolutely no sleep to get it done? Remember how you felt the next day? Without enough sleep, most of us struggle to remember even simple things like where we placed our phones. 

Not getting enough sleep will hurt your ability to think clearly and over time will make your memory less effective

So, how do you go about getting enough sleep?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Make your bedroom dark and cool. You can purchase Roman blackout shades though regular shades with curtains will do the trick as well. For temperature, it’s best to have the thermostat set to between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Sleep Foundation.
  • Set and keep a sleep schedule. This can be as simple as turning off all electronics 2 hours before you want to sleep and putting on soothing music or having a cup of chamomile tea. The key here is consistency, so even if it is the weekend, you’ll want to stick to the schedule you set for yourself.
  • Avoid having caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. Don’t eat any heavy meals. The reason for this is that if you have a heavy meal before bed, your digestive system will have to work overtime, which can cause interruptions in your sleep. 
  • The American Cancer Society also recommends not napping after 3PM

 and not exercising within 2-3 hours of bedtime.

  1. Mind Your Diet

You’ll also want to check your diet as well. If you tend to eat a lot of refined sugar (such as when you have tea or coffee), or your diet is high in carbs, then this can also hurt your memory. A recent study by the Harvard Medical School makes this clear.

Does this mean you have to go on a strict Paleo diet, give up all the sweets you love and drink water forever? 

Thankfully, no!

But there are memory-boosting foods that you’ll want to add to your diet, such as: 

  • Fresh fish. Or failing that, add an Omega-3 supplement to your diet. Since much of our brain is made of Omega-3 fatty acids, keeping this well-stocked will improve your memory as you age.
  • Tea and coffee. These have caffeine, so you’ll want to increase your intake of either of those, though with coffee, one or two cups a day is best.
  • 70% dark chocolate and cocoa. These contain flavonoids which have to help with learning, memory, and reduce mental decline. Here, milk chocolate won’t have the same effect. 
  • Eggs. While also being an excellent source of protein, these are also a source of vitamin B6 and B12, which are mood-boosters and help with cognition. Choline helps regulate memory and has been linked to better mental function.
  • Broccoli. As well as being an antioxidant, broccoli contains vitamin K, which is linked to better memory.
  1. Meditate

For most people, the thought of sitting quietly for minutes or hours doesn’t seem like something they could do. But meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting in a yoga position. And it is something that over time will build not only better mental health and memory, but will also give you the means to cope with things that would otherwise stress you out. 

Consider this: 

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH), as of 2017, the percentage of adults that practice some form of meditation went up from 4.1% to 14.2%. 

But how do you start? There are a couple of ways:

  • Sit in your favorite easy chair and simply close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and remain still for 1 minute. Then increase that time to 3 the next day, then 5 and so one. Meditation as a practice is built on consistency but that doesn’t mean you need to try for an hour a day to start.
  • Attach a reward to it. Every time you sit down and meditate, when you’re done, give yourself a reward (like a cookie for instance). 
  • Consider using an app. There are many different apps out there but a few that come to mind are:
    • Headspace: This app has 500+ meditations for things like:
      • Mindfulness at work 
      • Parenting 
      • Money
    • Mindvalley: Free meditations as well as paid options that you can choose to have in 15-minute or 30-minute lengths.
    • Muse: Combined with their Muse or Muse S (for sleep) headband, this not only gives you meditations for stress, sleep, and improved cognition, but also gives you various courses for beginners to advanced as well. The hardware monitors your brainwaves and body movement, so over time, you’ll find your practice easier. 
  • Consider a full program. In this case, you pay for ongoing access to a program like Holosync by Centerpointe, which has different levels and takes you from beginner to advanced. I’ve been using it for 15 years and every time I “level up” I find that my memory and brain function is better, and faster. The program itself has 12 levels spread across 3 sections, Awakening, Purification and Flowering, with instructions for how to use each and when to move on to the next one. 
  1. Create a Memory Palace

What is a memory palace? Also called the method of loci, it’s a technique where you change memories into images and store them in a location that’s familiar to you (your old childhood home, a church, something of significance to you). The idea being that you can “walk” through your palace, looking at items you’ve placed there to help you remember.

In one study, it was shown that not only did this technique improve memory, but it also improved thinking, which is especially important in those that are at risk of dementia. 

So how does one go about constructing a memory palace?

  • First, pick a familiar place. This could be your childhood home, your church, high school, or even a place you went on holiday as a child. You’ll want to make this as detailed as possible by listing features and analyzing the space, making notes as you go.
  • Next, decide how you’ll walk through it. Do you come in through the front door, garage, side door? Do you fly in? Remember there are no wrong answers here, it’s your palace!
  • Assign specific sections or areas to store particular information, i.e., recipes get stored in the kitchen, family memories are stored in the living room, etc. Or, if your palace is a particular route, assign landmarks along your way, such as traffic lights, a particular tree, statue, etc. 
  • You’ll want to make sure that you don’t try to cram large amounts of information inside, right from the start. Instead, chunk bigger sets of information down into manageable sizes. Remember the old saying about “how to eat an elephant”, that is, one bite at a time.
  • If you’re trying to remember complex phrases or numbers, try to associate these with simple images or symbols. You’ll want to make sure that these have emotional context for you. If they don’t mean anything, then they won’t work.
  1. Move Your Body

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you make time to exercise. Note that this doesn’t mean going a full hour every day on the weights or treadmill. Just a half hour walk each day will do the trick. Besides watching your diet and sleeping, this is one of the easiest ways to improve both your thinking and memory, according to the Harvard Medical School.

While this can be an issue with inclement weather, one option would be to join a “beginner’s gym” such as Planet Fitness, as they are designed to be welcoming and not intimidating, with plenty of cardio equipment, some weights (though they do discourage heavy weightlifting, bodybuilding and enforce a dress code), and circuit training so that you never feel lost or unsure of what to do next.

Of course, another option would be to set aside some space in your home or apartment (or garage), and over time, build your own gym. Not only will you have complete control over what this becomes, including budget, and equipment, because it’s your space, you can add to it, or change it as you see fit. It can become a sanctuary for not only exercise but mental clarity as well (mine is). 

One other idea is to take up a slower form of martial art, such as Tai Chi. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Tai Chi “shows potential to enhance cognitive function in older adults, particularly in the realm of executive functioning and in individuals without significant impairment.” 

Beyond this, it gets you around like-minded students and peers, which also helps with mental health, depression, and anxiety.

Improve Your Memory: Take the First Step

Improving your memory doesn’t have to feel like it’s a complex thing, if you remember to take it one step at a time. Just like going to the gym, it’s a cumulative process, with each day building on the next.

The best option you have is to pick just one method to start (such as creating and sticking to a sleep schedule for 30 days), and build that habit before adding another method. If you feel like you’re trying to do too much, stop and try a different method. The key here is to allow yourself the grace to adapt to how you feel each day.

Remember, there’s no wrong way to do this except to do nothing. 

So, when would now be a good time to start?

About the Author

I've always loved to write and when I came across copywriting and content marketing, I knew this was it for me. But what does that mean "for you"?

You'll have someone in your corner that will take your emails and punch them up (sales letters too!), and if content is your game, the last thing you want is something that tries to speak to everyone, or that sounds robotic.

I always write as if I'm having a conversation with a friend.

Connect with me and let's get you more sales, engagement, profit and a larger tribe.

Erik Heyl