Discover how to improve working memory with these nine simple tips!
In this article:
- Smart Eating
- Exercise Your Body, Benefit Your Brain
- Stop Multitasking
- Prioritize Sleep
- Treat Your Brain to a New Skill
- Stick to a Routine
- Use Checklists
- Manage Stress
- Try Mindfulness Meditation Techniques
9 Ways to Forget Memory Loss: How to Improve Working Memory in Adults
What is working memory? It is a component of short-term memory. This is where the brain “holds” relevant information that needs to be processed to guide behavior or make decisions.
New Findings on Aging and Memory
Back in the day, we believed that brain function peaked in early adulthood, slowly declining with increasing memory lapses. Now, researchers have discovered that our modern lifestyle plays a significant role in our brain health.
Top brain health enemies include toxins, poor diet, lack of sleep, and — of course — stress. Fortunately, a healthy lifestyle can support good brain health and even encourage your brain to grow new neurons.
In particular, your brain’s memory center – the hippocampus – can grow new cells throughout your entire life, even into your 90s! But there’s a caveat: you must give your brain the right tools to generate these fresh new cells.
Happily, these tips don’t cost a dime. They will help encourage your brain to grow new cells and stay sharp and focused.
1. Smart Eating
Consider healthy foods as your essential brain tonic. Fresh vegetables and healthy fats are a good start, but you also want to avoid sugar and refined carbs.
Additionally, curry, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts contain antioxidants that protect your brain health and may even accelerate the production of new brain cells. Consider adding healthy fats, such as coconut oil to your favorite dishes.
According to research, this oil guards against neurological diseases. If you aren’t sure that you’re getting all these brain-boosting nutrients from your diet, you may also want to consider taking a supplement.
2. Exercise Your Body, Benefit Your Brain
Most of us understand the cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise, but did you know that it also encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity?
That’s right, it stimulates nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their network and shielding them from damage. According to research, exercise not only improves blood flow to the brain, but also helps you learn new tasks quicker.
3. Stop Multitasking
In the name of efficiency, we all do multiple tasks simultaneously from time to time. But did you know that multitasking may actually slow you down, making you more error-prone and forgetful?
Next time you find yourself attempting to complete multiple tasks, try this: stop and focus on just one important task. Importantly, resist the urge to constantly check email, social media, and texts, which interrupt focus.
4. Prioritize Sleep
Countless studies attest to the fact that sleep helps brain performance. It enhances and restores brainpower and has a huge impact on your daytime focus.
Make sure you prioritize a good night’s sleep on your daily to-do list. Your brain will thank you.
5. Treat Your Brain to a New Skill
Scientists believe that engaging in “purposeful and meaningful activities” bolsters your neurological system, helping you fight off the effects of stress-related diseases and age-related cognitive decline. It’s key that the task/ hobby be important or interesting to you.
It must hold your focus and be worthy of your undivided attention, whether it’s learning a new language, playing a musical instrument or building a model ship. The list is endless!
6. Stick to a Routine
As a component of short-term memory, working memory is a system with a limited capacity. Unlike long-term memory, it can only hold so much information at each moment.
When you create a routine at work or at home, you’re actually automating tasks and storing the information you need to complete those tasks in your long-term memory. When you commit certain tasks to long-term memory, you won’t need to exhaust your working memory on them.
For example, do you often forget where you’ve placed your keys? If you do, you can try creating a routine by choosing a dedicated space for your keys and placing them there every time you come home.
That way, you won’t have to use your working memory to figure out where your keys are. Routines free up your working memory and allow you to use it for other purposes.
7. Use Checklists
Creating checklists is a great way to give your working memory a little bit of help. Not only does it help you remember everything you need to do for the day, but it also gives your working memory a break.
By listing down everything you need to do, you won’t need to hold that information in your working memory as you complete each task. Instead, you can use your working memory to focus on the task at hand.
When you finish a task, cross it off of your list and move on to the next item. Checklists also help you avoid multitasking.
Tip: Remember to list down your tasks in order of priority.
8. Manage Stress
Many studies show that stress has a negative impact on working memory. These same studies show that when you’re under stress, you’re more likely to make more mistakes and work slower.
To help improve working memory, here are a few ways you can cope with stress:
- Create boundaries – It may be difficult to truly unplug and disconnect because of technology, but it’s important to create work-life boundaries to give yourself the time you need to recharge. Learn how to say no and avoid doing work-related things when you’re supposed to be resting or spending time with your family or friends.
- Take real breaks and recharge – Burnout is the result of chronic stress, as well as emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. Taking a real break by making the most out of your weekends and vacation days is a great way to reset and avoid burnout.
- Consider talking to your supervisor – A good supervisor tries to create a work environment that’s conducive to their employees’ well-being. Consider talking to your supervisor about your experiences—but instead of presenting a list of complaints, try suggesting strategies that may help reduce the stress in your workplace.
- Ask for help – When you’re experiencing stress, talk to your co-workers, family, and friends—they are great sources of support. If you feel overwhelmed, you can also reach out to mental health professionals to help you manage your stress.
- Reduce alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine consumption – Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine are stimulants, so they may increase stress levels. Instead, drink natural fruit juices, herbal teas, or water to stay hydrated.
Everyone experiences stress differently, so it’s important to understand your own personal stressors. What situations trigger stress and how can you avoid or better manage these situations?
9. Try Mindfulness Meditation Techniques
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness refers to an intentional way of paying attention to moment-to-moment experiences. It involves an awareness of the sensations, thoughts, and emotions elicited by the experience.
One study shows that at the end of two weeks of mindfulness training, students had better working memory capacities and reading comprehension scores. Their mindfulness training involved 10-20 minutes of sensory meditation where students were asked to focus on a particular sensory experience (ex: breathing, tasting a piece of fruit, listening to an audio recording, etc.).
Through meditation, the students learned how to regulate sensory input and tune out distractions. Mindfulness meditation techniques teach you how to focus on the present and regulate thoughts about the past and future.
This can help improve your working memory because it can equip you with the skills you need to minimize distractions and focus on the task at hand. The sitting meditation is an easy mindfulness meditation technique you can try at home.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Find a quiet and comfortable room.
- Sit on the floor with your back straight.
- Make sure your feet are flat on the ground.
- Put your hands on your lap.
- Breathe through your nose.
- Focus on your breath entering and exiting your body.
- If a thought or physical sensation interrupts, acknowledge it and bring your focus back on the breathing.
There are different variations of this meditation—some meditate outdoors or even in the presence of others. But it may be easier for beginners to meditate in quiet settings.
We all have forgetful moments, but it can become problematic when it becomes habitual. Working memory may have its limitations, but there are ways to improve it.
The great thing about these tips is you can easily incorporate them into your daily life. So, try these tips to help maximize your working memory capacity.
Have you tried any of these tips to improve memory? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 15, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.