ALL DAY EVERY DAY, YOUR BRAIN IS BOMBARDED WITH NEW INFORMATION. CONFRONTED WITH THIS TSUNAMI OF SENSORY AND CEREBRAL INPUT, IT’S NO WONDER MUCH OF IT SLIPS THROUGH YOUR MEMORY’S GRASP
But if you feel like you’re forgetting more than you should—or if you just want to pump up your retention and recall—there are some science-backed ways to improve your memory.
Start with exercise. A recent study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that just 10 minutes of light exercise was enough to increase patterns of brain activity associated with memory improvements.
This adds to a big pile of evidence linking physical activity with improved memory and overall cognitive functioning. “Our research has shown that significant memory gains emerge when individuals engage in regular aerobic exercise for 50 minutes three times a week,” says Sandra Bond Chapman, a distinguished professor and director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas. Exercise improves cerebral blood flow—even after you’ve finished your workout—which aids memory as well as other brain functions, Chapman’s research shows.
“It is also important to avoid cruising on automatic pilot,” Chapman says. “Life moves fast, and we often compensate by falling into routine, sticking to the path of least resistance, and letting our thoughts, conversations and activities become stagnant.”
Your memory and the overall health of your brain are bolstered by novelty and “inspired thinking,” she says. Breaking away from familiar routines and challenging yourself with change is a good way to keep your mind from growing lazy.
Try this: After reading, watching or listening to something new—whether it’s a news segment or a podcast—try to “think deeply and formulate succinct take-away messages,” she advises. “Take some time to synthesize these new ideas and to update previously held views.”
Just as physical exercise strengthens your bones and muscles, this sort of mental exercise can build your mind and memory.
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Published on TIME January 7, 2019