Here are some simple steps you can take to strengthen your memory every day.
Learn something new. Learning something new–be it a new language or taking a cooking class–is generally good for your brain. But learning formal couples dancing, it turns out, is especially good. “Not only is it physical, it’s learned dance moves,” says Dawn Buse, PhD, a health psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “You have to think as you go, change and be flexible. If you stretch the body at the same time, it’s a bonus.”
Switch hands. Many stroke survivors who suffer paralysis have to learn how to use the previously non-dominant side of their body for everyday tasks like writing. This helps create new neural networks. But even non-stroke survivors can benefit from the practice. “Brush your teeth with your left hand, buckle your belt with your left hand, eat cereal,” says Buse. “These novel activities are stimulating novel parts of the brain.”
Take breaks. There’s a way to never cram again and still remember what you learned. Researchers have determined that people who break their study time into chunks actually learn better than those who study for hours at a time. “Spacing out your learning and allowing time for forgetting to occur in between study sessions can promote your ability to remember information and promote your ability to learn concepts,” says researcher Haley Vlach, PhD, assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Write by hand. Foregoing the keyboard for pen and paper may actually be better for the brain, according to a study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. People are better at remembering the orientation of a new character if they write the characters by hand rather than type them on a computer keyboard, the study found. And research in children has shown that writing with pen and paper activates more regions of the brain than simply tapping a keyboard.
Play a computer game. Don’t write off computer keyboards entirely. In one study, adolescent girls who regularly played the computer game Tetris had changes in parts of the brain involved in critical thinking, reasoning, language, and processing, among others. The game requires players to manipulate shapes as they fall so as to create an ordered row of tiles. And while Tetris may be 25 years old, it’s still available on all types of gadgets, including the iPhone and iPod Touch. And anagrams themselves–forming new words with the letters of an existing word–are good for stimulating the brain. You can find ways to tease your brain at GamesForYourBrain.com.
Meditate mindfully. Emerging evidence shows that people who routinely meditate can produce physical changes in the brain. This increases not only attentiveness but also self-awareness and empathy. Bonus: It costs nothing and can be done anywhere, at any time.
Read out loud. Reading a book or the newspaper out loud stimulates different parts of the brain than reading silently to yourself.
This article was originally written by Amanda Gardner of Health Magazine. We shared this with you for its helpful tips on improving our memory and keeping the brain active and healthy.