You see a familiar face across the room at a friend’s party and lock eyes. The person starts walking towards you, smiling. On the outside you’re smiling too, but inside – not so much. You’re busy racking your brain to remember their name and how you know them.
Sound familiar? Anyone with declining memory function has probably been in this situation more than once. But your memory is responsible for far more than just putting names to faces. Your memory is your brain’s filing system – holding everything you’ve ever learned from childhood onwards. Want to keep this information safe? With a few simple tweaks to your everyday routine, you can improve your memory, and help to make sure that it’ll stay in good shape later in life.
1. STAY CALM ON YOUR COMMUTE
Low-level stress, experienced on a regular basis – such as commuting during rush hour every day – has been found to affect how well the brain recalls information. Keeping as calm as possible during such situations can give your memory a boost.
MEMORY BOOST TIP: Listen to a calming guided meditation or choose music that makes you smile during potentially stressful situations.
2. NURTURE YOUR ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
This one is pretty surprising: scientists from Sweden’s Orebro University found that people who live with a partner at midlife are 50% less likely to developing cognitive impairment later in life than people who live alone. As a result – married people were found to have better memory function.
MEMORY BOOST TIP: Tell your partner something that you love about them, today. It might just save both of your memories down the line. Being married has been found to improve memory
3. MAKE SURE YOU’RE GETTING ENOUGH CARDIO EXERCISE
It turns out cardiovascular exercise – the type that gets your heart racing and your sweat flowing – benefits more than just your physical health. A study by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
MEMORY BOOST TIP: Mix it up! It doesn’t matter what sort of exercise you do – as long as you’re breaking a sweat and your heart is pumping. Fun ideas include bike riding, dancing, kickboxing and swimming.
4. FINISH EATING LONG BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP
Eating at times that you’d normally be sleeping – such as late evening or in the middle of the night – can also affect the hippocampus. A recent eLife study found that occasional midnight munchies are fun – it’s when late night eating becomes a habit that the brain structure becomes affected.
MEMORY BOOST TIP: Plan to finish dinner three hours before you usually go to sleep, and resist the urge to hit the pantry if you’re up in the middle of the night.
5. PRACTICE MINI MEDITATIONS WHEN YOU NEED TO FOCUS
Priming your mind to focus when you need it most can up the chances that you’ll remember those little details. And it’s those details that make the difference between an average memory and a genuine elephant mind.
MEMORY BOOST TIP: In the moments before an important meeting or conversation, find a comfortable position and relax for your mini meditation. Close your eyes, consciously relax your body, and concentrate on your inhalations and exhalations for 3-5 minutes. Any time you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the breath.
6. SNACK ON FRUIT OR DARK CHOCOLATE
No surprises here: a diet that’s low in sugar has been found to boost memory function. A UCLA study found that in the long-term, high-fructose diets alter the brain’s ability to learn and remember information.
MEMORY BOOST TIP: Swap sugary desserts for healthy alternatives like fresh berries or good quality dark chocolate.
7. WATCH YOUR TOFU INTAKE
While tofu is often considered a health food, it turns out that too much can increase memory loss later in life. An Indonesian-based study found that eating tempeh, a fermented soy product made from whole soybean, improves memory function.
MEMORY BOOST TIP: If you’re vegetarian or just eat a lot of tofu, switch a few servings per week for an alternative such as tempeh, seitan or whole beans.
This article originally appeared on Goodnet.org and is republished here with permission.