Whether you are trying to remember the name of the girl that sits behind you in class, the dates of the paintings for your Art History test, or just what you had for dinner last night, memory can be a tricky thing.
The real secret to a better memory is a balanced life, and unfortunately, as college students, moderation is not always our strongest quality.
Binge drinking is a common phenomenon on college campuses. It obviously can affect your memory for the evening… waking up after a night of drinking and not remembering how you got home is never fun. Did you know that binge drinking can affect your long-term memory too? Young brains are more susceptible to long-term damage from binge drinking. After one night of serious binge drinking, it can take the brain 30 days to fully recover to its maximum functioning ability.
However, alcohol is not bad for the memory when used in moderation. In France, instead of saying “Cheers,” they say “Bonne santé” which means “Good health”. In reference to wine, the French are the experts. Some studies have found that people who drink in moderation tend to have a better memory than nondrinkers and heavy drinkers. There are also studies that show that people who drink wine in moderation are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to alcohol, drugs seriously impair the memory as well. Drugs and alcohol weaken the nervous system and kill brain and memory cells. Drugs such as Ecstasy have severe impact on long-term memory ability.
Healthy eating habits are imperative to building a better memory. As college students, healthy eating habits take effort. Pizza, fast food, and ramen noodles do not provide the nutrients that our bodies need. Make sure you are eating nutrient rich foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and milk.
Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to enhance concentration. Some foods high in fatty acids include salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, flax seeds, and walnuts.
Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are important nutrients for brain productivity. Find these nutrients in foods such as asparagus, strawberries, spinach, beans, and broccoli.
Antioxidants improve the flow of oxygen to the brain, allowing us to think more clearly. Blueberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green tea, and nuts are good sources of antioxidants.
Ginko Biloba is a natural supplement that is worth trying as well. Studies have shown that Ginko Biloba can help reverse memory loss.
Breakfast is a key factor to having a productive day and a functioning brain. Especially if you have a test, make sure to take the time to eat a balanced breakfast. You will feel better and remember more after a good breakfast.
Exercise is not only good for the body; it is great for your brain too. Obesity and clogged arteries makes it harder for the blood to get to the brain. When studying for an exam, take a break and go on a 10 minute walk. Get your blood pumping and your endorphins flowing, and your cognitive performance will improve too.
Stretching, yoga, and meditation are powerful forms of exercise to clear your head and improve your brain power. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and information retrieval. Stress hormones can impair the hippocampus and can make it difficult to concentrate. Exercise is often one of the best ways to relieve stress and achieve a healthier body and mind.
Even if you are eating, exercising, and living right, you won’t pass your exam if you don’t study the material (staring at a text book for a couple of hours does not count as studying). There are study tools, tricks, and methods that maximize study time and memory.
Mnemonic devices are great study tools. Create acronyms, using rhyming, alliteration, and metaphors to memorize study material. Jokes and association are fun ways to retain information. Use funny names, images, or personal jokes to remember mundane information.
Involve as many senses as possible: reading aloud and then writing down key points is an excellent way to study. Using different colors, images, and drawings are other ways to effectively engrain information into your memory.
Organize your information. Using bullets, outlining information, and creating timelines allows you to visualize information in a more simplistic and chronological manner.
Discuss and Collaborate. Discussing and explaining information to a peer not only helps out your classmate, but it allows you to rehearse the information and understand the information on a more fundamental level.
Avoid cramming. Studies show that students who review material frequently in shorter sessions retain the information better than students who spend hours studying the night (and often morning) before the test.
Our brains need exercise in the same way our muscles do. Maintenance, repetition, and practice are the best ways to keep your brain in tip-top condition. This does not mean that you have to exercise your brain by studying boring history notes all the time. There are fun games and activities that give your brain the workout it needs.
Sudoku and Crossword puzzles: grab a newspaper and have fun solving these puzzles during your spare time. These puzzles really make your brain flex its muscles. There are options for computer addicts as well. Check out websites such as www.lumosity.com or www.FitBrains.com for other fun brain games. And if you are on the go, there are great sudoku and crossword puzzle applications for your iPhone.
Leisure reading: Whether you are reading magazines, the newspaper, or a science fiction book, reading is a great way to keep your mind active.
Playing a musical instrument is great exercise for the brain. Reading music, memorizing sound patterns, and exploring your creativity is another great way to keep your brain perfectly tuned.
Socializing also proves to enhance memory functionality. Remembering names and faces, and exchanging stories with friends evokes mental clarity.
It takes a lot of work to keep your memory functioning at its maximum potential. After eating, exercising, studying, drinking, socializing, and everything else, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. For optimal memory performance, eight hours of sleep each night is recommended. Just like our bodies, our brains need rest, and without it you will find yourself spacey and delirious and all your hard work will have gone to waste!