how to improve memory

Improving Memory And Maintaining Focus – A Complete Guide

Today’s digital world is quite engaging and distracting, and it can lead to a frustrating lifestyle, one where you have moments of forgetfulness and a hard time maintaining focus. This is a natural occurrence, and there are factors of aging, lifestyle, and even diet that come into play; some are in your control, others are not. This makes life difficult, especially for aging and old people because good memory is vital for everything in life.

So, how to improve memory?

Well, there are some ways you can improve your memory and concentration; all backed up by evidence.

Tips To Help Improve Memory and Focus

good memory

Physical Exercise

Try to incorporate physical exercise into your daily routine. Not only does physical exercise help in regulating your weight, keeping you active and healthy, but it has also been linked to several cognitive benefits.

Studies have shown that exercises and physical activity lead to the production of new neurons in the brain and help these new cells grow, mature, and work with the brain’s neural network. These cells further help in your thinking and memory function. Studies have also shown that people who exercise regularly are far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, among other forms of dementia, than people who rarely exercise.

But what amount of exercise should be enough? You don’t need to get a really intense workout routine; even adding walking to your routine job or office should make a difference. The Department of Health and Human Services in the USA recommends devoting 150 minutes a week to moderate aerobic exercising.

Regulate Your Sleep

Sleep has a large impact on your ability to process information and form memories. Individuals who are sleep deprived are not only prone to a number of health problems but may also find it difficult to retain information.

Why is that so? This is because sleep plays a fundamental role in the way you focus, learn and make memories. A lack of sleep can lead to an inability to concentrate and learn and make it difficult to “consolidate” a memory. This could be fact-based, procedural, or episodic memory based on events of your life.

There are three functions occurring in your brain to form a memory:

  • Acquisition – the experience of new things
  • Consolidation – a process by which recent experiences are transformed into long-term memory
  • Recalls – the ability to mentally re-experience these memories.

Acquisition and recall take place while you are awake, but the process of consolidation can only take place when you are asleep. This is why a lack of sleep can make it harder to form memories.

Don’t Miss Your Breakfast.

Maintaining a proper diet is key to helping you maintain focus. Studies show that having breakfast improves your short-term memory and ability to focus. Other studies also state that breakfast consumption in children and adolescents can lead to positive outcomes in terms of diet, weight, and lifestyle, along with a positive effect on behavior, cognition, and academic performance. Students who regularly eat breakfast tend to perform better than those who do not.

Similarly, people who have breakfast enjoy an improved level of concentration, memory, and alertness/focus. Foods you should be incorporating into your breakfast must include high-fiber whole grains, dairy, calcium, protein, and fruits.

ways to improve memory

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Making sure you have breakfast isn’t enough; you should ensure that all of your daily meals are consistent with a balanced diet. Don’t forget to incorporate items experts call brain food. Many studies show that a healthy diet can lead to improved memory. Their results revealed that individuals with a healthy balanced diet were 24% less likely to experience cognitive decline than those with a less healthy diet.

Foods that boost memory include fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, berries, herbs, and seeds. On the other hand, foods that contain large levels of trans fats and saturated fats increase LDL cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is known to be bad for your heart health, but that’s not all. It leads to the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, which causes brain damage for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Limit or Avoid Alcohol

Heavy alcohol intake can lead to impaired memory; you can have difficulty remembering small details and even whole events. What’s worse is that the continuous use of alcohol can lead to permanent memory loss or dementia.

Heavy alcohol can slow down your hippocampus and destroy your brain’s nerve cells, affecting both your short-term and long-term memory. Heavy alcohol intake can even lead to the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a type of alcohol-related neurological disease that can lead to nerve and muscle cell damage and cause memory loss, seizures, headaches, blackouts, and in some cases, death.

If you limit your alcohol intake, you can not only stop this memory impairment, but you can also have a partial return of your basic cognitive function and memory storing abilities.

Treat Chronic Conditions

If you have any underlying health conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity, it may be more difficult to retain information. Certain medical conditions can even lead to serious memory problems. Other conditions may demand such medication that leads to memory disorders. Various prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants are linked to memory disorders.

However, these problems tend to reverse themselves if you get the treatment required. It is best to consult a doctor immediately if you notice your memory loss disrupting your daily activities or memory lapses occurring often in your everyday life. If it is your medication causing this memory loss, consult your doctor, and they should provide you with alternatives with less severe effects.

Train Your Brain

Training your brain here means keeping it active and engaging yourself in mental puzzles to improve your focus and concentration, even among distractions. It is one of the best ways to improve memory. Studies show that BTG or “Brain training Games” can lead to an improvement in cognitive functions. These cognitive functions include attention and focus, processing speed, and various memory functions.

Games that can help you boost memory and cognitive functioning include crossword puzzles, word searches, sudoku, chess, jigsaw puzzles, and memory games. Take the jigsaw puzzles as an example; research shows that jigsaw puzzles help engage multiple cognitive abilities. Since jigsaw puzzles require concentration to fit the puzzle together, it leads to an improvement in visual-spatial reasoning and improves both short-term memory and problem-solving skills.


Speaking of brain training, mnemotechnics can also be incredibly helpful.  Mnemotechnics is another name for “mnemonics” these are techniques and tools used to repackage information, making it easier to memorize and recall. You are probably already familiar with a few mnemonics; the ROY G. BIV mnemonic, for example, is used to memorize and recall the colors of the rainbow.

Mnemonics use rhythms and patterns to make it easier to learn information; various studies show that musical mnemonics can help enhance the development of verbal memory in children. Other studies show that mnemonic training can lead to the reorganization of your brain’s functional network organization and superior memory performance.

brain food

Practice Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness both can lead to positive outcomes in terms of memory and focus. According to researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center, meditation can change the structure and functioning of the brain, which can further lead to a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression, improvement in memory and attention, and an increase in focus and concentration.

Another study results showed that meditation can improve cognition, particularly attention, short-term memory, and overall wellbeing of subjects. Similarly, a study published in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease” concludes that meditation can increase the blood flow to the brain and, in turn, improve memory and functioning.

As for mindfulness, various studies prove that practicing mindfulness can lead to improved working memory and an increase in hippocampal density. Similarly, concentration technics linked to meditation and mindfulness practices can lead to improved focus and awareness.


Music can help boost your ability to absorb information and interpret absorbed information. Thus, it not only helps boost your concentration but also improves memory to a certain degree. Some experts believe that classical music and nature sounds or white noise can help improve your focus and concentration, among other brain functions.

A 2014 study results also show that listening to classical music among older people tends to help them better perform processing tasks and memorize things faster. Therefore it is very hard to disagree on the fact that certain types of music do indeed have a positive impact on your memorization abilities and other cognitive functions.

But how does music do this? Researchers suggest that music can engage your brain and train it so it can better concentrate on events and product outcomes of said events.

Structure and Organize Data

Structuring and organizing your data can make it a lot easier to memorize. This is why it is often recommended amongst students to outline their notes and keep a summary of their concepts at hand for better learning and retention.

Repetitions also tend to assist you in memorizing information and successfully retrieving information when required. But how to memorize this information, to begin with? Your short-term memory can only account for a limited amount of data during a certain period. When faced with larger complex forms of information, what do you do? It helps to break down or chunk your data into smaller memorizable bits. Consider your own contact number; you don’t remember it in one go but rather as groups of numbers (not one group of numbers). Essentially what chunking does is to break down larger elements into smaller blocks of information that are easier to retain and recall.

Manage Stress

Increased stress levels can become overwhelming at times, and in such cases, it is common to see memory lapses occurring. Anxiety and stress tend to provoke fear and drain your mental energy. These can then lead to forgetfulness, cognition, difficulty in concentrating on tasks, and shorten your attention span.

Studies have proven a relationship between chronic stress and memory loss, leading to a decline in normal cognitive functioning. The results show that events with higher stress ratings led to a faster decline in cognitive functioning. Similarly, higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) can lead to shrinkage in brain size, an increase in memory loss, and a negative effect on cognitive performance.



Did you know that many scientists now believe that social interaction is the key to maintaining good mental health and can even help fight diseases such as dementia and Alzheimers, both of which affect your brain’s memory and cognitive functioning?

Various published studies support this claim, proving that older individuals who maintain larger social networks and engage in socializing experience a reduction in their risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Other studies show that social integration helios delay the onset of memory loss among the elderly. Various researchers believe that high social networks and higher levels of social engagement can reduce the rate of cognitive decline in individuals.

Take a Short Break

Scientists now state that taking regular short breaks can help your brain’s cognitive functioning and help it better learn new skills. In recent years, we have seen a large increase in work-life balance issues; it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle without having some sort of health issues (physical and mental both).

Your brain needs regular breaks for proper consolidation of data; without it, you will find it far more difficult to retain information. We have already discussed how sleep can assist in memory consolidation, but that’s not all; taking breaks after repetitive memorizing tasks can also help improve your memory and lead to successful learning sessions.

So, there you have it; some of the most useful tips for good memory, memory retrieval, and improved focus. From brain food to physical and mental exercises to socialization, we have covered all the ways that will help you keep your memory sharp at any age and maintain better concentration.

Achille Kabore MD, PhD

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: