We like to think our memory works similarly to making a grocery list. All we have to do is jot down the things we don’t want to forget. Perhaps the writing fades over time, but the notes are there somewhere, holding an accurate account of what we experienced.

Unfortunately, memory is neither that simple nor reliable in all circumstances. Some people are born with better memory, and some are more forgetful. While we can’t change our inherent abilities, we can do things to keep preventing natural decline in the brain’s memory over time.

The Three Parts of Memory

Memory functions in three steps: Encoding, Storage, Retrieval. (1) When we learn or experience something, our brain has various ways to “encode” a memory, including sights, sounds, and other sensory stimuli. Once the information is encoded, it may be stored in short or long-term memory, or perhaps not stored at all. The last step is retrieval or remembering, and this is where issues can arise over time.

The brain naturally begins to change as we get older and become less efficient at storing and retrieving things we hope to remember. (2) The good news is that we can keep our brains functioning well by caring for our memory skills, just as we do other aspects of our health and wellness.

Four Steps to Keeping Your Brain Sharp

1. Get Enough Sleep Each Night

Sleep is when the brain repairs and detoxifies. When our bodies are at rest at night, the brain is busy recoding and storing our memories from the day. (3) Lack of sleep can impair this essential function, and some memories may be lost or distorted.

Besides all the health benefits of sleep, keeping the brain sharp is one we don’t want to miss.

Avoid forgetfulness: Get Enough Sleep Each Night

2. Limit Added Sugar in Food

A diet high in sugar is associated with inflammation in areas of the brain critical to memory function. (4) Avoid the sweet treats and instead choose a whole food diet, low in processed or sugary foods. The brain functions better without all the sugar rushes.

Limit Added Sugar in Food to Improve Memory

3. Meditate

Among the many beneficial effects of meditation on the brain is improved memory recall. (5) Grey matter in the brain, which tends to decline as we get older, is increased through meditation. (6) Maintaining grey matter is essential to retain the brain’s storage and retrieval tasks. We’ll not only be calmer and less stressed by meditating but also mentally sharp.

Improve memory through meditating

4. Play Brain Games

Keeping the memory quick and nimble involves regular practice. Brain stimulating activities like crossword puzzles, Tetris, or board games involving strategy can improve memory function. (7) Have a weekly board game night or do brain games with your partner on the weekends. You can connect with loved ones and exercise your memory simultaneously.

Play Brain Games

Don’t Lose the Things You Want to Remember

No one wants a mind that is less nimble and forgetful. While we can’t prevent aging, we can mitigate its effects on the brain by engaging in activities and practices that keep us sharp and mentally agile. This will make us healthier, more productive at work and home, and happier as we hold on to all the important things we most want to remember.