12 Natural Ways to Improve Your Memory and Attention

Are you studying for upcoming exams or trying to learn a big presentation and would love to know how to improve your memory and concentration?

Illustration of two people laying on the ice

If you’ve been struggling to recall information and focus on one task for an extended period, know that you’re not alone.

8 seconds.

That’s the average attention span these days, down from 12 seconds in 2000.

Constant stimulations driven by digital communications, and stressful lifestyles explain this trend.

The good news is that whether you’re studying for your exams, trying to learn an upcoming presentation, or just want to be more productive during your day at work, there are techniques to improve your memory.

And these don’t involve purchasing expensive pills with no scientific evidence to back them up.

What Influences Our Memory

Have you ever wondered why you could remember some things so vividly but struggle to recall others? Well, there are actually a few key factors highlighted by the scientific journal “Frontiersin” that can influence memory.

The process of entering new memories can have a big impact on how well we remember it later. For example, if we pay close attention and actively try to process the information, we are more likely to remember it accurately. On the other hand, if we are distracted or don't focus properly, our memory of the event may be less accurate.

Emotions and the context in which we experience things can also affect our memory. So if you are in a stressful situation or feel very happy, this can impact how well you remember what happened.

Motivation has a significant impact on memory as we are more likely to remember information in greater detail if we are actually interested in the topic.

The environment in which we learn and recall information can make a big difference - for example, we may find it easier to remember something if we are in the same place where we learned it.

Personal factors such as our age, health, and even our genes can affect our memory. For instance, as we get older, our memory tends to decline, and certain medical conditions or medications can also impact our ability to remember things accurately.

The process of encoding new memories plays a significant role in how well we remember them later. By being aware of these factors and finding ways to improve memory encoding and recall, we can enhance our ability to remember things accurately.

12 Techniques to Improve Memory

So, if you’re curious to know how to improve your memory and concentration naturally, here are 7 science-backed ways to help you recall information, improve your focus and boost your productivity.

Stay Active

What if we told you that 10 minutes of light intensity exercise can instantly boost your memory and concentration? That’s what a recent study has revealed!

Indeed, the report shows that mild exercise can boost the connectivity between two brain areas involved in the information retention and storage process: the dentate gyrus and hippocampus.

What’s more, research has shown that aerobic activities can help protect your brain and strengthen cognitive functions such as memory. That’s because aerobic activity promotes your brain’s natural ability to create new neural connections and adjust over time. And one of the key places this phenomenon takes place is in the hippocampus, which also happens to be a key area of the brain for memory and concentration.

This means that a quick yoga session, a few laps in a pool, or a power walk around the block could help you learn more efficiently, improve your memory and focus and, ultimately, be more productive.

Get Enough Sleep

We usually think of sleep as a period where we’re resting our bodies and brains. And it’s true, to an extent. For instance, muscles are resting while we sleep. However, there’s a lot happening with other parts of our bodies including our brains, immune system, and organs. Now, research has shown that sleep is an important factor contributing to enhanced memory.

Ever noticed how reading a book before going to bed helps you better remember the information in the morning?

That’s because when you sleep, your brain replays and processes the information collected during the day making your neural connections stronger. And strong neural connections help you remember what you’ve learned and done during the day. In other words, sleep allows for memory consolidation. On the other hand, overworked neural connections due to sleep deprivation will impact your brain’s ability to process information and remember things.

So, don’t feel bad the next time you need a nap. You’ll actually improve your memory, productivity and set yourself up for success. Check out 5 ways that will help you to sleep better;)

Eat Food High in Flavonoids

Flavonoids are a compound found in plants and foods such as colored fruit, wine, cocoa, and tea with powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids have been touted with many health benefits including preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and improving cognitive functions.

Some foods are particularly recommended. For instance, one of the foods that contain the highest amount of flavonoids is dark chocolate. And a study has shown that eating a portion of dark chocolate every day can improve episodic memory and contribute to a healthy brain.

Episodic memory is a type of long-term memory that helps us consciously recollect past memories and experiences. Therefore, regularly eating dark chocolate might be the key to improving your recall abilities, and making learning and retaining information easier.

Practice Meditation

Meditation is well-known for improving physical and mental health. But it has also been proven to enhance cognitive skills. For instance, a few studies have shown that meditation can help increase your attention span, and improve your ability to focus while completing certain tasks. And you don’t need to meditate for hours every day. Just 13 minutes a day can help significantly boost your memory and improve your attention! In fact, it’s one of the best ways to increase both long and short-term memory.

Why meditation is so helpful in improving memory and attention:

It increases blood flow to the brain, strengthening the blood vessel networks and memory capacity.

The practice of meditation involves focusing the mind on a particular thought, task, or object for a long period of time to train awareness and attention. Memory issues often come from the fact that we’re not focused. Training your brain to focus allows you to exercise your mental muscles, ultimately strengthening your long-term and short-term memory, and reaching a higher level of concentration.

Breathing, which is central to meditation, has been shown to improve attention and brain health.

To take the first steps and get a bit more into this topic – read the article “Meditation Apps to Give You a Sense of Calm”.

Avoid Multitasking

We’ve already mentioned that multitasking influences the focus. Additionally, the research from Stanford University revealed that heavy multitaskers exhibited reduced memory capabilities. Multitasking simply overwhelms the brain which leads to mental exhaustion and poor performance. It’s better to focus on one task at a time, allowing your brain to function more efficiently.

Use Mnemonic Methods

Mnemonic methods are aids to memorization that help in storing and retrieving information. Typical mnemonic methods are:

By simplifying complex information and creating similar associations, mnemonics reduce the cognitive load on your memory systems. This makes it easier to learn and remember information.

Practice Spaced Repetition

The spaced repetition system is a proven method for recalling the materials by learners from time to time at ever-increasing intervals. By reviewing over days and weeks, you remember things for a much longer time, not just for a test the next day. It's much better than trying to learn everything the night before a test. To get started with the spaced repetition method – adopt time intervals and tools, for more tips read our guide “From Forgetting to Remembering: How a Spaced Repetition System Can Help”.

Create Mind Palace

Mind Palace (also known as the Method of Loci or memory palace), is a mnemonic technique. We singled it out separately because it is much deeper than classical techniques. As Joshua Foer said, “Great creativity is based in great memory”. The basic idea behind the Mind Palace is to use a familiar place, such as your home, to remember things. Imagine walking around this place and putting each thing you want to remember in a different place. Later, when you need to recall, you just think about walking around the house and "seeing" those things where you left them. It's like creating a memory map in your head using places you know well.

Read Out Loud

Do you usually read quietly in your mind? If that’s the case you might be missing out on the critical benefits of reading out loud.

The research has shown that reading out loud can significantly improve your memory of the material you’re reading. It has also been shown to increase long-term recall and improve understanding of complex texts. That’s because when you’re reading out loud, your brain is more active and engaged. Speaking and hearing yourself speak helps make the words more distinct in the long-term memory, therefore improving recall.

However, if you’re struggling to read out loud and prefer silent reading, try sharing your learnings with others instead.

Diversify Your Routine

Your brain also can get bored. To stimulate it to work you just need to learn new things constantly or be engaged in various activities.

One way in which a busy schedule may improve memory is by providing more opportunities for learning and practice. When we are exposed to new information or skills on a regular basis, we are more likely to remember them. For example, if you have a busy schedule that involves taking a variety of classes or engaging in a variety of hobbies, you may be more likely to remember the information and skills you learn because you are constantly reinforcing them through practice.

Another way is by providing a sense of structure and routine. When we have a clear schedule and know what tasks we need to complete each day, it can be easier to remember important information and deadlines. This is because our brains are better able to process and retain information when it is presented in a structured and predictable manner.

Reboost Your Brain

The Cleveland Clinic recommends learning a new cuisine as a way to challenge the brain and enhance cognitive function. Taking a cooking class is another way to engage the senses and stimulate different parts of the brain. Cooking involves planning, problem-solving, multitasking, and organizing, all of which are cognitive skills that can improve memory.

According to a study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2021, solving math problems without the aid of paper or technology can boost cognitive performance. This exercise can be made even more challenging by combining it with physical activity, such as walking.

Learning a foreign language is another effective way to improve memory. The process of listening and hearing involved in learning a new language can stimulate the brain, leading to better cognitive performance. In fact, research has shown that being bilingual may lower the risk of developing dementia. A meta-analysis published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review in 2020 found that bilingualism was associated with a decreased risk of dementia.

Overall, engaging in new activities and learning new skills can be a beneficial way to boost cognitive function and improve memory.

Do Not Use Your Phone Immediately

Modern technology has its place. Unfortunately, it has made us mentally lazy. Before you reach for your phone to google the answer, make a serious attempt to retrieve the information mentally. This process helps strengthen the neural pathways in your brain.

Also, in 2021, Ioannis Saridakis and Spyridon Doukakis found that doing math puzzles mentally improves memory. So next time, instead of grabbing a calculator or phone, try to solve math problems using just your brain. You’ll get better at math and practice a mini-workout for your memory.

Why You Could Forget Things

In a study, researchers Paul Frankland, Ph.D., and Blake Richards investigated the physical changes in the brain associated with memory and why sometimes the process of memory retention completes and sometimes it does not. They found that the brain invests energy in a variety of mechanisms that undo and override connections, ultimately causing us to forget information.

This natural forgetting process is adaptive for decision-making in the real world, as our brains may want us to remember only the gist of what we've experienced. Remembering irrelevant information can hinder our ability to recall useful information. While it is not the case that forgetting as much as possible is always good, it is also not always best to remember everything.

Time to Get Started

We hope this article has shed some light on how to improve your short-term and long-term memory and enhance your focus. Implement these techniques and you’ll be on your way to nailing your exams, your next presentation, or anything else that requires focus and memory! And if you do, please don’t hesitate to share your experience in the comment section below. We’d love to read you.