Does your girl get weepy-eyed because you blanked on your anniversary again? Do you routinely forget to pick up your dry cleaning? Whether you want to impress your co-workers by memorizing business facts or simply make it home from the grocery store without forgetting the milk, here's some enlightening news: You can actually train your brain to boost your recall. Read on for five tricks to smarten up in no time.
Do a Little Back and Forth
Eyes may be the window to the soul, and new research finds they may also be a memory-booster. In fact, moving your eyes quickly horizontally for 30 seconds improves recall by as much as 10 percent, according to a study in Brain and Cognition. "This type of eye movement may help both sides of your brain communicate better by activating the neural pathways that allow them to 'talk' to each other, which is necessary for retrieving memories," theorizes lead study author Andrew Parker, Ph.D., of Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K. Try exercising your eyes like this the next time you want to remember a birthday or game score.
Take a Breather
Having trouble conjuring up the first time you scored a goal? Try meditating on it. Brain scans of people who practiced meditating 12 minutes a day for eight weeks revealed more blood flow to the posterior cingulated gyrus, a region linked to episodic memory (or the ability to recall personal life events), finds researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. To try it for yourself, set a timer for 12 minutes, then find a quiet spot and sit crossed-leg with a straight back (you can place a firm pillow underneath you for comfort). Close your eyes, then inhale for a count of three, and exhale completely. Continue like this until the timer goes off, concentrating on your breathing and bringing your attention back to your breath each time a thought interrupts your focus.
Eating your veggies is good for your head: People taking memory tests who had a half cup of cruciferous vegetables daily (such as broccoli and cauliflower) scored about 10 percent better than their counterparts who didn't eat the produce, reveals the Annals of Neurology. These types of vegetables are packed with carotenoids, a family of antioxidants that may ward off oxidative damage in the brain that leads to age-related memory decline, and folate, a B vitamin shown to lower level of homocysteine (a type of amino acid) that's also linked to cognitive impairment, says lead study author Jae H. Kang, Sc.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Adding a half-cup of broccoli or cauliflower to your dinner may be a smart move.
Enjoy Your Morning Joe
More good news for all of you caffeine addicts: People sipping at least three cups of coffee daily were 30 percent less likely to suffer memory loss later in life, reports the journal Neurology. "Caffeine is a stimulant that improves attention and focus so you may be better able to store information as memories," reasons John Hart, M.D., medical director at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Don't Be a Hermit
Keeping connected can be a boon for your social life and your recall. In fact, people with the most interactions showed a 50 percent slower rate of memory decline than those with the least, discovered researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Mixing with others may offer more mental challenges because it requires communication and reasoning skills, as well as a sense of purpose and connectedness from social validation, to help protect the brain against cognitive decline," speculates study author Karen Ertel, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. Flex your brain by organizing a poker night or getting the guys together after work to shoot hoops.
Flex Your Mental Muscle