Being at school or the office every day requires you to have a sharp attention span to optimise learning and/or performance. This means getting into good habits to maintain and improve your concentration, so you can tackle your tasks with ease.
To that end, here are three memory-boosting habits to help you get through your schooling or working life with confidence.
Sleep – and socialising
There’s no point revising until dawn in hopes of getting good exam grades. The fatigue built up during this kind of last-minute revision can be detrimental to your performance and impact your concentration and memory – two things that are essential during exam time.
Numerous studies have found a link between sleep and improved ability to learn, memorise, or use new knowledge, as revealed by research from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2019, the experts established a relationship between sleep and exam results, revealing that the less sleep students got, the worse their grades were – which, honestly, should come as no surprise.
Meanwhile, professor Hélène Amieva from France’s Observatoire B2V des Mémoires (OBM) explained that sleep quality has an impact on cognitive performance levels.
“Deep sleep has the extraordinary ability to evacuate toxic proteins accumulated in the brain during the day,” she said. “As a result, a good night’s sleep enables proper attention and memory function during the day, and in the long term, protects our brains from the harmful accumulation of certain proteins.”
But that’s not all: social relationships can also play a role in stimulating memory; and establishing and maintaining social connections are both beneficial to a wide range of cognitive abilities.
“We need to think of social ties as a source of intellectual stimulation in their own right,” Amieva added. This can take the form of volunteering, organising a dinner party with friends, or even simply maintaining close ties with friends and relations.
Make time for leisure activities
Health professionals all agree that exercise is good for the brain, and the same applies to memory.
“Sport has been shown to have a number of positive effects on the brain: it improves cognitive capacity, and may even protect against certain brain pathologies such as neurodegenerative diseases and depression,” the French Federation for Brain Research said in 2019.
The OBM also praises the merits of other, potentially more intellectual activities, “as long as they are carried out without stress and are a source of relaxation and pleasure”.
Scientific research has shown that other simple leisure activities can be effective in stimulating cognitive abilities. Such is the case with music, whether through listening or playing an instrument.
And, for the very young, reading can prove beneficial: researchers in the United Kingdom and China observed that reading for pleasure from an early age has an influence on cognitive function, as well as on brain areas linked to improved mental health, behaviour, and attention.
Diet has a role to play
Eating fish has long been said to be good for memory, largely because of the phosphorus content of certain fish. But scientific studies contradict each other on the subject, with the most sceptical arguing that fish is far from being the only food rich in phosphorus – it’s also found in dairy products, eggs, certain meats and pulses, seeds, and other forms of seafood.
Over the past decade, various studies have nevertheless found that fish consumption can improve cognitive function and combat cognitive decline.
In 2014, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh suggested that eating baked or grilled fish once a week could be beneficial for the brain and in preventing memory loss. So, what’s on your plate could be an additional factor to take into account when heading back to school or work.