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Improve Working Memory

How To Improve Working Memory with Everyday Habits

Have you ever wondered about your brain’s amazing ability to keep track of your to-do list and guide you through a busy day? It seems effortless, but your working memory is the unsung hero behind the scenes, reacting quickly to the everchanging details of your day.  

Think of working memory as your brain’s temporary storage unit. It’s the quick thinker that holds onto information just long enough for you to use it. Even more fascinating? You can give your working memory a little workout for better results, almost like hitting the gym for your brain.  

Understanding Working Memory

Working memory is your brain’s short-term storage and processing system. It holds onto information just long enough for you to use it in the moment. Picture it as a mental whiteboard, where information is briefly written so that you can complete daily tasks, make decisions, and understand big ideas. 

Without a healthy working memory, daily life would be a bit like trying to complete a puzzle without all the pieces.

Some everyday examples of working memory are:

  • Following and participating in a conversation
  • Doing mental math, like calculating a tip at a restaurant
  • Remembering and executing a recipe
  • Navigating the grocery store
  • Recalling a password 
  • Reading and comprehending a text message

Top 3 Lifestyle Habits to Improve Working Memory

1. Eat Brain-Fueling Bites

Eating well isn’t just good for your body, it also boosts your brain power. Nutrient-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds provide the fuel your brain needs to function at its best. 

Some of the top brain-fueling foods include:

  • Berries
  • Avocado
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Eggs
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Walnuts
  • Salmon

2. Keep Your Brain Fit with Exercise

Regular physical activity gets your blood flowing, delivering oxygen and nutrients crucial for a healthy brain. Think of exercise as a refreshing breeze for your mind, encouraging the creation of new brain cells and making their connections stronger. Whether it’s a brisk 30-minute walk, dance class, bike ride, or a bit of yoga, move your body to keep your brain in peak form. 

3. Recharge Your Brain with Quality Sleep

You know how everything feels foggy after a poor night’s sleep? That happens because sleep is your brain’s ultimate recharge. During deep sleep, your brain consolidates memories, tidying up the information gathered throughout the day so you can use it again. It’s like a nightly housekeeping routine for your mind. So, make sure you’re getting at least 7 hours of Zzz’s every night.

Mental Exercises for Working Memory

To maintain a sharp working memory, you need to keep your mind on its toes. Doing mental exercises is like giving your brain a fun challenge that will make your mind more flexible. 

Some examples of working memory exercises you can practice every day include:

1. Puzzles and Games: Challenge yourself with puzzles like crosswords, Sudoku, or brain-training apps. Games that require strategy and memory, such as chess or card games, are also fantastic workouts for your brain.

2. Multitasking Challenges: Try multitasking activities, like cooking while listening to a podcast or planning your day while on a walk. These exercises push your working memory to manage multiple tasks simultaneously.

3. Social Interactions: Engaging in conversations and social activities is a two-for-one deal for your brain. It not only exercises your working memory as you process information and respond, but also taps into the brain-boosting effects of socializing. 

4. Continuous Learning: Whether it’s picking up a new hobby, taking an online course, or reading a book on a new topic, continuous learning stimulates your brain and encourages the growth of new brain cell connections.

To improve your working memory, incorporate these lifestyle habits and mental exercises into your routine. You’re not only taking care of your memory – you’re keeping your mind strong and ready for whatever comes your way. 

  • Nikhil Palekar, MD
    Associate Professor, Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Neurology and Medicine; Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University
    Director, Stony Brook Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease, Stony Brook Medicine
    Director, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, Stony Brook University Hospital

    Nikhil Palekar, MD, is a board-certified geriatric psychiatrist. He is Director of the Stony Brook Center of Excellence for Alzheimers Disease and Division Director for Geriatric Psychiatry as well as Director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship Program at Stony Brook University Hospital. His current research focus is on using imaging modalities to study cognitive impairment and mood disorders in the elderly.

This article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature. Always consult your healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance and treatment.