Whether you want to boost brain function to fight the effects of aging or simply to help cram for final exams, taking steps to actively improve your memory can have a profound impact on daily life. Best of all, anyone can do it: the best methods for improving memory and cognitive function require only minor lifestyle changes and a bit of willpower. Below are the absolute best techniques for boosting your brainpower:

Eat Brain-Healthy Foods:

Eating right is crucial to improving memory and keeping the brain functioning at peak performance. Avoid processed grains and sugars, and instead, reach for high-quality fats and vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for brain health, but the body can’t produce them on its own. By adding fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, or mackerel to your diet–along with nuts and healthy cooking oils–you can take a major step in improving your memory.

Hit the Gym:

As it turns out, regular exercise is great for both body and mind. Working out increases blood flow to the brain and releases protein compounds that aid in memory and learning. Studies have shown that people who exercise 2-3 times per week are able to learn new tasks more quickly and recall recent people or places with greater ease. In fact, exercise has been shown to promote the growth of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that functions as the memory center.

Stay Mentally Active:

In addition to working out your body, you can also boost your memory by exercising your brain directly. Puzzles, word games, and learning new skills all help the brain develop new nerve connections that directly improve memory and cognitive function. Don’t be afraid to have fun: video games and board games have been shown to stimulate the brain, as well!

Get Enough Sleep:

Sleep plays an important role when it comes to memory. Not only is resting necessary to recharge your brain, but the time you spend sleeping is also when memories are collected and stored. Too little sleep can significantly reduce your ability to recall short-term memories, and a tired brain is less likely to retain new information.

Use Mnemonic Devices:

Mnemonic devices are tools that can help you remember things through association or by making the information more manageable. This includes visualizing things that you need to remember, using rhymes or acronyms to remember specific words and phrases, or breaking up information into smaller pieces, such as remembering a phone number by breaking it into three pieces instead of thinking of it as a single 10-digit sequence.

Become a Social Butterfly:

Social relationships are a surprisingly important factor when it comes to boosting brainpower. Studies have shown that highly social people experience slower rates of memory loss with age, while interacting with others also works to lower the production of stress hormones that can interfere with short-term memory. Finally, speaking with others often involves recounting names, details, and events out loud, which helps the brain reinforce those memories.

Stay Focused:

Learning to focus on specific details can be difficult in a world full of multi-tasking and constant exposure to new information, but taking the time to pay attention to things that you want to memorize is one of the easiest ways to train your brain. When you need to remember a name, date, or phone number, take a moment to clear your mind, breathe deeply, and focus only on that detail for a few moments.

Lifestyle plays a major role in memory and general brain function. Whether it’s too much stress and junk food, or too little exercise and sleep, many people can dramatically improve their memory by making tiny adjustments in their daily routines to cut out harmful influences. By following the tips above, anyone can improve their ability to memorize new information and recall things that they have already learned.