10 Brain Hacks to Optimize Your Memory and Mental Performance
Have you ever met someone only to realize that you forgot their name 10 minutes later?
What about opening up your computer only to forget five seconds in why you were opening it up in the first place?
Memory plays a crucial role in helping us navigate our daily life effectively, from the most minuscule daily reminder to drop off a package or pick up a gift to the most critical tasks like remembering to talk to a colleague or adding a final touch before submitting an important work proposal.
Fortunately, according to learning expert Jim Kwik, there’s a lot we can do to improve not only our working memory, but also how effectively our brains function in general.
Two of the most costly words in your life are: I forgot.
– Jim Kwik
Below are Jim Kwik’s top 10 brain hacks to optimize your memory.
1. A good brain diet
The number one brain hack on Kwik’s list, a good brain diet is critical for optimizing memory and realizing your brain’s full potential.
Foods that are great for memory and brain function include:
- Coconut oil
- Green leafy vegetables
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
- And turmeric
2. Kill ANTs
Yes, Jim wants you to kill ANTs. But not those kind of ants, fortunately.
Originally coined by Dr. Daniel Amen, ANTs refers to “Automatic Negative Thoughts.” These negative thoughts preoccupy the mind as the brain constantly checks in with this negative self-talk, which takes time and energy you could be using for other things.
The most prominent ANTs which we need to work to cut out or replace with more positive ones are, according to Dr. Amen:
- Fortune telling: This is when you try to psych yourself out and assume the worst.
- Mind reading: This is often what we do when we worry about what others think of us. We don’t actually know, we’re just assuming what they’re thinking about us– and it’s often negative.
- Guilt beatings: The way we talk to ourselves can either bring us up or beat us down. Amen’s example is great, “Telling yourself ‘I should go see my grandmother’ rather than ‘I want to spend time with my grandmother’ only serves to make you feel negative.”
- Blame: Self-explanatory– thoughts about blaming others for our problems, making ourselves out to be the victim.
- And labeling: Any time we call ourselves or another a derogatory name. This often skews our perception of a situation in a negative light.
3. Physical exercise
Physical exercise has a myriad of health benefits, but many don’t know just how much exercising helps the brain as well.
Working out has been shown to improve mental acuity, focus, reduce stress, and increase energy, making it an invaluable tool for anyone looking to “maximize their tool,” so to speak.
4. Supplement for brain nutrients
It’s important to get a good idea of what nutrients your diet might be lacking and, if you can’t correct it in your diet, supplement to make up for the deficiency.
This especially includes things like B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve brain function but can be difficult to come by (especially if you have a unique diet). If nothing else, a simple multivitamin can help cover the bases well.
5. A positive peer group
Kwik says, “Are you spending time with people that encourage you, that challenge you? That take you to the next level?”
Or, on the flip side, are you spending time with energy vampires? People that seek only to drain you of every ounce of your mental energy and leave you with little to no ability to perform any complex task with much efficiency?
Kwik says it’s not just our biological and neurological networks that help our brain function, but also our social networks, so be careful who you surround yourself with.
6. A clean environment
You know that feeling right after you’ve cleaned your office or home? Don’t you just feel like you can think more clearly? Turns out, that feeling is spot-on.
“Clarity is power,” says Kwik. So, get cleaning.
This and many others might sound like obvious points, however, as Kwik says, “Every single thing is common sense, but it’s not common practice.”
Sleep, for example, is where the brain consolidates short and long-term memory. Without enough sleep, our memory literally can’t work properly. Kwik describes it as “cleaning out the brain plaque” that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
8. Brain protection
Despite his title as one of the foremost learning experts, at a young age, Jim Kwik suffered a traumatic brain injury that made him grow up with severe learning disabilities.
Kwik later learned how to overcome these disabilities (and it’s part of what he teaches). However, because of this, he advocates that you always be mindful to protect your brain whenever necessary. “It’s resilient but it’s also fragile,” says Kwik.
9. New learnings
Number nine isn’t about what you do with what you have, it’s about putting new things in. Making new neural connections (i.e., learning) constantly throughout your life is critical for maintaining brain health including memory and other brain functions.
Whether it’s reading up on subjects you love or learning something new, learning should remain an important part of your life if your goal is to optimize your memory and maximize brain health.
10. Stress management
Easily one of the most important points on this list, chronic stress can wreak havoc on the brain in several ways.
Stress helps us perform physical activities as it’s great at ‘activating’ our bodies in moments of danger or simply high adrenaline situations.
However, stress isn’t good if you need to study, take an exam, give a presentation, or think critically in any way, according to Kwik. So, take the time to get your stress under control with some sort of regular practice. There are a lot of ways to reduce stress, so find what works best for you.