Improve Your Memory With Memory Boosting Exercises

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You may improve memory at any age by practicing memory boosting exercises. Whether you’re an older adult or a student looking to boost memory capacity, there may be an exercise for you. As memory is stored in different areas of the brain, targeting lifestyle changes to different areas of your life may be the most effective way to enhance cognitive function. Incorporating brain exercises and working memory activities can help strengthen various aspects of your brain health and cognitive ability.

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Learn more ways to strengthen your memory and focus in therapy

How memory exercises work

Memory exercises are designed to increase overall cognitive function and memory capacity, contributing to a healthy brain. When you remember something, the neurons in your brain will “fire” and communicate with each other to deliver information to your conscious brain that you can use. The shorter the paths between each point of information and the more connections your brain has, the faster the information is processed and the more quickly you may remember information.

The most successful memory exercises encourage communication between neurons and build new pathways in the brain. The more developed and active your brain, the better your potential memory capacity may be. Taking a holistic, all-around approach to memory improvement, such as incorporating targeted brain exercises and physical exercise, can be valuable if you’re looking for long-lasting, successful results that also help to strengthen brain function and prevent cognitive decline in older adults.

Five memory boosting methods to try

Various books review memory-boosting games and exercises. However, many people don’t have the time or resources to practice these exercises consistently. Instead, you may be able to practice a few lifestyle changes that you can incorporate into your daily life that are engaging and often simple. 

Learn something new

Learning a new skill, such as when you learn a foreign language, may enhance cognitive function and improve your memory quickly over the long term. While it may not initially seem directly related to boosting memory power, many studies have been conducted analyzing the value of skill-building regarding long-term memory improvement. They have found that people who regularly learn new skills, which taps multiple cognitive abilities, have a better ability to recall memories throughout their life as they age.

This memory-boosting method may apply to learning anything new. Maybe you have an interest in learning a new language, or you want to get started learning kung fu, or maybe you want to learn about the detailed history of your hometown. Maintaining a long-term learning practice can exercise your brain and increase memory capacity regardless of what you choose to learn.

If you want to boost brain health quickly, you might try learning a new sport, musical instrument, language, or other hands-on activity. However, anything that stimulates varying senses and brain areas could provide significant neurological benefits and contribute to overall brain wellness.

Practice meditation

Meditation may have brain-boosting benefits outside of stress relief and relaxation. A 2012 study showed that adults who participated in frequent meditation had more folds on the outer layer of their brains, an indicator of improved brain function and cognitive skills. Additionally, meditation has been proven to grow the hippocampus in the brain, which could help preserve brain tissue and prevent memory loss.

Because this method is intended to benefit not only your brain but also your body and emotions, it may be a rewarding method of improving memory while keeping in shape and practicing self-compassion and self-love. It may also contribute to overall cognitive health and possibly delay cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease onset.

Practice using all five senses

One technique for improving memory function involves the conscious use of all five senses, tapping into multiple cognitive abilities. Memory involves the use of all senses. For example, if you are trying to remember a song, you may use the auditory processing center in your brain. If you are trying to remember a picture, you’ll use the visual processing centers.

Practice remembering a situation using all five senses. For example, the next time you meet someone new, don’t only listen to their name but also try to observe how they look, the feel of their hand (if you shake their hand), and the smell of their perfume or cologne. When you use all five senses in this example context, you may absorb more information about the encounter, which could increase your capacity to remember it down the line and contribute to your brain's cognitive reserve.

Play games that improve brain function

Certain games have been shown to improve memory and overall brain function when played regularly, such as card games and puzzles.

Games played on electronic devices may have minimal effect on improving memory (with a few exceptions), as they may be two-dimensional and do not activate all the senses. However, real-life activities such as puzzles, card games, and chess can activate many of your senses and keep you heavily focused. 

You might try a card game like solitaire, bridge, gin rummy, crazy eights, poker, or hearts. Or you could purchase a complex jigsaw puzzle or join a chess club for a more immersive experience. Other games that might improve brain function include sudoku and crossword puzzles.

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Practice recalling lists, names, or other items

Memory champions often practice recalling lists and names, practicing useful memory techniques known as mnemonics to improve their ability to remember a long list of items. There are a variety of mnemonic techniques that you can try using to improve your short-term memory, including the following. 

Expression/word mnemonics

This type of mnemonic involves using a phrase that is easy to remember due to a combination of rhymes, vivid visuals, or personal experience. Choose a phrase that is simple to remember. For example, if you’re trying to learn a string of numbers, associate a word with each number that rhymes with it. 

Song mnemonic 

If you’ve ever sung the ABC song, you’ve already utilized this mnemonic. The part of the brain used to sing differs from the part used to remember words, phrases, and lists. Songs are often catchy and may stick in your head, making it easier to gain vast amounts of information if it’s in a melody.  

Adults experiencing dementia or severe memory impairment may also find this technique valuable. People with dementia often recall songs that were meaningful to them but might struggle to remember other information, like the names of their families. Studies show that music therapy can increase cognitive function in those with dementia. 

Image mnemonic 

Image mnemonics often require an individual to develop a mental image that adequately captures the essence of a word, concept, or name without using any words. For example, you could remember a recipe for cherry pie by envisioning all the ingredients in a setting that makes sense to you. 

Other activities and techniques for improving memory

Brain exercises may improve your mental capacity if you’re interested in further boosting your memory. Try the following: 

  • Practice doing math in your head without using your hands, a calculator, or paper 
  • Do list recall exercises, such as attempting to remember a grocery list 
  • Attempt to quickly observe and memorize four details about every person you meet during the day, or objects around you
  • Recall what other people say after they’ve spoken to boost your memory and improve active listening skills
  • Visualize an inner world where you can go in your mind to visualize memories as they occur, such as a memory palace  
  • Learn or practice a foreign language, as studies have shown that people with bilingual brains have higher recall and cognitive function than monolingual individuals
  • Practice mind mapping by drawing a map and including all five senses
  • Get daily exercise to increase blood flow to the brain 
Learn more ways to strengthen your memory and focus in therapy

Further support through counseling 

Improving memory may take dedication and commitment. Additionally, it can take time to build up the memory capacity in your brain. Struggling with memory can feel defeating, scary, or stressful. For some individuals, memory loss can be a symptom of an underlying physical or mental health issue, such as dementia or a learning and memory disability.

If you are experiencing memory issues and feel you would benefit from expert support, consider reaching out to a counselor. If you face barriers to traditional counseling, online therapy may benefit you. Studies show that online therapy is an effective alternative to in-person therapy for various concerns and conditions. For example, researchers conducted an in-depth study examining how online therapy affects symptoms of depression. They found “users of BetterHelp experienced significantly reduced depression symptom severity after engaging with the platform.”

Additionally, online platforms allow you to choose the therapy method that works best for you, whether it’s video chat, phone calls, or live chat messages. 


Memory exercises and lifestyle changes can effectively increase your memory capacity and potentially help to predict brain wellness in the long run. If you’re struggling with memory and believe you could be experiencing symptoms of a physical or mental health concern, reach out to your primary care physician to report your symptoms. Additionally, counseling is available online and in person for those wanting to learn memory exercises, discuss memory concerns, and gain professional insight into maintaining healthy cognitive function.

Improve your memory with professional support
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