Playing games with your mind? It's exactly what experts believe you should do to stay sharp, no matter how old you are.
Experts say our brain's exact storage space for memories is hard to calculate, according to Scientific American. The size of an average person's memory can vary from person to person, and memories with more details can take up more space. One infographic shows there are three general ways our brains store memories: encoding (visually looking at a picture or scene for example), storage and retrieval of information.
But do you still remember your first crush? Or the first car you owned? One study shows that the brain may begin to lose sharpness or memory and powers of reason and understanding as early as 45, according to an article in The Guardian.
Dr. Stephen Brewer, medical director at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona says improving your memory is all about stimulating your senses.
"Using two senses can increase the likelihood of remembering something and smell is the most powerful sense for memory," he said at the second annual St. Lucia Health and Wellness Retreat in Castries, St. Lucia.
Our senses work to engage our attention and helps our brain become more alert of our surroundings, Brewer says. Brain exercises, like playing Sudoku or crossword puzzles in the morning paper, have been shown to help improve not only intelligence, but also help prevent Alzheimer's disease or dementia, according to the Archives of Neurology. An estimated 500,000 people have Alzheimer's or a type of dementia in Canada and over 70,000 of them are under the age of 65, according to the Alzheimer's Society of Toronto.
Brewer says challenging your brain throughout the day — like using the opposite hand when you brush your teeth or talking to yourself — can not only help improve our memory, but also delay health risks associated with it.
LOOK: Dr. Brewer's 8 unique ways to improve your memory — without any Sudoku or crosswords:
Turn Your Photos Upside Down
If you find yourself losing focus or easily distracted during your work day, Dr. Stephen Brewer, medical director at the Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, says try engaging your brain and attention levels by turning pictures upside down in your house or on your desk at work. He says the instant your pictures are upside down, you brain will automatically go into "alert mode" and help you pick up other small details during your day.
Involve Other Senses In Your Routine
Start your day by stimulating your senses when you get dressed. "Try dressing with your eyes closed or choose outfits based on texture and not how they look," Brewer says. Engaging unused senses for day-to-day routines can improve your memory and stimulate your mind, according to Health.HowStuffWorks.com.
Wake Up To A New Smell
You may already be used to waking up to the smell of coffee or pancakes on the weekend, but Brewer suggests stimulating your senses by leaving cooked vanilla beans by your bed or in your kitchen overnight. This can enhance your sense of smell the next day.
Use Your Other Hand
When you're brushing your teeth or brushing your hair, Brewer suggests switching hands — or using the 'other hand' — to help stimulate your brain and senses. One study found that using the opposite hand or less dominant hand can increase your brain's creativity levels, according to the Lake Michigan Shore.
Sit back and relax. Meditation, Brewer says, can improve your memory and help your mind focus. One study found that meditation can improve brain function and could even prevent mental illnesses, according to CBC News.
Get Some Sleep!
Brewer says sleeping — at least 7 to 8 hours a night — can also help improve your memory. One study found that getting a good night's sleep can trigger changes in the brain and can boost your memory levels, according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.
Go To A Beautiful Environment
We all have memories of our favourite places. Maybe it's your childhood backyard or vacation to a sandy beach. These memories stay with us in rich detail, Brewer says, and travelling to these places (if possible) or finding new places that help create memories of equal depth can also help improve your memory.
Talk To Yourself
Thinking out loud can do more good than harm. One study found that talking to yourself can help improve your memory temporarily, according to ABC News. The study found that people who talked to themselves had better luck finding things that were lost.