You’re a dental student, meaning you are expected to have an advanced memory and be able to concentrate for hours on end. You can’t afford to let your brain go all wonky during exams.
Building your memory and concentration capabilities is like developing any other skill. It takes time and practice to integrate healthy habits into your lifestyle so that your brain power is maximized. You want your energy and mental capacity to operate at full throttle whether you are entering a dental school in Canada or trying to pass your NDEB exams.
Here are some tips for boosting your memory and concentration:
1. Eat Better
You do not need the body of a swimmer to be a dentist. However, you work in the medical field and should be more than aware that a healthy body equals an active mind.
The best foods to eat to boost your memory and concentration are those high in B vitamins, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and other nutrients.
Foods rich in these nutrients can help your brain function at a higher level. Balancing your diet with the essential nutrients you need will improve your memory and reduce brain fog.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the best thing you can do to boost your memory and concentration. In fact, research has shown that sleep deprivation impairs the hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for consolidating learning and memory. Think about amount of memory power you need for the AFK exam or all the radiographs you need to interpret for ACJ – good sleep should be a key part of your strategy for success.
Shoot for somewhere between 6-9 hours of quality sleep a night. Everyone is different, but that would put you at the average.
3. Get Up and Move!
If you want to boost your memory and concentration, then the best thing that you can do is exercise regularly. Exercise not only helps keep your body healthy, but it also has many positive effects on your brain and mind.
Even attending a cycle class twice a week can make you feel more alert and refreshed. Your body will produce neurotransmitters that boost your mood, motivating you to study and focus on what needs to be done to pass your next midterm university or NDEB exams.
4. Lower Stress
When stressed, our body produces hormones like cortisol which can negatively affect cognition. In fact, one study found that stressed people had an increased risk of short-term memory loss by up to 40%.
Other studies have shown that stress could make it tougher to learn new information and remember things while causing headaches or feelings of fatigue more often.
Do what you can to lower your stress levels. Take pauses throughout the day, and remember to breathe. You can do this!
Mindfulness meditation is a simple technique that can be practiced anywhere, even while you are engaged in other activities. It involves focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment. When you practice mindfulness meditation, you move away from a stressful mindset by focusing instead on what is happening right now—the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations around you.
There are endless studies proving meditation is a surefire way to improve mental focus and concentration. Even 10 minutes a day with a free mobile app can boost your cognitive capabilities.
Socializing with people unknown to you is also important so the brain can create new memories and associations. In this way, we can use different memories together to improve our ability to recall things that would otherwise be difficult for us.
Social interaction also protects against depression and stress, adversely affecting memory loss. It will also help you to prepare for the interactions you will have with patients in the university clinics, actors the NDECC® Situational Judgement exam and real world patients once you are licensed to practice dentistry in Canada.
7. Get Organized
To boost your memory, you’re going to have to organize. Not just tidy—organize.
Organization is more than just being able to keep your house clean and tidy. It’s about being efficient in the things you do, so you can get more done in less time.
It’s also about being able to find the things that you need when you need them. And it helps if those things are where they should be when needed.
8. Try Evidence-Based Supplements
Supplementing your diet with some beneficial nutrients and herbs can help improve cognitive function and the brain’s ability to store new information. Only use what is scientifically proven to work, and consult your medical provider beforehand to not negate any medications you are taking.
You can try things like:
- • Vitamin B6
- • Vitamin B12
- • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- • Gingko Biloba
- • Vitamin E
Be Gentle with Yourself
There are numerous other ways to improve your memory, but these are the best options for dental students. You can try flashcards, have group study sessions, or employ mnemonic devices.
In the end, you want to be gentle with yourself because this process is a marathon, not a sprint. You can achieve success on your NDEB or dental school exams and, later, your dentistry practice by integrating habits that optimize your energy more than your time.
If you’re struggling with memory and concentration, take some time to assess your lifestyle and see what you can do to improve it. A few simple changes can significantly affect your ability to remember things and stay focused on tasks.
About the Author
Karen Nunez was born in Valenzuela, Philippines. She received her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from Centro Escolar University in Manila.
Karen currently is a practicing oral health care professional based in Alberta, Canada; and runs a website where she writes a slew of articles to empower internationally trained dentists to integrate into Canadian dentistry.
Read more of her blogs here.