Memory Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Mind Active
We’ve All Been There…
It’s not two minutes since you were introduced to someone and you’ve already forgotten his or her name. Or worse, you recognize someone but can’t put a name to the face. In this article we delve into the best ways for you to keep your mind fresh and active, both by exercising the brain and by retaining a fit and healthy body. We’ll also explain why you shouldn’t be too concerned about having a fading memory.
Though it’s technically an organ, in many ways the brain also represents a muscle; if it is not getting the right amount of exercise it will become flabby and out of shape. 2012 is a better time than ever to tackle memory loss through cognizant exercise. “Seniors for Living” suggests older people embrace modern technologies; games such as Nintendo’s “Brain Age” and the online resource “Cognifit” provide new and exciting mind-involving scenarios that gradually build demand on the brain by progressing through levels of difficulty. More traditional brain exercises and memory techniques can work too. Everything from playing a board game to memorizing quotes from your favorite film to picking up a new language help prime the brain, and therefore enhance memory.
John M. Grohol, editor-in-chief of “Psyche Central,” suggests focusing on and being overly aware of the task at hand, to involve as many senses as possible (taking in the sights, sounds, smells and touch of a particular scenario), and also repeating information to yourself on a regular basis. It is agreed by Grohol, and countless other experts around the world that mnemonic devices will prove beneficial. From our early learning years, we are taught such devices as Roy G. Biv or “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” when recalling the colors of a rainbow, or “Every Good Boy Deserves Fun” for the lined notes of the treble clef. Why do mnemonics work? Because our minds react better to bite-sized rhymes, phrases and visual images. Therefore, with regard to the person’s name you can’t remember, apply the mnemonic device in which you match his or her name with that of a friend or celebrity. World Memory Championships competitor Ed Cooke takes it even further than that in an article in “The Guardian” saying, “My name’s Ed Cooke. That’s boring, right? But imagine me as someone frying their own head in a pan-as a head-cook, that is-and the name will stick in the mind.”
Mind and body are inseparable, and physical activity can often prove as beneficial to memory as cognizant exercise. Says Karon White Gibson, RN, co-author of “Nurses on our Own” on the Seniors for Living website: “Exercise increases circulation to the brain, and lymphatic massage helps drain the body of toxins that would otherwise stay.” Where fitness is involved, so too is a good diet. Among recommended foodstuffs on the BBC Good Food website are oily fish (“Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss”) and nuts (a study of those containing vitamin E by the “American Journal of Epidemiology” suggests that a good intake prevents poor memory). Tomatoes, blackcurrants and pumpkin seeds are also among those foods which are cited to be beneficial to the brain. Gibson is also an advocate of vitamins, saying, “I have found that taking B vitamins increases memory retention.”
It is essential to realize that not every tip and technique works across the board for everyone. The best way to approach improving your memory is to focus on those which appeal to you most, and allowing them a certain amount of time to bear signs of memory improvement.
Don’t fret over it! Memory loss is something that happens to most of us over time to varying degrees. Many who suffer from this “benign senescent forgetfulness” (BSF) fear it could be something worse, namely dementia, yet links between BSF and dementia are tenuous. A study from the “International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry” showed that only 8.8% of those with BSF went on to develop dementia. Also, that someone is aware of his or her lapses in memory is already a positive sign; it would be more concerning if someone had to point these lapses out. Furthermore, letting BSF lapses get to you can itself be detrimental to memory. Research at North Carolina State University led to the conclusion that when older people worry about fulfilling the stereotype of an older person with “bad” memory, this may cause them to do exactly this. Said study leader Tom Hess, “The assumption is that they are aware of the negative stereotype… they may not necessarily buy into it, but the simple concern that they themselves might be stereotyped by others is thought to lead to the sorts of effects we observed as the individual becomes concerned about their performance, which may then have negative effects on behavior.” Positivity paired with activity should keep your memory in good shape for years to come.