Many people confuse being forgetful with just plain inattention. To cite some familiar examples, ‘forgetting’ where you left your keys, your cell phone’s location or where you placed your handbag isn’t the same as forgetting your first telephone number decades ago, your 3rd grade math test score, or what your best friend’s first address is. First, we are going to point the difference between the two sets of examples, then we will move on to how you can improve your overall memory.
Short-term Vs Long-Term Memory
If you noticed, the first set of examples talk about things you may have done just a few minutes or hours ago. When you come home, you slip into something comfortable or prepare to relax. During the process, you might have placed your keys or wallet somewhere you couldn’t remember. The problem with short-term memory is that inattention will force you to ‘neglect’ those memory cues. It’s not that you forgot where you placed them; the problem was that you never really bothered to notice since your mind was somewhere else.
The second set of examples talk about something ages ago that you are sure to forget. For this group of examples, the main reason why you forgot about them is that you didn’t really bother to think about it and it just got buried under other more important information. Unless you always think or refer back to your first phone number, there’s very little chance you’ll still have it in your memory.
Your Brain Potential
There’s an age-old adage that says “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” When it comes to the brain, it doesn’t hold true. Keep in mind that the human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and change – even in our golden years. We simply think that learning is only applicable for young people, but that’s because during the young or formative years, the brain absorbs information easily. With the right stimulation, you brain can adapt to absorb new information.
Exercise and Sleep
Similar to how an athlete needs sleep and a strict diet to perform his or her best, your brain’s ability also relies on getting the right nutrition, healthy habits, and a good night’s sleep. For exercise, it’s not only limited to shaping your muscles. When you exercise, there is a healthy oxygen flow to your brain and this will keep it well nourished. Aside from a healthy oxygen flow, our body also releases certain chemicals that help protect your brain cells.
If you do not get enough sleep, tasks involving problem-solving or critical thinking can be difficult. When you’re studying, balancing your finances, in the office, or even out in the convenience store, lacking in sleep can make simple things difficult for you. Another reason why sleep is important for your brain is that it helps with consolidating your memory. Memory consolidation is the process when a short-term memory (like the notes you just read a while ago) will be placed in the long-term memory of your brain, so that you can recall it easily when you need it later on.
Brain Exercises with Friends
Improving your ‘memory muscle’ isn’t limited to crosswords, chess, and other mental puzzles. Research shows that social interaction or having activities with friends will benefit your brain more. This is because when we’re interacting or meeting new people, we have to remember names, appointment schedules, and our brain experiences new things in a new environment. Lastly, frequently socializing with friends can significantly slow down the rate in which your memory declines.
Simple activities like joking around or laughter can also help your brain. Other emotional responses like being angry or focused only use specific areas of your brain. In the case of laughter though, it engages multiple regions across your entire brain. Plus, listening to other people’s jokes and trying to figure out punch lines stimulate the same areas of your brain that are responsible for learning and creativity. That’s one more reason to goof around with friends and have fun.
Aside from the physical wear and tear that stress causes, you can also see how people can’t focus on their daily tasks and their attention span becomes severely limited. With chronic stress, it can physically destroy brain cells and damage the region of your brain responsible for creating new memories and in the storage of old ones. This means that remembering the tasks you outlined last week can be difficult to remember and even processing new information like the new guidelines for your company might be too difficult to comprehend for you.
If you find yourself under a lot of stress for long periods of time, try to meditate for a few minutes. Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve focus, concentration, and learning skills. Another benefit for meditation is that it creates more physical connections between your brain cells. The result of this would be that your mental acuity and memory will be sharpened.
Drink in Moderation
Talking about memory and alcohol, a lot of people completely disregard the notion of drinking alcohol or wine before studying or an important event. Of course, that belief is not without basis as a hangover will remind you. We’ve heard about people who have fuzzy recollections or lost their memories about what they did the night before. Even simple mental tasks like counting backwards or reciting the alphabet can become tricky under the influence of alcohol.
However light to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to boost memory. As strange as it may sound, studies focusing on older people have shown that light to moderate drinkers are less likely to suffer mental diseases when they get old. Since we’re talking about alcohol, always remember that there are certain risk factors involved, so you should be well aware before you make it a ‘light’ habit. If you’re not a drinker in the first place, then we’re not telling you to start as well. Just keep things in moderation that’s it.
Visualize and Associate
Remember the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words?’ If you need to remember a specific date, object, or process, then visualizing it and what happens along the way of that process can help you understand the entire material and can facilitate absorption.
When you need to remember large numbers of groups or objects, it can be difficult to remember it individually. What you can do instead is picture out how those numbers or objects are related to each other. Make up a crazy story if you like. It sounds bizarre and weird, but it’s also fun (you don’t have to share it with everyone anyway). Visualization is the root of many memory tips. You can even practice using it on everyday lists or small objects until you get the hang of it.
Your memories are one of your most precious possessions and old age is no excuse to let go of it. There are many more ways on how to improve your memory, we’ve just covered the basics so that you’ll get your mind healthier and maintain that state of mental health as you grow old.