How to Improve your Memory
How well do you remember things? Can you recite the alphabet backwards? What about your phone number?
For most of us, reciting information is pretty easy. We can remember things when we need to, but what about when we don’t need them? How do we keep that information in our brains longterm?
In this article, we’ll explore the science of memory and discuss some tips and tricks for improving your memory skills. What to do and what not to do in learning how to improve your memory.
Things that affect memory
Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and drugs, both prescribed and illicit, affect memory. Certain drugs can even cause memory loss. Drug interactions, whether prescribed or not, can also cause memory loss. Taking certain medications can cause memory problems. and long term heavy abuse of alcohol can cause a type of dementia called Korsakoff’s Dementia or Wernike-Korsakoff Syndrome.
Sleep deprivation and memory problems
Some of the most commonly cited reasons for poor memory skills are sleep deprivation and sleep problems. Getting adequate sleep means that you are resting enough and your body is going through the stages of sleep several times a night.
Sleep deprivation affects recall as well as the formation of new memories.
Diet and exercise
Diet and exercise also affect memory. What you eat affects your brain cells and your ability to learn and remember things.
Your brain cells are constantly changing.
What you eat affects the brain cells’ ability to recreate themselves and form new memories. It’s important to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, as well as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water.
There is good research evidence that shows that diets rich in Omega-3 fats and low in saturated fats are good for your brain cells.
Regular exercise keeps your brain cells healthy and your memory sharp.
Stress is a major cause of poor memory skills. When you feel stressed, your brain releases stress hormones called cortisol and adrenaline which can cause memory problems. Managing your stress levels will impact how well you are able to focus and remember things.
Being stressed affects the areas of your brain involved in memory making.
Too Much Time Alone
Spending too much time alone and not being social enough, leads to isolation. Isolation is not the same as solitude. Solitude is healthy time spent alone to balance out time spent with others. Isolation is avoidance of social situations and other people. Studies show that isolation is detrimental to memory and mental health
Not paying attention
Often we think we will remember something, and when we don’t we feel concerned. But studies show that we are not properly encoded the information we hope to retrieve later. So it was not memorized in the first place.
How to Improve your Memory
What can you do to improve your memory?
There is a lot of research evidence to support the following tips and tricks for improving your memory.
Meditation is a great way to reduce stress. If sitting and observing your breathing is not for you, consider guided meditations. Moving meditations such as Yoga, Tai Chi, and walking a Labyrinth can help too.
Doing yoga or meditation improves your memory, and it’s a great way to reduce stress.
Make sure you are getting adequate rest. Develop good sleep hygiene (bedtime routine), and do not allow your self talk to become negative (I never sleep, I can’t sleep, etc). Get professional help if you continue to have sleep problems. Interestingly, there is a great sleep hack to use when you have to study for something. Study before bed or before taking a nap. While we sleep the hippocampus consolidates short term member into long term.
Avoid Abusing Substances
If you like to drink, don’t overdue it. And if you like to smoke cannabis or have medical marijuana, use it as prescribed. Talk to your prescriber about dose levels if you think it may be interfering with your sleep. If you are relying upon cannabis for sleep, this is a good time to work on managing your sleep and possibly reducing your reliance upon cannabis.
Maintain a health Diet and Activity Level
Eating healthy and staying active will help you stay sharp
Create a Visual Memory
If you’re a visual person, try drawing a map to help you remember where you left something, using your body. For example, if you want to remember where you put a book. Imagine your elbow is your kitchen, you walk down the arm to your hand which represents your room. On the right side of your hand (pinky side) you put your book on your dresser.
A very popular memory technique for when you have to remember a list of things is to imagine you are standing outside your house. As you enter the house, imagine items on the list to be in various places in your house. The more unusual, the better. For example, if your grocery list is for ketchup, mustard, rice, diapers, and matches, you would imagine the list in this way:
You are standing in front of your house and go to the front door and put your hand on the doornob– there is ketchup all over the door nob and now your hand. Next you look down and see that there is bright yellow mustard on the front door mat you are standing on. You step into the house and you immediately slide across the foyer floor on rice. Your partner walks in and has a diaper tied to their head, and they take a match and set on fire.
You get the idea.
Make a Song
If you have a list of things or numbers to remember, make a song about them. This will involve different parts of the brain, which will strengthen your ability to remember the list.
Tell a Story
Let’s say you have to remember a list of psychiatric drugs and what they treat. Mrs. Zoloft went to visit Mrs. Depression who was laying in bed. Mr. Wellbutrin also came to visit but was smoking cigarettes (Wellbutrin is often used to treat depression and is also used for smoking cessation).
Exercise your Mind and Brain
Do puzzles, read fiction, learn another language, learn to play an instrument or if you already do, learn to play a new one or new songs. Studies show that reading fiction challenges the brain as we have to remember who the characters are and what their relationships are. Learning another language keeps you sharp when you apply new words to old things. Learning to play an instrument will challenge you mentally and physically as you learn hand positions and how to read music.
Be sure to see friends and family, and spend time with others on a regular basis.
Therapy can Help
Therapy can help you better manage your stressors and teach you coping strategies. In therapy you can also identify what you are doing right to improve your memory and what needs more attention. It can also help you manage your anxiety or fear of dementia. Some individuals whose parents have dementia, develop anxiety that they will too. Even if you have the genetic predisposition to develop dementia, it doesn’t mean you will and there are many things you can do to try and prevent it.
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