Blanking on names? Left your phone in the cab? Forgot what’s on your grocery list? Or the movie you saw last weekend? You’re not alone. Everyone loses track occasionally. It kind of feels like as we age, our minds and memories just don’t work like they used to. But is that really true, or are there ways to improve memory power? The fact of the matter is that certain aspects of brain function and memory capability are not necessarily linked to getting older. Lifestyle choices and whether or not we implement memory-boosting techniques in our day-to-day lives contribute to the overall health of our brains and our ability to remember both new and old information. So we got to wondering: Is it possible to counteract the memory decline that already seems to be taking place? How can we improve memory power?
1. Get a Goodnight’s Sleep – “Poor sleep takes a toll on everything, from your job performance to your daily chores, and especially your memory”, says Dr. Adarsh Kumar, Internal Medicine, National Heart Institute. Sleep is a key time for the brain to solidify the connections between neurons, thus helping us remember more of our tasks. Rule of thumb: Get 7-8 hours of sleep everyday. And yes, naps count. Experts are of the opinion that if you do only one thing to improve your memory, getting more sleep should be it. If you have trouble sleeping fast, drink a warm cup of milk a half hour before hitting the sheets. Yes, this age-old remedy actually works. Now stop staring at the ceiling, and slip into slumber.
2. Jog Your Memory – Literally. Exercise increases your heart rate which gets blood flowing to your brain, thus keeping your memory sharp. Running, swimming, biking – any form of exercise – for at least 30 minutes helps enlarge the hippocampus, which is regarded as the ‘memory center of the brain’. In fact, physical activities that require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are particularly beneficial for brain building. If you don’t have time for a full workout, squeeze in a 10-minute walk around the block in your schedule or a few jumping jacks. It’s enough to reboot your brain.
3. Quit Multitasking – Can’t find your keys? It’s probably because you weren’t paying attention when you put them down. When you’re juggling too many things, you’re bound to forget. As it turns out, the brain doesn’t actually multitask. Instead, it switches focus from one thing to the other, which is why it is difficult to read a book and hold a conversation at the same time. Multitasking will slow you down, so make it a point to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s crucial. Studies suggest to say it out loud: “I left my keys on the dresser”, etc. so the brain can process it. Your brain actually need about eight seconds to commit a piece of information to your memory, so if you’re talking on the phone and carrying groceries when you put down your car keys, you’re unlikely to remember where you left them.
4. Get Organized – If your house is in a mess, you’re more likely to forget things. Jot down tasks, declutter your home and note down appointments. Set aside a particular place at home to keep your keys, and limit distractions. Live by to-do lists, keep them upto date and check off the items you’ve completed. Physically writing down new information actually helps reinforce it.
5. Stay Mentally Active – Note: Crossword puzzles and Sudoku are your new best friend. Challenge your brain, take a different route to work, learn a new language, read a section of the newspaper you usually skip, do things out of the ordinary. Stay engaged, because mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape – and might even keep memory loss at bay. People who are cognitively active have better memory as they age, it’s true. So quiz yourself, flex your brain and improve your memory power.
6. Balance Your Stress – Chronic stress and depression, both contribute to memory loss and the destruction of brain cells. One of the best things you can do is to laugh. Yes, it’s that simple. Laughter engaged multiple regions of the brain and simultaneously reduces stress. Social interaction also helps ward off depression and stress, so look for opportunities to get together with family, loved ones, friends and work colleagues. When you’re invited to share a meal or attend an event, go!