How to improve your memory
Memory, like muscle strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.” The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information and lessen memory loss. But not all activities are equal. The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways.
If you ask people what is most important in life to them you will likely get a range of answers. Depending on how you precisely phrase the question the responses might include family, God, or some generic moral relativist answers related to being kind, happy, healthy, and many more depending on culture and education or background. But if you really think about it carefully, the most important thing all humans have is our memory simply because it is the repository for our entire life experience.
Regardless of your answer about what the most important thing(s) in your life are, without the ability to recall those memories or those relationships it is simply a void. In the computer age, I think nearly all of us have probably experienced a time when a computer hard drive has died. All hard drives will eventually fail and it is not a question of “if” but rather “when”. For people that have a good backup strategy in place, this is little more than an annoyance. We simply buy a new hard drive, install it, and restore and we are right back in business. But for anyone that has lost data from a hard drive, computer, or smartphone that wasn’t backed up, this can be a devastating experience. This is especially true if you lost irreplaceable files like family photos or videos. Unfortunately, when it comes to the human brain, there is no backup strategy. We only get one brain and we can’t simply swap it out when we start getting read-write access errors. But the good news is this article will give you a few pointers to keep your brain in tip-top shape and boost your memory as well.
Dealing with memory loss
For anyone who has a loved one that has experienced or is currently experiencing memory disorders, I do not need to explain the importance of memory loss to you. It can be a slow and agonizing experience both for the person with the memory loss and their loved ones. To have a husband, wife, Mom, or Dad you have loved for decades no longer recognize you is heartwrenching.
There is alcohol-related dementia, mental blocks as we age, dementia, Alzheimer’s, vascular disorders, post-traumatic memory loss from war veterans for example, and concussion-related memory loss that sometimes happens to athletes to name but a few.
Every single event and every person we have ever known or loved are contained in our memories in our brains. If we begin to lose our memories, do we lose ourselves? That is a philosophical question better left for another time but in my humble opinion, I think it does.
David Hume, in his seminal work “A Treatise of Human Nature,” offered what was, at that time, a radical notion of human identity: that the “self,” as we conceive of it, is not a single spiritual or psychological entity, like a “soul,” but rather a collection of discrete sensations and impressions — a “bundle,” as he called it. Connections between these individual perceptions give rise to the idea of a continuous “self.” And memory gives that self lasting force.
I think Brian Falkner said it best in his book Brain Jack. “We are our memories,” “That’s all we are. That’s what makes us the person we are. The sum of all our memories from the day we were born. If you took a person and replaced his set of memories with another set, he’d be a different person. He’d think, act, and feel things differently.”
All of us will begin to lose memory to a certain degree as we age. The good news is that research shows that normal aerobic exercise helps keep your body fit also helps keep your brain fit. So one of the best things you can do to live a long, healthy life with good memory is simply do something you learned as a child. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, exercise, and keep your stress down. Doing Puzzles and any challenging mental activities can also help. Good luck and Good memories!
Four key elements of a good brain-boosting activity to help lessen memory loss
- It teaches you something new. No matter how intellectually demanding the activity, if it’s something you’re already good at, it’s not a good brain exercise. The activity needs to be something that’s unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone. To strengthen the brain, you need to keep learning and developing new skills.
- It’s challenging. The best brain-boosting activities demand your full and close attention. It’s not enough that you found the activity challenging at one point. It must still be something that requires mental effort. For example, learning to play a challenging new piece of music counts; playing a difficult piece you’ve already memorized does not.
- It’s a skill you can build on. Look for activities that allow you to start at an easy level and work your way up as your skills improve —always pushing the envelope so you continue to stretch your capabilities. When a previously difficult level starts to feel comfortable, that means it’s time to tackle the next level of performance.
- It’s rewarding. Rewards support the brain’s learning process. The more interested and engaged you are in the activity, the more likely you’ll continue doing it and the greater the benefits you’ll experience. So, choose activities that, while challenging, are still enjoyable and satisfying.
Here are 7 additional tips from the Mayo Clinic to avoid memory loss and boost your current memory
1. Include physical activity in your daily routine
2. Stay mentally active
3. Socialize regularly
4. Get organized
5. Sleep well
6. Eat a healthy diet
7. Manage chronic conditions
These books below are free if you have Kindle Unlimited and only a few bucks if you don’t. They are fun and will stimulate your neurons and help you not only improve your memory but avoid memory loss as you get older.