Have you ever felt like your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be? Or maybe you find yourself getting frustrated about not remembering things at work or at school. Let’s learn a few quick details about memory and ways to improve it.
Without memories, you would not be able to learn new information, form long-term relationships or function on a day to day basis. Memory is the function of your brain by which it encodes, stores and retrieves information when needed. When you are presented with, for example, a painting, your brain will first process this visual stimulus as a sensory memory, which is held in the brain for less than a second. The information can then be converted into a short-term memory for weeks or days, which is what happens when you can recall the details you studied for a while after the exam has passed. Some events and patterns can also be stored as long-term memory, which is how you may be able to remember details from your 6th birthday party. Memory is stored in different parts of the brain, depending on what kind of memory it is. For example, the hippocampus stores spatial memory, which creates maps of our surroundings in the brain. On the other hand, the amygdala, another part of our brain, stores emotional memory.
The encoding and storage of memory can be affected in many ways. Factors such as stress, poor sleep and inadequate diet can all hamper memory. Age can also impact our memory. On the other hand, there are ways in which we can actively try to improve our memory. Here are some:
- Exercise: Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, hiking or biking can actually increase the number of neurons, or brain cells, in some parts of the brain so you could potentially improve your memory even if it is great to start off with! Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Do something that you enjoy and do it regularly.
- Sleep: Good sleep can help to improve learning, prevent mistakes and accidents and has also been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So, the next time you find yourself wracking your brains over simple things at work, school or anywhere else, think about whether you are sleeping enough and sleeping well.
- Diet: There are many diet regimens that boast improved brain function. You can take a look at those, or you can incorporate some well-known brain foods into your diet. Here are some examples of brain foods: nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oil.
- Brain games: Games such as Soduko and crossword puzzles are not only fun but can also improve your memory and sharpen other cognitive skills such as language and problem-solving. There are also many online games, both paid and free, that can help to boost your memory. Some examples include Lumosity, Happy Neuron and The Brain Trainer. You can check these out.
As you will notice, most of the tips above are not isolated to improving your brain health, but will improve your general physical well-being as well. And, indeed, if you are eating and sleeping well, living an active life and avoiding known stressors, you will be both physically and mentally healthy!