The Memory Game: Proven Strategies to Keep Your Brain in Top Shape
As we age, it’s common to experience forgetfulness, such as going into the kitchen and forgetting why or struggling to recall a familiar name mid-conversation. Even remembering about a meeting and showing up late can happen to everyone. However, it’s important to note that significant memory loss in elderly adults isn’t a normal part of aging. This memory loss is often caused by organic disorders, brain injuries, or neurological diseases, with Alzheimer’s being among the most feared.
That being said, most short-term memory problems associated with aging are caused by normal changes in how the brain is structured and functions. Some cognitive processes can slow down due to these changes, making it harder to learn new things quickly or block out distractions that make it difficult to remember or learn new information.
While these changes can be frustrating, they don’t necessarily mean that dementia or other serious cognitive impairments are imminent. In fact, there are many ways to keep our minds healthy and sharp as we age, thanks to years of research in this area. Here are seven things that you can do to help maintain a sharp memory:
- Stay physically active – regular exercise has been shown to improve brain function and memory.
- Eat a healthy diet – including foods high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins.
- Get enough sleep – lack of sleep can negatively impact memory and cognitive function.
- Stay socially engaged – staying connected with friends and family can help keep the brain active and sharp.
- Challenge your brain – try learning a new skill, taking a class, or doing puzzles and brain teasers.
- Manage stress – high-stress levels can impair memory and cognitive function, so finding ways to manage stress effectively is important.
- Stay mentally active – reading, writing, and engaging in other mentally stimulating activities can help keep the brain sharp.
Continue to Practice Maintaining A Sharp Memory
People with more education lean to have better mental health as they age. Getting more education may help keep a person’s memory sharp by getting them to use their minds.
The mental exercise that makes your brain work harder is thought to start up processes that keep your brain cells healthy and help them talk to each other. Many individuals have jobs that keep their minds active, but a hobby or learning something new can do the same thing.
Read, join a book club, play chess or bridge, write your life story, do crosswords or jigsaw puzzles, go to school, study music or art, or make a new plan for your garden. Offer or sign up for a project at work that requires a skill you don’t usually use. Brain connections are always made and kept, so lifelong learning is a top priority.
Utilize all your senses to maintain a sharp memory.
When you learn something with multiple meanings, your brain must work harder to remember it. In one study, adults were shown a picture that made them feel nothing but a scent. No one asked them to remember what they saw. I was then handed a set of odorless photos and asked to point to the ones I had already seen.
They remembered the pictures that went with each smell, especially those with pleasant smells. Brain scans showed that the piriform cortex, the main part of the brain that processes smells, was active when folks saw objects that they had previously associated with smells, even though the starts to smell were no longer there.
The people who were asked didn’t try to remember them. So, when you go somewhere new, challenge all of your senses. Guess what’s in a new restaurant dish by how it looks, smells, and tastes. Try sculpting or making something out of clay, and pay attention to how the materials feel and smell.
Believe in yourself to have a sharp memory.
Myths about getting older can make your sharp memory worse. When middle-aged and older learners hear negative messages about ageing and memory, they do worse on memory tasks. On the other hand, they do better when they hear positive messages about keeping your sharp memory as you get older.
People who think they don’t have control over their sharp memory retention are less likely to work on keeping or improving their sharp memory skills, so they are more inclined to experience cognitive decline. You are more likely to keep your mind sharp if you believe you can improve and act on that belief.
Reduce brain usage to preserve a sharp memory.
Imagine that you don’t have to use your brain power to remember where you put your keys or when your daughter’s birthday party is. Then you’ll be able to focus more on remembering and learning new and important information.
Utilize calendars, planners, maps, grocery lists, file folders, and address books to maintain accessibility to routine information. Pick a spot at home for your glasses, purse, keys, and other frequently used items. Get rid of the things that are taking up space in your office or home so you can focus on new information you want to remember.
What do you desire to be repeated?
If you want to remember something you just heard, read, or thought about, say it aloud or write it down. So you can make the sharp memory or connection stronger. For example, if someone just told you his name, use it when you talk to them. If you put one of your things somewhere other than where it usually goes, say out loud what you did. And don’t be afraid to request for things to be said again.
Space it out
When used at the right time, repetition is the finest way to learn something. It’s best not to say something over and over quickly like you’re trying to cram for an exam. Instead, review the important things every hour, every few hours, and then every day.
Spreading out your study time is especially helpful when trying to learn something hard, like the details of a new job assignment. Research shows that spaced repetition helps people remember things, both healthy and those with problems with their sharp memory caused by their bodies, like those with multiple sclerosis.