By Vladimir Marchenko
- What is memory
- What can cause memory loss?
- How to prevent memory loss in old age
- Can you regain memory loss?
- What to take to improve memory?
- How can I improve my memory in 5 minutes
Memory is one of the most important mental functions that allow a person to accumulate, store and reproduce knowledge, skills or abilities. Our performance at work and household affairs, as well as our life experience, depends on mnemonic ability. Is it possible to pump this ability and become a little better?
What is memory
To put it simply, memory is one of the functions of the higher nervous system which allows you to store and accumulate information from the outside world and the body’s reaction to it, as well as reproduce and alternate it if necessary. The volume of memory depends on the number of nerve cells involved and to one degree or another is intrinsic to all the animals with the developed nervous system.
Memory can be classified into many subtypes, ranging from sensory modality (visual, audial, gustatory) and ending with the duration of storage (short-term, long-term). That’s when people ask how to improve memory they usually mean how to strengthen the long-term memory. It is also because sensory and short-term memory has a very limited capacity and storage time, while the knowledge that has been accumulated during learning/ repeating processes can be stored in long-term memory for a lifetime.
What can cause memory loss?
Most often, it’s the elderly who suffer from memory disorders due to irreversible changes in the brain. However, from time to time, relatively young people, age 25-40, can also be at risk. If we dwell in more detail on what causes memory loss and forgetfulness, then it can be:
- Asthenic syndrome. Under the influence of physical and/or mental stress, chronic fatigue and overwork develops, which can also cause memory disturbances;
- Degenerative processes in the central nervous system are one of the inevitable reasons for memory disturbances. What affects memory loss specifically? As a rule, it occurs in the older age and is associated with a decrease in the volume of brain tissue, the number of cells and the level of brain metabolism, as well as disturbances in the blood vessels functioning;
- Lack or low quality of sleep. Since it is during sleep when memories are consolidated (they are transferred from short-term storage to the long-term one), a violation of this process negatively affects the general process of memorization;
- Information overload. Constantly monitoring news and absorbing all the information from the outside world can lead to the inability to remember something really important;
- The presence of mental disorders. What causes loss of memory is mental disorders such as dementia, schizophrenia, epilepsy, etc .;
- Bad habits. Brain cells responsible for memory can be damaged due to the abuse of alcohol, smoking, drugs;
- Vitamin deficiency. Lack of vitamins of group B and D considerably affects memory;
- Craniocerebral trauma is the main reason for what causes sudden memory loss, including forgetting one's name, age, etc. It can also lead to difficulties in memorization.
- Somatic diseases;
- Congenital pathologies, such as intellectual disorders.
Hence, below we talk about how to prevent memory loss that is not associated with congenital pathologies and physical brain damage.
How to prevent memory loss in old age
The human brain is characterized by neuroplasticity - the ability to change under the influence of experience, as well as to form new connections in response to external events. This ability weakens with age and it gets no longer easy to reproduce memories or memorise when a person gets older. The most accessible ways to improve memory are adjusting the diet, staying in the fresh air, learning something new, communicating, and exercising. It is also very useful to read, watch educational programs, and do what you love, etc. It is important to minimize stressful situations, create a daily routine, and, in a word, do everything, what helps with memory and focus.
If we talk about the development of such disorders as dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, sclerosis, etc., then medication may be needed. Consulting a specialist is necessary in this case. However, it is impossible to completely get rid of dementia and decrease in mental activity, that’s why it is better to take precautions in advance. When we are getting older, usually after 70 years old, changes in blood vessels and deterioration of blood circulation in the brain occur. These processes are irreversible and even drugs will only have a temporary effect. With normal ageing, the process of memory loss occurs gradually and, therefore, you don’t need to think too much about “what can I take to improve memory”, better think of what can be done to slow down the development of the disorders.
Can you regain memory loss?
With the advent of the Internet and means of preserving information, not being able to remember is no longer an issue — now the desired date or description of a high-profile event can almost always be found on the Web, while old photos — on the hard drive. Accordingly, people began to rely less on their memory, care less about its development, which also does not contribute to the quality of this infinite resource. However, we forget that our personal memories suffer as well.
How can I enhance my memory
People who suffer from a temporary memory loss are usually shown a sequence of images, most often old photographs, or objects that connect them with the past and are associated with events that have taken place. It helps to remember the details from the past.
The following can be also very useful:
- change of activity, switching from mental to physical labour and vice versa;
- gymnastics and simplest exercises, swimming, jogging;
- walks in the fresh air with a regular change of the usual route "shop-home";
- regularly drinking enough water;
- restoration of the chronology of past events that happened in the last 24 hours and their fixation in the diary;
- visiting the shopping centre, museums and galleries, with the subsequent recollection of the layout of goods and expositions;
- watching movies and discussing what you saw.
What to take to improve memory?
If you are thinking about how to improve your memory, you are probably not satisfied with the ability to memorize or reproduce information. Good news, it can be fixed.
How to enhance memory
- Sleep at least 7-9 hours. The lack of sleep directly influences the abilities to memorize, accumulate and reproduce information. It is at night when memory reactivation occurs while the most important “pieces” are stored in the long-term memory.
- Change your diet. Some products facilitate and improve the ability to memorise, others, on the contrary, have a negative effect. What is good for memory? As multiple studies state, turmeric is very beneficial for memory. Fish oil with omega-3-unsaturated fatty acids, products enriched with vitamin D, like fish, mushrooms, orange juice, yolk, milk, tea, ginger, anise, cumin, fruit, veggies, and dark chocolate with more than 70% of cocoa are great supplements as well. What can cause loss of memory? Alcohol, sugar, refined carbs found in polished rice, wheat flour, granola and ketchup, etc.
- Exercise your brain. Any mental activity is useful, starting with reading, memorizing poetry by heart, solving puzzles, watching educational programs, quizzes, as well as travelling, learning foreign languages and practising them, and developing fine motor skills (picking up puzzles, modelling, knitting, playing musical instruments). This is perhaps the best thing for memory loss.
- Practise mindfulness. It is a state when you focus on “now”, looking inside of you, noticing your feelings and understanding your place in the world. It has a beneficial effect on your mental health and therefore on cognitive abilities. Mindfulness is what helps brain function and memory.
- Practice meditation. Relaxing practices soothe, relieve pain, normalize blood pressure, and can increase the amount of grey matter in the brain. It is also one of the ways how to improve short term memory.
In addition to the apps that develop intellectual abilities and memory, you can also use those that work with sleep and mental health. For example, such as a free app for iOS Hypnopedia. Even though the name of the app sounds more like sleep-learning, it is actually made for relieving stress before going to bed and strengthening mental health without user’s active interaction, as strong mental health also improves memory. For a relaxed before-bed time, the app contains natural sleep sounds and combinations. During sleep, short motivational statements are played. They are grouped on thematic topics and make it easy for a user to pick the one that suits him best. Affirmations got perceived by your subconscious mind and favourably affect mental health. While smart alarm clock is responsible for waking you up at the most suitable time based on your biological indicators.Ссылка App Store
How can I improve my memory in 5 minutes
For some memory-enhancing exercises, you won’t need too much time. You can practice them during a lunch break, on the road, or before going to bed.
- Wordplay. Choose, without thinking too much, five to seven objects around you. Write a meaningful sentence or mini-story with them.
- Mirror drawing. Divide a piece of paper into two halves with a line. Draw something simple on the right side with your right hand (for example, a house), and then try to reproduce the same with your left hand on the left half of the sheet.
- Identikit. Close your eyes and try to mentally create an image of a familiar person. Make notes of his specific features, clothing details, and accessories. Subsequently, you can mentally draw images of unfamiliar people that you met on the streets, trying to remember all the details.
- Reproduce words. Never been able to remember phone numbers right away? Start by memorizing a series of 5 numbers and gradually increase it. You can do the same with words. Write 5-7 words and try to reproduce them in the same sequence in which they are written. Increase the number of words gradually.
- Colour workout. Download an image from the Web or find the online Stroop test where the colour of the written words does not correlate with the text (for example, the word "yellow" is written in blue). Try to quickly go through this list, naming the real colour in which the word is written.
It has long been known that the brain needs to be trained in the same way as muscles, and that regular cognitive exercises are the best for memory. At the same time, our “control centre” needs attention already from an early age, but it is also important to stay active and do not lose interest in life when you are getting older. This is the only way to maintain clarity of mind and at least slow down the natural processes of memory loss due to ageing.