If you’re like most of us living in the 21st century, you may have noticed something rather peculiar. It’s getting harder to remember things!
We are absorbing more information per day in this new information age than our ancestors absorbed in a lifetime. While having torrents of information at our fingertips is fantastic, it does come at a cost. The need to absorb more information means we have less time to encode and store information in our short and long term memory banks.
You might be thinking, “does this mean in the not too distant future we will all have the memory skills of a goldfish?”
Thankfully not. Memory works a lot like a muscle, so if you find your memory lacking at the moment, the right training and technique can help you retrain your memory capacity and make it stronger than ever before.
Here are five tips to get you started!
1: Stop Multitasking
Research has shown you need about eight seconds to commit a piece of information to your memory. For example, if you’re talking on your phone and carrying in groceries when you put down your car keys, you’re unlikely to remember where you left them.
The more things you do at once, the less time you have to commit that information to your memory. If you find yourself trying to complete five tasks at once, the best thing you can do is stop yourself, and focus your attention on one task at a time until it’s complete.
2: Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is also known to enhance your memories and help you “practice” and improve your performance of challenging skills. In fact, a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.
Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.
3. Exercise Your Memory with… Exercise!
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.
4. Meditation is Key
According to a 2015 study from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, the brain starts to decline in your 20s and continues to decrease both in size and volume. Meditating regularly delays cognitive decline and prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Meditation produces a positive charge in the brain’s gray matter overtime, which is important for memory, learning and self-awareness. In addition, meditation has been shown to reduce stress, which can do a number on memory.
5. Stay Mentally Active
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. So quiz yourself, flex your brain, and improve your memory power!