How often have you been in the middle of a sentence, had a word that you wanted to use at the top of your mind but couldn’t get it to your tongue? Have you struggled to recall a name of an actor, a movie, a song that you were talking about to your friends? If the answer is “Yes”, it’s fine. It’s normal once you’ve crossed your thirties. In this fast paced world, with all the multi-tasking you do and the responsibilities on your shoulders, it’s easy to forget things that don’t seem important. After all, how can the poor brain remember it all, right? That’s true in the cases I’ve mentioned but not in all cases.
There are areas which should show an improvement with age or should not decline like your Semantic memory ( vocabulary ) or your Procedural memory (how to ride a cycle) or your crystallized intelligence (ability to solve problems based on your experience and knowledge) should improve with age.
With a little caring and following a few steps you can keep your brain in check and ensure you don’t forget anything unless you wish to. Apparently, the cells in the memory center of your brain (hippocampus) actually continue producing new cells even after you cross the age of 90, if you do the below.
So, if you’ve been blaming age or stress for forgetting, STOP RIGHT NOW & READ THE BELOW! If you can’t read for want of time or patience, I understand because a human’s attention span (7 seconds) is currently lesser than that of a goldfish (8 seconds), thanks to technology. If you can’t focus, read the lines in bold and in red.
A little background to this post
Last week, I went back to work after a good, long holiday.
The monsoon rains and the travel through the west coast of India had been refreshing and I was all set to get back to work with a bang. After a meeting with the team, another one with the boss, a few emails that required urgent attention, I was ready to get down to business as usual. Only there was a slight hiccup. I had no idea what my system password was. Actually, what my passwords were. But that’s ok and it’s expected after a holiday. In case of such contingencies, I refer to my great book of passwords (ok if there is anybody in compliance reading my blog, please stop. I know you’re not supposed to be writing your passwords down but when one has 10 different systems across 4 different countries each with a different password, it’s tough remembering and writing them works for me). As I rummaged through this Great Book of passwords, a 4-digit number crossed my eyes which said “PIN”. I knew it wasn’t my PIN, at-least it wasn’t the PIN that I currently had (the number you use to access your credit or debit card) because I had just used my card the previous day. Yet this number on the book took precedence over my actual PIN number and erased all memory of my actual PIN. That was at around 1.30 p.m.
I racked my brain all afternoon while carrying on with responding to calls, emails, staff issues, project queries. It remained in the back of my head and rankled like a splinter in my brain. Was I on the brink of Alzheimer’s’? Was this the early tell-tale sign of dementia? Was it just a slip of the memory that did not require further thought or did I need to do something about it? I wasn’t over-thinking. It was stressful. I could remember every story connected with my PIN-how long it had taken to reach me, that it was a combination of my favorite digits, when I had made my last purchase, what I had picked up, the act of punching the digits on the POS but I simply could not remember the permutation of the digits. I mentally thought of all the numbers that I did remember- my mobile number, husband’s number, flat number, house phone number, birthdays as a test of my worried brain. I had no clue on the children’s numbers, thanks to the contact list on the mobile. I decided to learn the numbers up that evening while the thought of having forgotten the PIN nagged me.
Fortunately, the number did come back to me, albeit late; at around 6.30 p.m. to be precise. As I was punching out to leave the office, the digits came back in a flash. Something about the action of punching out had brought back the memory. This was my wake-up call and I decided to do something about it. Having read about it, I thought it might be helpful if I shared it with you’ll. Hence this post. You do not need to have a wake-up call to practice the below.
What is Memory Loss?
We have become so robotic these days that we perform tasks throughout the day without actually focusing on the task. We do stuff without thinking because we are accustomed to it. Our lives have technological aids to help us remember – Fb reminders for birthdays, mobile phone contact lists to call, notes on phones for tasks; our brains have turned lazy. The brain has forgotten it’s job of being able to retrieve information. We no longer need to retrieve information from the storage in our brain because Google has all the answers and Boom! One fine day, the memory that stores data can’t be retrieved anymore because while the data has been filed, it’s never been tested and it has no clue how it needs to be accessed. The retrieval test was last done when you were in your twenties and did an exam where you were required to write all that you had studied. After that, retrieval was never required so the memory part of the brain got rusted. That’s memory loss.
Reasons for Memory Loss, Dementia, Alzheimer’s
Reasons of memory loss could be many – a head injury, trauma, excessive stress that destroys some cells or a sickness that affected the brain. In this post, I am talking about loss of memory that happens in the course of time, where age is generally blamed due to ignorance and where all the above reasons have been ruled out. That’s the kind of memory loss that most of us or most of the next generation- the Millennials, are most likely to suffer. How can you avoid it?
My reading into the subject was enlightening. Doing the following things can actually delay the process of memory loss and even improve your memory with age. You don’t want to wake up one morning wondering who the person in the mirror is or where you are or who the people around you are. Well, like I said earlier, if you are not exercising your brain, making it retrieve information, then you need to start.
Mental Health is as important as Physical Health.
While there is a trend of people wanting to get fit and investing on club memberships, aerobic classes, health food, all of which are important to mental health as well; people are yet to realize the necessity of exercising the brain. Most people think that it’s not going to affect them, there’s no way they are going to go down that path because of their IQ, their careers, because nobody in the family has it. But the truth is the changes in the current environment, the changes in lifestyle, the over-dependency on technology, the lack of socializing are factors that contribute to memory decline.
Take Control of Your Brain Now
- Challenge your brain by playing games that require you to focus and think: Play card games, chess, bridge, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, online games like Lumosity.com and Brain HQ that challenge your brain, make it think. Do Math! Calculate without a calculator.
- Exercise: Research has shown a walk or a 30-minute workout on a daily basis helps the nerve cells in the brain to multiply and also help in releasing proteins that promote cognitive health.
- Read books: With the excessive use of gadgets, the average human is unable to focus on anything for a long period of time. No wonder shorter posts do better than longer posts. No wonder pictures or photographs get hundred times more likes than written posts. No wonder reading a book takes a much longer time these days than it did in the past. Read any genre. It’s not to test your IQ. It’s to help you focus. It’s not because you’re are busy as you’d like to believe but because you lack the patience required to read and because “scrolling” has become the norm. Our brains have got habituated to switching channels, moving from one website to another for information that we’ve lost the ability to read at length.
- Have brain food: The good news is that food good for your body is also good for your brain. So if you are already taking care to ensure you have a healthy diet, then that’s great. Food rich in Omega- 3 fats such as salmon, sardines are good. Antioxidants such as curry leaves, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and walnuts. Good fats such as virgin coconut oil or olive oil can work wonders. Have green tea, bitter chocolate, keep alcohol consumption in check and eats loads of fruits and vegetables. Have food good for your gut It’s all about “GUTS”!
- Stop Multi-tasking: You don’t believe it because you are known for being the Super Multi-Tasker. Sounds crazy? That’s what people know you for. That’s what you know yourself for and it makes you so proud of yourself. I have news for you. You’re at a greater risk of dementia than somebody who doesn’t. Life is fast-paced and you think you are smart because you are doing so many things at the same time. That’s a myth. Slow down. Focus on the task at hand and save your brain from chaos. It’s not your brain that’s managing. It’s you. You’ve turned into a robot.
- Meditate: You don’t have the time to. You think it’s only for yogis. Wake Up! Spending a few minutes in the morning or in the evening and silencing the chaos within, being thankful for all that you’ve been blessed with, will help you practice mindfulness and save your brain from a slow, sure death. Keep stress under check.
- Sleep: The adult brain needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep to restore itself. Note, getting adequate sleep is also important if you want to stay physically fit and have glowing skin. Avoid all screens (mobiles, television, tablets, laptop 1 hour before you go to bed. So choose whichever reason encourages you to stay in bed for 7 to 9 hours; your brain will thank you for it.
- Master a new skill/ Learn something new: Could be a sport that you’ve loved to play but didn’t have the time or the money to invest in or an instrument or a hobby like photography, painting, baking, writing. Whatever it is, don’t do it half-hearted. Give it your best. Push your brain to learn it just like you did when you wanted something really bad. We are not talking about you competing or displaying your skills to the world. We are talking about pushing yourself outside the comfort zone to exercise your brain. Learn to recite your favorite poem, quote, passage.
- Fasting: Ok, this came as a shocker to me. I had no idea that intermittent fasting i.e. fasting for a day could actually help you improve your memory. Research shows it does because it reduces your calorie intake, helps the body use the fat stored in your body instead of sugar which in turn helps brain growth and connectivity.
- Socialize: By this I don’t mean the online friends but “real” friends. Make time for friends, share a laugh. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Keep away from negativity. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Spend time with children.
- Dial numbers rather than using the contact list 🙂 (my own little tip): Start with a few numbers like family numbers, close friends, important office numbers. Why should you when you can just use the contact list? For starters, because one day, you may not remember how to access the contact list!
Brain health is far more important if not equally important as physical health. Not to remember oneself is frightening for the individual and devastating for the family. Forgetting is joked about in the beginning and makes people laugh but it’s anything but funny. It can affect anybody and it’s better to do something about it rather than regret it in the future.
I belong to the eighties and started using these high-tech gadgets in the late-nineties unlike the current generation. I can only imagine and lament on the state of this generation where parents hand children with gadgets as soon as they are able to move their hands as a way to distract them or because they believe the earlier the better (who knows if he turns into the next Steve Jobs?).
With head-phones stuck in their ears all the time, glued to the lap-top 12 hours in a day because of the current education system (projects, homework all to be done online), interaction with friends through social media and video games for entertainment, I am not sure on the impact of the electrical impulses and radiation on their minds but I do know that the over-dependency of this generation on gadgets may result in the creation of robots that are incapable of thinking and feeling. So parents reading this post, please be aware and make exercising the brain a part of your child’s daily ritual. We live in a high-tech world and cannot escape from technology but we can show our children ways to save themselves from being victims of this development.
I hope you found the post useful and start taking care of your brain. If you are aware on any other brain boosters, do share it in the comments section below. It’ll definitely help all those who read this blog.
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