Have you ever walked into a store only to completely forget the few items on your shopping list? What about failing to remember important tasks or misplacing things around the house? Forgetfulness is a huge pain to our fast-paced modern lifestyle, yet it is surprisingly common. So how can we improve our memory to reach our full potential each day? Read on to find out.
- Memory is the complex process of retaining information by our brains
- There are different types of memories, and intricate networks of neurons in our brains encode, store, and retrieve them
- Poor lifestyle choices, mood disorders, or more serious illnesses attributes to memory loss
- Ways to improve your memory include eating healthy foods, getting enough rest and exercise, taking care of your mental health, keeping your brain active, nurturing meaningful relationships, and practicing mindfulness and meditation.
What is memory?
Memory is the processing, storing, and retrieving of information by our brains. Neurons form the core of our brains and nervous systems, and they are responsible for storing data, experiences, and sensory input. Our memory affects our future actions and choices. It is also a huge part of forming our cognition, which is the very being of who we are.
What are the 3 types of memory?
In the broadest sense, there are three main types of memory: sensory memory lasts for less than one second, short-term memory lasts for less than one minute, and long-term memory may last for a lifetime. We can categorise long-term memory into several types, and here are some of the more crucial ones for us to understand.
Episodic memory is the conscious recollection of events and experiences which happened to us. This includes information such as time, place, or its associated emotions. Examples include snippets of your first day at kindergarten, a beach vacation with your family, or the day you got married.
As opposed to episodic memory which is largely personal and unique to each individual, semantic memory is the storage of universal facts accumulated throughout the years, such as words, numbers, or concepts. Examples include the capitals of different countries, the address of your best friend’s house, and the recipe for grandma’s mashed potatoes.
Procedural memory is subconscious and implicit. It is the part of our brain which enables us to perform certain tasks and functions, such as tying our shoelaces or driving. Muscle memory is a special type of procedural memory. We can acquire it by repeating an action over and over again so that our muscles retain and consolidate the motor movement for that task. This happens when we climb the stairs, play a musical instrument, or dance.
Photographic memory is the ability to recall information with vivid detail after a brief visual encounter with it. Although some claim to possess a photographic memory, such as Charles Darwin, there is no actual scientific proof that supports its existence. Nonetheless, photographic memory has been linked to people with high intelligence.
How are memories formed?
As mentioned before, neurons are the primary unit that stores information inside our brains. Sometimes, specific groups of neurons will be triggered and activated. When this happens, the data stored inside of them will be recalled to the forefront of our minds and into our thoughts.
The Three Main Stages of Memory
There are three main stages of memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding takes place when we convert the information we received through our five senses into data that our brains can retain. The next stage is storage, in which our brain holds data to be available for later use. The last stage is retrieval, where we can access and reactivate that same data when needed.
What parts of the brain are involved in memory?
Our brain is a powerhouse, and the formation of memories utilize different areas of our brain. The amygdala is very significant as it regulates associated emotions, such as fear, joy, or aggression. The hippocampus is involved in the retainment of episodic memory as well as spatial recognition and learning. The neocortex is responsible for higher functions such as processing our five senses, birthing creativity, and the forming of our conscious thought. We can associate the cerebellum with maintaining balance and posture as well as coordinating our body movements.
What causes memory loss?
Memory loss may be caused by a lack of vitamin B-12, alcoholism, head trauma, or emotional disorders such as anxiety or depression. It may also be the beginning of more serious illnesses, such as a brain tumor or dementia. All in all, we should not overlook memory loss but make easy lifestyle choices to help us improve our memory.
7 Actionable Ways to Improve Your Memory Today!
1. Eat Healthy Foods
One of the easiest ways to make sure your memory remains at its best is to eat healthy meals. Your brain thrives on good nutrients. Choose low-fat proteins, fruits, and vegetables over processed sugar or refined carbs. Turmeric, blueberries, and walnuts are just some of the examples of “brain foods” which can nourish the most complex organ in your body. Some people also choose to take fish oil supplements as our brains sure love its omega-3 fatty acids!
2. Value Your Rest
Rest is crucial to the restoration of our bodies. We need sufficient downtime to process all the information we take in during the day. During sleep, your body naturally removes toxins from your mind! Do not overwork it. Allow your brain to have the rest it needs for it to stay at its optimal shape.
3. Get Enough Exercise
Regular exercise can make sure that your blood oxygen levels and circulation are at their peak. Exercise produces endorphins, reduces inflammation, and stimulates the growth of new brain cells. A brisk walk in the park or some simple aerobics at home are some of the best ways to keep your mind clear and sharp.
4. Prioritize Your Mental and Emotional Health
Your overall physical condition hugely affects your mental and emotional wellness. Do not let stress or anxiety accumulate. Recognize when you might need someone to talk to, and do not hesitate to reach out to your support system when necessary. Your mental health is important for a strong and enduring mind.
5. Keep Your Brain Active
Think of your brain as muscles that need to be trained. Stay mentally active by reading, creating, playing a musical instrument, or acquiring a new skill. It is especially important to keep our minds busy even as we age.
6. Engage in Meaningful Relationships
No man is an island, and none of us should live alone. When you establish and nurture meaningful relationships in your life, your mental stamina also flourishes and grows stronger. Sometimes meeting up physically is not possible during the pandemic, and this is where technology comes in.
7. Meditate As a Lifestyle
Studies have proven that people who make meditation a part of their regular routine have overall better short-term memory. Practicing mindfulness heightens focus and helps filter out distractions when it comes time to tackle tasks and utilize the brain’s power to recall information.