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Want To Improve Your Memory? Have A Busy Schedule!

Want To Improve Your Memory? Have A Busy Schedule!

Our lives are overfilled with things to do. And the more driven, ambitious, and connected we are, the busier we stay.

We are bombarded with messages to “unplug,” get away, take a break, slow down, and engage in “me” time. While these things are absolutely necessary and essential to our mental wellbeing, busyness does have its benefits.

Researchers have found that staying busy improves mental processing and reasoning skills, helps improve memory — both long and short term — and improves overall mental functioning.

Busy people have sharper minds and better memories, plain and simple.

In a study conducted by researchers in Texas and Alabama, 330 healthy men and women ranging from age 50 to 80 were quizzed about their daily schedules and put through a battery of mental tests.

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The results showed that no matter how old they were or how well educated, a busy lifestyle was linked to a healthy brain.

In this particular study, researchers began with the hypothesis “that a busy schedule would be a proxy for an engaged lifestyle and would facilitate cognition.” They were able to determine that greater busyness was associated with better processing speed, working memory, episodic memory, reasoning, and crystallized knowledge.

busy schedule

    How does staying busy improve memory?

    The brain, like any other muscle, needs exercise. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities is mental exercise. Scientists believe that the amount and types of stimulation directly affects cognitive processes — especially in the area of memory improvement.

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    Some of the mental processes involved in having a hectic schedule are:

    • Multi-tasking
    • Problem solving
    • Reasoning
    • Analyzing
    • Interruption and re-engagement of thought
    • Planning
    • Strategizing
    • Linear thinking
    • Global thinking
    • Computation

    Researcher Dr. Sarah Festini of the University of Texas at Dallas said, “We show that people who report greater levels of daily busyness tend to have better cognition, especially with regard to memory for recently learned information.”

    Busyness improves episodic memory — the ability to recall specific events and working memory — which is the part of short-term memory concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing.

    The study reported a surprising correlation: the busier the individual, the higher he or she seemed to score on the cognitive tests. It’s possible, the researchers hypothesized, that the daily workout of completing task after task is building our brains up and improving mental skills.

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    The performance gap between the busy and the free was even more pronounced among older participants.

    Before you run out and overfill your schedule with random activities, consider this:

    The results of this study are one-sided, and therefore not entirely conclusive.

    Keep in mind the study only examined how mental engagement works to improve memory and mental cognition. It did not study the negative effects of a harried and mentally taxing lifestyle. Having a crammed mind does not automatically equal a sharper one.

    “In our fast-paced, wired world, many of us live our lives in chronic stress,” says Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program. That means our brains are being perpetually bathed in stress hormones like cortisol.

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    The result?

    Studies done in mice show that chronically elevated stress hormone levels shrink the hippocampus, so while your memory may be improving, you’re less likely to form new memories.

    Even though the research does prove that staying busy helps keep the brain honed, a hurried life could carry less positive consequences for our hearts and metabolisms.

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    Busyness responsibly

      Using busyness responsibly:

      For those who may have some additional mental bandwidth and room in their schedules for another activity, try to engage in tasks that will improve memory and your overall brain function, such as:

      • Take a class — nothing too stressful but be sure it is something that genuinely interests you.
      • DIY projects — these are fun and challenge your brain in different ways.
      • Learn a new skill — any activities where your brain is engaged in the learning process will stimulate and improve all cognitive processes.
      • Try something new and different — such as resturants, recipes, activities, routes home, or grocery stores.
      • Plan an event from start to finish.
      • Work out — physical exercise is scientfically proven to be just as beneficial as mental exercise.
      • Volunteer — spend your time engaging in an activity that you connect with. This will improve your mind, body, and soul.

      Featured photo credit: Mickey970 via pixabay.com

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      Last Updated on June 1, 2021

      7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

      7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

      “Busy” used to be a fair description of the typical schedule. More and more, though, “busy” simply doesn’t cut it.

      “Busy” has been replaced with “too busy”, “far too busy”, or “absolutely buried.” It’s true that being productive often means being busy…but it’s only true up to a point.

      As you likely know from personal experience, you can become so busy that you reach a tipping point…a point where your life tips over and falls apart because you can no longer withstand the weight of your commitments.

      Once you’ve reached that point, it becomes fairly obvious that you’ve over-committed yourself.

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      The trick, though, is to recognize the signs of “too busy” before you reach that tipping point. A little self-assessment and some proactive schedule-thinning can prevent you from having that meltdown.

      To help you in that self-assessment, here are 7 signs that you’re way too busy:

      1. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Took a Day Off

      Occasional periods of rest are not unproductive, they are essential to productivity. Extended periods of non-stop activity result in fatigue, and fatigue results in lower-quality output. As Sydney J. Harris once said,

      “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

      2. Those Closest to You Have Stopped Asking for Your Time

      Why? They simply know that you have no time to give them. Your loved ones will be persistent for a long time, but once you reach the point where they’ve stopped asking, you’ve reached a dangerous level of busy.

      3. Activities like Eating Are Always Done in Tandem with Other Tasks

      If you constantly find yourself using meal times, car rides, etc. as times to catch up on emails, phone calls, or calendar readjustments, it’s time to lighten the load.

      It’s one thing to use your time efficiently. It’s a whole different ballgame, though, when you have so little time that you can’t even focus on feeding yourself.

      4. You’re Consistently More Tired When You Get up in the Morning Than You Are When You Go to Bed

      One of the surest signs of an overloaded schedule is morning fatigue. This is a good indication that you’ve not rested well during the night, which is a good sign that you’ve got way too much on your mind.

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      If you’ve got so much to do that you can’t even shut your mind down when you’re laying in bed, you’re too busy.

      5. The Most Exercise You Get Is Sprinting from One Commitment to the Next

      It’s proven that exercise promotes healthy lives. If you don’t care about that, that’s one thing. If you’d like to exercise, though, but you just don’t have time for it, you’re too busy.

      If the closest thing you get to exercise is running from your office to your car because you’re late for your ninth appointment of the day, it’s time to slow down.

      Try these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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      6. You Dread Getting up in the Morning

      If your days are so crammed full that you literally dread even starting them, you’re too busy. A new day should hold at least a small level of refreshment and excitement. Scale back until you find that place again.

      7. “Survival Mode” Is Your Only Mode

      If you can’t remember what it feels like to be ahead of schedule, or at least “caught up”, you’re too busy.

      So, How To Get out of Busyness?

      Take a look at this video:

      And these articles to help you get unstuck:

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      Featured photo credit: Khara Woods via unsplash.com

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