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Forget Things Easily? Try These 4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Memory

Forget Things Easily? Try These 4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Memory

When it comes to memory loss, we tend to associate it with the elderly and a slow decline as we get older. But new studies are showing that problems with memory are actually prevalent in much younger people. Certain lifestyle factors are major contributors to losing our memory and can hit us as young as our 20s. [1]

Depression, a lower education level, being physically inactive, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking were contributing factors in the amount of memory loss a person can suffer, with depression being the biggest factor in all ages. Of course, our modern lifestyles can lead to increased stress that goes towards memory loss in our younger years but overall mental health is important to ward off those moments of forgetfulness.

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How Can I Sustain Or Improve My Memory?

1. Chunking Technique

Our short term memory is the most noticeable when it comes to memory loss. Most of us are able to hold around four to seven items in our short-term memory – try memorising a long shopping list and you may struggle past the seventh item. A way around this and improving your short-term memory, in the long run, is to create meaning to elicit memory improvement. For example, rearranging the first letter of each item to create a word or several words like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apples, radishes, fennel, ice cream, spaghetti, honey can be remembered as STARFISH.

Studies have shown people can go from remembering seven-digit sequences to eighty-digit sequences from using this technique. [2]

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2. Creativity And Association

Our imaginations are dying to be used so when it comes to memory, being creative with our effort to remember can go a long way. Creativity is driven by memory so activating your creative mind with remembering numbers, items and names can help immensely. So creating stories in a sequence, be it a journey you embark on where you meet people who represent items or numbers, allows you to make unique associations and makes it easier to remember. This is commonly called the story method and can help you remember chronological orders as well as sequences. [3]

For example, a study asked people to remember many groups of three different words such as ‘bike’, ‘dog’ and ‘street’. One group was asked to remember through repetition while another group was asked to form a story with each set of three words such as ‘a dog riding a bike down the street’. Those that created stories were able to recall the word combinations much better than the ones that relied on memory alone.

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3. Visual Cues

Most people remember images better than verbal or written information so associating items with pictures can create mental hooks that improve long and short term memory. Using visual cues causes the brain to focus which is what it needs to remember. Reviewing images you’ve associated with something also causes reinforcement within the brain that is needed for good memory skills.

Visual cues go towards reducing learning time, improves comprehension, enhances retrieval, and increases retention so it’s one of the most effective ways to improve your memory skills. [4]

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For example, if you’re learning a new language, some words may be so unfamiliar that it can be hard to recall them. However, you could find a similar sounding word in your own language and create a visual accordingly. For example, the Spanish word for ‘folder’ is ‘carpeta’ so you could imagine a folder laying on a carpet to help you remember the word.

4. Up Your Vitamin B12 Intake

If you feel your memory fails you sometimes or you’re constantly in a brain fog, then it could be down to a deficiency in vitamin B12. A deficiency can lead to a wide variety of mental disorders from depression to dementia, that’s why it’s important to keep your vitamin B12 intake topped up.

Taking a vitamin B complex supplements will quickly restore depleted levels in the body and making sure you eat foods rich in the vitamins like shellfish, liver, red meat, eggs and cheese will also help keep your memory at an optimum level.

Reference

[1] http://www.medicaldaily.com/memory-loss-young-adults-problem-too-depression-poor-education-and-physical-inactivity-increase-risk
[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mind-reviews-the-ravenous-brain-daniel-bor/
[3] https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTIM_01.htm
[4] http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1986-13677-001

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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