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Can Short Term Memory Be Boosted? Yes, If You Know How.

Can Short Term Memory Be Boosted? Yes, If You Know How.

Short Term Memory is the medical term to define active memory, meaning the information we are aware we are thinking about. Sources for acquiring short-term memory are mostly sensorial, as what can be hearing, smells or sight.

Examples of short term memory:

• Remembering a phone number we recently read

• Distinguishing between perfumes aromas

• Recalling a concept explained during a debate

• Remembering where you placed an object

However, short term memory is highly susceptible to interference. There are a certain number of factors that can reduce our capability of retaining information in our short term memory:

• Stress

• Medical conditions as Alzheimer’s Disease

• Audiovisual interferences (television, radio)

• Needing to focus our attention someplace else

Therefore, short term memory is also our operative memory to compel the tasks acquired in daily life. When negative factors undermine our capability of retaining information, it is time to consider what can be done to boost it, the sooner, the better.

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How does short term memory loss affect your lifestyle

Putting aside complex medical conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, more likely we have been subject of temporary short-term memory performance struggles at a certain point in our lives.

Using, for example, a common day in the life of a bank employee, we can understand the magnitude of suffering from this condition by imagining the amount of numbers and names that a person working in this profession needs to store over a single day. From your client inquiries to helping co-workers or doing tasks assigned by your manager, people will likely consider unfit to perform the job you are entitled to if you need to ask every 1 or 2 minutes the information you were given.

Of course “camouflage methods” can be used to mask this condition, such as writing down data in post-its, which nobody will consider a sin, or keep important information on your agenda. Reality tells that as soon as you become aware of this condition, the stress it produces is likely to enhance the problem rather than helping to find a solution in short-term unless professional help is sought.

Symptoms of short term memory loss

Unfortunately for most people, memory loss conditions are often addressed after the illness is at a very advanced stage, but is there a way to spot the condition beforehand?

Common symptoms associated with short-term memory loss are:

Cognitive Decline: A condition usually shared with Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and many other mental issues, it becomes progressively impairing, which often causes an enormous amount of frustration to the person who starts to address what’s happening. Daily routines tend to get mixed up as people may forget to take medications, pay bills or attend events.

Behavioural Changes: As a consequence of the cognitive decline, people become extremely susceptible of what others do, especially if, by chance, they mention the forgetfulness factor during chit-chat. What’s known as living on-edge is a precise way to define how a person struggling with short term memory loss is experiencing during that time.

Repetitiveness: By not acknowledging how the conversation is occurring, people suffering from memory loss conditions can fall under repetitiveness when asking the same questions over and over. Recent conversations can be forgotten, thus leading to repeat the same anecdotes to those around us. That’s the main reason why people who have friends or family members suffering from this condition are told to have a good amount of patience for not adding extra stress to the patient’s life.

Why does short memory loss happen

Science tells short term memory loss is mostly a multi-factor condition, though certain events can trigger an underlying condition to impair a person momentarily. This sole statement can be the reason why post-traumatic stress disorder3 becomes such a cliché when comes to TV series that touch the memory span loss topic as a crucial part to tell a story.

Besides emotional conditions like experiencing traumatic events as car accidents, the death of someone we cared about or acute stress conditions, there are other elements to consider when searching for the cause of short term memory loss:

• Depression

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• Cancer

• Brain Tumors

• Dementia

• Diabetes

• Head Trauma

• HIV/AIDS

• Malnutrition

• Menopause

• Hypothyroidism

• Meningitis

• Nutritional deficiencies

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• Parkinson’s Disease

• Sleep Disorders

• Syphilis

• Toxin exposure

Substance abuse – alcohol and drugs deadly mixes – are a common cause for producing memory impairment4, which, unfortunately, is usually seen in young people after heavy partying; however, some drugs to treat conditions lead to temporary memory issues as a side effect.

How to boost your short term memory

There are many reasons why somebody would seek for a way to boost their current short term memory capabilities: either to mask a worse condition among the people we care or because we need to put our skills to test under stressful situations like business meetings, moving around airports, doing presentations, etc. So, is there an effective method to boost short term memory?5 Consider the following statements as tips to improve this aspect of our life.

Start with a healthy brain lifestyle

We are what we eat, but not also that resumes what we need to focus if our aim is to change our lifestyle. Sleeping habits take an important role when talking about memory efficiency [1] since the brain doesn’t get enough time to rest when we get accustomed to sleeping less than 8 hours a day.

Stick to a healthy diet rich on “superfoods”6 like blueberries, oily fish, dark chocolate, garlic, broccoli, beetroot, almonds, etc. Reduce the processed and sugary foods like pastries as extra carbohydrates won’t add much value to your life. So next time you think of consuming Coke as a drink, why not switch to a cup of green tea?

You can also get help from appropriate brain supplements like ALCAR, Alpha GPC, Citicoline, Ginseng (the American one – Panax Ginseng) or Magnesium. But overall, what you need to consider is to engage in physical activity like 1 hour of daily walks and reducing stress from your life [2], it’s a brain cell killer!

Adapt mental exercises to your lifestyle

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There is a reason for mental stimulating games like puzzles, rubric cubes, chess or even math exercises, and the reason is you train your brain to cope with the following elements:

• Avoiding distractions (as short-term memory is extremely susceptive to it)

• Do one task at time (multitasking is just a myth that often hurts our brain)

• Increase concentration levels

If you don’t know how to play chess or you suck at maths, there are other ways to help your brain to keep fit. Video games have been taking the path of self-help for users, becoming much more than a time-taking entertainment, but also rehearsal always work: repeat aloud what you want to remember a certain amount of times and be sure it’s prone to stick.

Write down what you need to remember

The sole action of writing down either number of pieces of text helps the brain to process that information. This is the main reason why students are advised not to highlight their books like there is no tomorrow but to note down the concepts explained.

Take a break

Adding stress to your life is not only not going to help you to improve but is prone to worsen what you already are suffering from. Instead, whenever you feel exhausted or think you can’t cope with what’s in front of you, take a break from everything and seek the outside world. A walk from time to time benefits not only your health but also your mental abilities.

When everything else fails, there is coffee

Studies prove the benefits of caffeine on short-term memory and reaction times, which is considered the sole reason why nearly 80 percent of people start their daily routines with a cup of coffee.

Habit or not, drinking coffee will certainly put the couch potato mood aside and get us focused on working and processing information. Watch out! Don’t overdo your coffee dosage or consistently rely on energy beverages as increased anxiety, tachycardia and gastritis are among the most usual side effects of caffeine abuse.

Reference

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Liz Ryana

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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