Human memory is unpredictable: many of us still remember the words to the 1996 song “Wannabe” performed by the legendary Spice Girls, but forget to remove the laundry from the washing machine before leaving the apartment. Perhaps one of the reasons for universal forgetfulness is the modern rhythm of life with an endless flow of information and a total course towards multitasking. When you need to keep a dozen passwords in your memory and remember who and why you have to write an email, send a message to Facebook, or call on WhatsApp, sooner or later you can find yourself looking for your own glasses while they calmly sit on the nose. On the other hand, the imperfection of our memory becomes more noticeable precisely because in the modern world it has more and more challenges and, accordingly, chances for failure.
Get enough sleep
About why healthy sleep is a guarantee of a sharp mind and a good memory. While we sleep, the brain is cleared of potentially harmful excess of “ballast” substances, processes a lot of information, and, most importantly, is engaged in the construction of new cells and connections between them. This process, called neuroplasticity, is responsible for motor functions, stimulates learning, and regulates memory, and lack of sleep weakens these important brain functions: the effect of lack of sleep on the brain is similar to jetlag or alcohol intoxication. From smart nightlights to dedicated sleep apps, modern gadgets can help you improve your sleep and wake cycles.
Do not panic
During an exciting interview, the name of an important project that was missing from your resume flew out of your head? Convulsive attempts to remember here and now will most likely lead nowhere, but in the evening, after peeling potatoes, the unfortunate word will suddenly pop up in my memory, but since the spoon is dear to dinner, there is no additional plus sign from the employer. Panic and anxiety distract even more and postpone the chance to remember the important thing: cortisol spares neither operative nor long-term memory. Deep breaths and abstract thoughts will help break the vicious circle: perhaps this way the lost word will return faster.
Train your memory
If you want to be healthy and remember everything, don’t be afraid of fat. Between 50 and 60% of the brain’s weight is pure fat, which is used to isolate billions of nerve cells. Foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids – from fish to walnuts to avocados – are important for maintaining long-term memory. A balanced diet in general affects the ability to remember and reproduce information. Doctors recommend not skipping breakfast and, if possible, introducing proteins into it: they trigger the active production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the processes of assimilation of information through a sense of satisfaction.
Go in for sports
Another commonplace that many of us often do not get our hands on (as well as legs and other parts of the body that will not hurt to strengthen). Physical activity helps the brain perform at optimal performance. During exercise, nerve cells produce important proteins, one of which, a neurotrophic factor, stimulates the production of substances that are responsible for the health of neurons and the maintenance of cognitive functions, including effective memory. Studies have shown that in people who played relatively regularly in sports, the hippocampus (the so-called memory center) increased on average from 1 to 2% per year – this despite the fact that the hippocampus, as a rule, gradually decreases in size (sometimes this is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease ).
Deal with stress
When we are in nervous tension, in this very “memory center” the level of cortisol rises, which can interfere with the processing and reproduction of information and in the long term threatens with serious consequences. Taking care of your own cognitive abilities is another reason to deal with accumulated stress or depression: meditation helps some, others choose sports or change inactivity, and for some, internal dialogue or the help of a psychoanalyst is the way out.
It takes the brain about 8 seconds to identify information in the “memory compartment”. So, if you are on the phone and unload packages with groceries while trying to get rid of the keys that take up your hands, you will still get rid of them – safely forgetting where exactly they were left. Constant multitasking on the verge of frustration and chasing items on endless to-do lists often leads to stress, and this, as it turns out, is a serious blow to memory. In the matter of multitasking, it is useful to take note of the philosophy of slow life: at work, if possible, perform tasks one by one, with short breaks, and build your leisure time based on a pace that is comfortable for you.
Train your brain
Activities that can make the brain “tense up” and work in an unusual direction, generate new cells in the hippocampus. You can solve puzzles, learn to play a new musical instrument, learn a foreign language, recite poems, or take online memory tests – whatever you choose, in the future, such a cognitive reserve can protect against memory loss and even dementia. Special applications for brain fitness will also help stimulate neuroplasticity (we talked about them in the material on the benefits of meditation). In general, the main thing is to keep the brain in good shape – although it is not a muscle, it also needs training for productive work.