A weekly feature for Lumby, Cherryville, and area seniors. For more information about any of the following please contact Colleen or Jenny at (250) 547-8866 Whitevalley Community Resource Centre Office (250) 547-8866, Saddle Mountain Drop In (778) 930-0509. Funding support provided by the Province of British Columbia (Community Gaming), Interior Health and United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap.
Wondering if it’s possible to boost your memory? Even without some “miracle” overhyped magic cure?
It is possible, and many of the actions you can start today-without spending tons of money.
Everybody wants to retain their memory. After all, memories form a major part of who we are. When we lose them, we feel like we lose pieces of ourselves. Plus, having a good memory serves all kinds of practical functions in our daily lives. Every single day, your memory helps you accomplish both basic and complex tasks. So it’s vital to keep your brain as healthy and fit as possible.
Older adults who take proactive steps to prevent memory loss are often more adaptable, independent, and satisfied during their senior years.
Use the method of Loki and other practical tricks
Here’s how it works: First, you choose a physical place that’s very familiar to you, such as your house, a local walking path, or a regular driving route. Then, you visualize that place in your mind, creating a precise mental journey based on distinct objects or landmarks. You’ll creatively associate each piece of information you want to remember with a particular object or landmark that’s part of your mental journey or memory palace. As a very basic example, let’s say you want to remember a three-item grocery list—consisting of shoelaces, salsa, and strawberry yogurt—based on a memory palace of your house. You might imagine:
- Walking up to your front door, wiping your shoes on the welcome mat, and noticing that your laces are untied and on fire. Entering your kitchen, opening the refrigerator door, and watching a pair of miniature Latin lovers dance to salsa music.
Going to your bathroom and witnessing your best friend bathe in a tub of pink yogurt.
When you’re at the store, you’ll simply take that same mental journey, beginning at your front door. For many people, it helps to visualize bizarre or outlandish scenarios like those above. Let your imagination run wild.
In addition to visualization, many seniors have success with other easy and practical memory-enhancing methods. Here are some examples:
- Chunking: When trying to memorize a long sequence of numbers or a long list of words or items, break them down into smaller groupings (just as you do for phone numbers or your Social Security number). In some cases, it also helps to group items by category, bundling them into easier-to-manage chunks of information.
- Acrostics and acronyms: Create a short poem out of a word or sequence of letters that you need to remember. For instance, when learning how to classically tune the six strings of a guitar to E, A, D, G, B, and E, many people are taught to remember the acrostic “Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually.” Acronyms serve a similar purpose. For example, geography students are often taught to use the acronym “HOMES” in order to remember the five Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior).
- Planning and organization: Keep a notebook or day planner handy that has a calendar and plenty of space for writing down your various activities and appointments. At the beginning of each week, create a list of things you’ll be doing in the days ahead. Then, each day, make a detailed to-do list. It’s also helpful to review everything at the end of each day, writing down your thoughts about the various experiences and conversations you had. Your planner or notebook is also a good place to keep important information like birthdays, phone numbers, and anything else you may need to know on an ongoing basis. If you’re comfortable with technology, a smartphone or digital tablet can serve as your planner.
- Talking out loud: Just like writing stuff down helps your brain put information into long-term memory, so does talking about it. So, for example, if you want to remember something you’re reading, try saying it aloud. If you want to avoid forgetting why you’ve entered a certain room, tell yourself where you’re going—and why—while on the way there. Or to remember more complex information, try explaining it to someone else.
- Varied repetition: When learning new information and trying to retain it for later use, it’s helpful to review it multiple times—over time—in different ways. For instance, one day, you might take notes about something. A couple days later, you might read your notes out loud. Then, a day or so after that, you might paraphrase what you’ve learned while talking to someone else.
- Cues and reminders: Give yourself visual or auditory prompts to help you remember the things you need to do. From post-it notes to alarms, it’s easy to set up simple reminders. Just make sure you place them in the areas where you’re most likely to see or hear them. Also, do your best to leave important objects in prominent locations that are related to the tasks you have to do.
- Doodling: Did you know that drawing “absentmindedly” may actually be good for your powers of attention and recall? According to an article in Applied Cognitive Psychology, whether you’re listening to someone talk or learning something new, making doodles may help your brain stay alert, connect various pieces of information, and retain that information for later use.
Consider a dietary change and monitor your sleep
A quality night’s sleep is essential in the consolidation of our memories. So try your hardest to focus on getting good quality sleep.When it comes to protecting your memory, many experts also recommend drinking plenty of water and minimizing your consumption of fried foods, red meat, refined sugars, and heavily processed foods as much as possible. Having no more than one glass of red wine per day may also help. Here are a few other specific examples of foods that may provide memory or cognitive benefits:
- Cherries, blackberries, and blueberries
- Kale, spinach, and other dark leafy greens
- Coffee (in moderation)
- Dark chocolate (with at least 60-percent cocoa)
- Almonds and walnuts
- Pumpkin seeds
Take Time to Do Absolutely Nothing
Do you ever just let your mind wander freely, without consciously trying to think about anything in particular? This kind of wakeful rest can have a positive effect on your memory, especially if it occurs after a period of learning. By taking at least 10 or 15 minutes to avoid any kind of activity or deliberate mental effort, your mind can more efficiently consolidate the information you learned and store it in your long-term memory. It’s similar to what happens when you sleep. The key is to get this mental recharge in a quiet place without distractions or interruptions.