Preserving Your Memory by Bill Storie
Let’s get one thing clear right from the start ….. your memory loss, as you’ve got older, is not unusual. There are millions of us just like you. Standing at the bottom of the stairs in your house wondering if you just came down, or are about to go up, is nothing to be over-concerned about. It happens to all of us. OK, so do you feel better now ?
Research indicates that our physical deterioration, while not warmly embraced, is nonetheless accepted as being a feature of getting older. However, we do tend to be more uptight about our memory loss, with fears of dementia and so forth being uppermost in our minds. So, once again, you are not alone with that feeling.
So, what to do about it…?
Clearly if there is some medical issue then it has to be recognized and cared for. But if you are otherwise healthy and memory loss is more of a nuisance than a problem there may be some things you can do to lessen the concern.
1. Mental games. Things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, adding up numbers (yes, even counting sheep), online quizzes etc are all excellent methods to keep the brain cells functioning. Making yourself think, sort things out, work things out are all exercises which keep the brain active.
2. Sleep is one of the easiest and most effective things to do in everyday life to keep you mentally alert. The notion that you can consistently deprive yourself of proper sleep e.g. “I only need 4 hours of sleep every night” is nonsense. If you genuinely can only sleep for a short time each night, then make sure you have an afternoon nap to recharges the batteries. Lack of sleep is a very common cause of slow minds.
3. Reading, writing. Making the mind think of old memories or new ideas or conjuring up images or stories in the mind, all of which to be able to write is very worthwhile for the brain. The more you read, the more you stimulate the brain. Let your mind wander aimlessly – it knows what it is doing, and where it is going. Whether you write a daily journal, or short stories, or even the long novel, all of that forces you to search the mind for the correct words.
4. Classes at college. Education got you to where you are today, so why stop here..? You probably are not needing an education boost to get that promotion, but that is no excuse to stop learning. Maybe there isn’t even a diploma in the target area either (if there is, even more reason to go for it), but the quest for more education is a very worthwhile exercise for the mind. It also gets you out of the house, meet new friends, get your hair done, show off that new jacket !!!
5. Exercise. Last week we discussed exercise and its physiological benefits. But the mental stimulation is equally important. By triggering all the pieces of the brain and body (endorphins and so forth), then the mental benefit of exercise can be enormous. As we said last week, you don’t need to run marathons, gentle exercise is sufficient, but do it for a week or two and see the effect it has on your state of mind. Then, don’t stop.
6. Meditation and Yoga. The benefits of meditation and yoga are legendary, and go back centuries. Giving your brain the opportunity to slow down, calm down, regroup, and recharge, through peaceful relaxation is invigorating. One of the primary functions is to de-stress the stressed mind. Stress can build up day over day and become one of the most damaging things we can allow to happen to ourselves. Many times stress is caused by external factors (health, family, finances, etc), some of which we just simply can’t control. However, if we let it build and build, without at least trying to relieve it, then we are not giving ourselves the chance to recover.
7. Surfing the Net. This may seem strange at first. However the ability to switch, at a click, from one “tab” to another, and thus force the brain to see different narrative or images, is a great mind exercise. The brain registers what the eye sees. One minute you are reading about a new report on aging, then next you are watching people ski down a mountainside, then you flip to watching a talent show with children singing. And on and on it goes. The stimulus for the brain is unparalleled.
8. Social Media. Being part of a Facebook Group for example can be invigorating. Not only are you meeting new friends, but you are learning and finding out about things, or places, or people you never imagined existed. And then when you start posting notes yourself you have to really work out if other members will like it – makes you think. The more you post the more you have to think. Sitting alone at home doing nothing can be draining. But if you can’t get out of the house due to illness or bad weather etc, then being active in the social media world is a first class outlet for you.
9. No TV. Many people will disagree with this. And there’s no doubt that we all watch it and learn from watching TV, or are just entertained. But as a means of mind exercise it is way down the list. Basically the TV sends you its message and you simply have to take it without having to think too much about it. The only decision you have to make is which channel to watch, or whether to switch it off completely.
So there you are.
Hopefully some thoughts will trigger your mind to trigger itself. Staying mentally alert is critical to your over well-being and happiness. It is NOT something to avoid or ignore…. it is something you CAN do something about.
Good brain-training !!!!
By Bill Storie