Memory seems ephemeral, but it’s really a combination of health and skill that you can maintain like your weight or your golf swing. You can protect your memory against aging, or in some cases slow the effects of memory-related conditions as they occur with a few simple tips:
- Psychologist Richard Restak suggests that activities like learning a new language or to play bridge can encourage the brain to actually grow new connections. Think of that old adage from physical fitness, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Memory function works the same way.
- Not only can you learn new things, you can practice special skills to help you remember the things you already know. Try strategies like mnemonics to remember information. For example, the mnemonic “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain” stands for the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet colors in the rainbow.
- Feed your mind. The same nutrition advice that is good for your body is good for your mind, as well. Make sure to get plenty of lean protein and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals. Avoid salty processed foods, even though they seem convenient. Reduce fats and carbohydrates. Whether it’s your muscles or brain tissue, your body needs the best possible building blocks to stay at its peak.
- Don’t stop moving. It’s tempting as we age and some physical activities get more difficult or health problems slow us down to get more sedentary. However, the human body needs some physical activity to be at its best. Exercise builds new muscle, flushes out toxins, keeps your blood and lymphatic systems circulating, and increases oxygen flow all over your body. That’s as good for your brain as it is for the rest of you.
- Have a system. Keep a calendar and to-do list handy, whether in a paper planner or electronically. Set alarms on your cell phone for regular events, like taking pills or appointments. Often anticipating a reminder can help you not need one in the first place, and the act of planning ahead can help you remember what’s upcoming.
Our memories seem mysterious and insubstantial, but they can in fact be exercised and learned. Like many of the other skills we learn throughout our lives, we can have a huge impact on how well we practice the art of remembering.