Where would we be in our personal and business lives without our memory? It is essential to a productive and fulfilling life. How can you successfully pursue your passionate purpose without it?
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Like many people, I appreciate my memory and cognitive functions. My father-in-law lived to age 99 with an excellent ability to think and remember, even though his hearing was impaired. He played online bridge and handled his investments. What a great role model. Yet, others are not so fortunate. My good friend Anita, always sharp, developed early Alzheimer’s disease after antibiotics she took to overcome a serious infection impacted her hearing. The loss of hearing, in her case and in many others, hurt her cognitive functions. So I work to strengthen my memory. You should too.
What Is Memory?
“Memory is our ability to encode, store, retain and subsequently recall information and past experiences in the human brain. Memory is the sum total of what we remember and gives us the capability to learn and adapt from previous experiences as well as to build relationships.”
Practical Pointers for a Better Memory
• Pursue purpose — I am a believer in the power of passionate purpose. Here’s another reason to add it to your life. “Those with a strong sense of purpose did tend to score higher on tests of memory and thinking. These findings suggest that purpose in life protects against the harmful effects of plaques and tangles on memory and other thinking abilities,” observed Patricia Boyle, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, which appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry. “This is encouraging and suggests that engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities promotes cognitive health in old age.”
• Pay attention — We must be aware of what we experience and encode it in our brain in order to later recollect and remember. Decrease distractions.
• Move — Movement is a vehicle to involve more of your body in inward and outward exploration. Increase physical exercise and movement to stimulate oxygen flow. “Dancing improves brain function and boosts memory. Several studies have shown that dancing is linked to a reduced risk of dementia.”
• Meditate — Meditation involves observing what is and then accepting it. Mindfulness meditation weaves together two basic concepts to produce a remarkable end product. The first is mindfulness, being extremely attentive to ordinary sensory experience. The second concept is equanimity, which means letting the sense gates flow without resistance. Shinzen Young, mindfulness meditation teacher, pinpointed the value of this technique as, “Subtle is significant.” A study in Consciousness and Cognition revealed that participants who meditated for 20 minutes for four days showed lowered stress levels as well as significant improvements in memory and cognition. Those who meditated also scored as much as 10 times better on a working memory task.
• Sleep — Get enough, good quality sleep. For example, seven to nine hours of sleep support the process of stabilizing memory. Sleep also reduces stress, improves the immune system, and allows the brain and body to rest. Before bed think of what you want to remember from the day.
• Use joy conditioning — Remember the most joyful memories in your life. Bring back experiences that give hope. Foster a richer, inner world. Go to your photo albums for a start.
• Train your brain — Games that challenge your brain may help you strengthen your memory and may even reduce the risk of dementia. Do a crossword puzzle, try your hand at cards, build your vocabulary, and have fun with a jigsaw puzzle.
• Learn — Embrace life-long learning. Learn all that you can. Take in information from everyone and everything. Next, process that information in some way by organizing, sorting, categorizing, studying, analyzing, questioning, and talking to others. Then decide to store, use, ignore, further process, or discard it. Play chess, learn to play an instrument, or try a new language.
• Eat right — Studies have shown that diet impacts memory. Reduce sugar, alcohol, and carbohydrates. Increase anti-oxidants, fish and fish oil, Vitamin D and consider adding curcumin and some cocoa to your diet.
Build a better memory. How? Pursue purpose, pay attention, move, meditate, sleep, use joy conditioning, train your brain, learn, and eat right. The result is a more productive work and personal life.
Theresa M. Szczurek, Ph.D., is a C-level executive, corporate director and Colorado CIO of the Year. She is a technology entrepreneur and former chief information officer for the state of Colorado. www.TMSworld.com