Now and again, we need to remember what groceries we left our house to buy, the name of a trainer at our gym, or where we put our car keys. There is nothing strange about it. It is something that occasionally happens to everyone. But memory loss is not something anyone should take lightly, and science tells us that retaining data becomes more difficult with advancing age. According to peer-reviewed research, our ability to remember new information hits a peak in our twenties, and this skill experiences a noticeable decline post-fifty.
The hippocampus keeps producing new neurons into adulthood, which plays a vital role in learning and memory. Yet, the activity in the dentate gyrus, the region of the brain essential for memory encoding, slows down as the decades go by.
Though, a clear distinction between forgetfulness and memory loss should be made. Concerning the latter, signs include asking the same question several times in a row, needing help following directions, needing clarification about people you know, and needing help in familiar places. If one experiences these symptoms, that may point to early dementia or some other type of dramatic cognitive decline. Note that minor decreases in one’s cognitive functions are something that no one can escape. Because as we age, stem cells in the brain lose their function to produce neurons. And these organs begin to not operate at their previous capacity. To keep the mind fresh, here are a few things anyone can try to remove the mental effects aging has on our bodies.
Learn a Language
A Swedish study tried to show the positives of learning a new language. At its conclusion, ran MRI scans displayed that study participants had increases in various parts of their brains when attempting to master a novel tongue. Those who did not engage in this pursuit also had their brains scanned. They saw no growth in parts of the brain like the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus. Even before this research went public, it was well-documented that studying a language engages memorization skills. And people who speak a second language almost always do better on memory tests than monolingual individuals.
Working on various puzzles reinforces links between brain cells, improving short-term memory and mental speed. It also increases dopamine production, which boosts concentration and regulates mood. Riddles, word searching, crossword puzzles, and solving different logical problems help people hone their analytical and critical thinking skills. Moreover, multiple studies show that jigsaw puzzles can improve visual-spatial reasoning and quality of remembrance.
Card counting is a simple activity that revolves around keeping a mental tally of the cards dealt at blackjack tables. It is a process that gets facilitated through various systems such as the Hi-Lo one or the Zen Count. It is a terrific mental exercise that can enhance memory and help those that master it gain an edge over casino operators at twenty-one betting entertainment.
Per a Consciousness and Cognition study from 2010, conducted by professors from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, the University of North Carolina, and William Paterson University, meditating daily for twenty minutes can prompt cognition and memory improvements. Another research from UC Santa Barbara found that if individuals try mindful meditation for as little as two weeks, that can lead to improving one’s ability to focus and working memory capacity. Therefore, there is no doubt that meditation can help people remember better.
Try Spaced Repetition
For the uninformed, this is a learning approach that often gets performed with flashcards, applied when a learner must mentally acquire many things/items and retain them indefinitely in memory. It is a powerful technique for holding on to information that rarely gets practiced in most parts of the globe but is tremendously effective and well worth everyone’s time. Linguist Gabriel Wyner promotes it as his go-to method for learning a new language, claiming that with thirty-minute sessions daily, students can retain info from 3,600 flashcards with a 90% to 95% degree of accuracy.
Write Creatively by Hand
Interestingly, several papers illustrate the importance of writing by hand, as this method often correlates more strongly with improved memory than writing using a mechanical/electronic device. In 2014, a Mangen and Verlay study demonstrated that writing by hand more successfully relays feedback to one’s mind, assisting it better with information recall and conceptual learning. Decades before this research got published, brain scientists knew that writing was an essential teaching tool. They were aware that it helps create a deeper engagement with the studied subject matter by facilitating careful reasoning, creativity, reflection, evaluation, and analysis. Research also suggests that writing has some measurable influence on creativity, and the more one does it, the more one’s brain develops an ability to think differently.