Remember that person you passed in the street yesterday?
I pass hundreds of people every day. I swept past them on pavements and stared at the backs of their heads in queues. There are countable times I’ve helped them for directions. But at the end of the day, all of them are just a presence, a constant annoyance and a minor detail. How could you be expected to remember one specific person, one solitary face amongst all those bodies and all those conversations?
The fact is you couldn’t.
The day would pass and all those souls would blend into one, form a canvas whose detail you just couldn’t focus on. Nobody would expect you to remember that one face, for it to stand out or stick in your mind. Nobody would expect you to wonder what was in that one person’s head, what troubled them or stirred them, what they were passionate about, what they loved or what drove them to tears, to breaking point. Nobody would expect you to care enough to be curious.
But we also have a chance to defy expectations. Here is a life, a face, a living and breathing soul. It looks different but in essence, it’s just like everyone of us. It has dreams, regrets, loves and loss. It has stories running in rich seams from its past, right through its present and into its future. And it’s here, right here, waiting for you.
We live lives that are busy, loud and hectic. They play out in an increasingly impersonal world; one where fear is easier to find than trust, where stranger danger stalks our streets as the sun sets ominously. Years ago we could fall asleep safely with doors unlocked. Today’s safety only comes when a lock is turned, a bolt is thrown; when shutters are drawn to keep the world out, to keep it at bay.
This door you see is unlocked, and it will swing open if you push it. The challenge is to come in, step inside and put a name to one of those many faces you pass, day in and day out. Question is, what for?
Sometimes we go into a room only to forget why. We forget words, names and what we were going to do but I have a theory that this is more to do with all the things we have to juggle as we get older than any brain deterioration. Friends, peers, jobs and life’s stresses all compete for our conscious and unconscious attention.
Last week, Louie and I read a book titled Brain Rules 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. It’s a powerful and helpful read, and I encourage everyone to read it as well.
Brain Rules talks about how the brain works, covering different areas such as exercise, sleep, stress, wiring of the brain, short and long-term memories, etc. These are the top tips I’ve uncovered to improve our brilliant brain’s memory, from the book and from everyday life.
How to Improve Your Memory (Brain Rules)
1. Get enough sleep.
Your brain, like everything else in the body, needs enough rest and sleep. When you’re tired creativity and problem-solving skills are low down on the brain’s list of priorities because it’s not functioning at its best and you’ll find your memory struggles, too. Get enough good quality sleep.
2. Get the right amount of exercise.
Body exercise is good for the brain as you take in more oxygen and stimulate the production of essential chemicals and hormones that the brain can use to process information. If that wasn’t reason enough to get outside for a walk or go dancing, exercise also reduces the risk of heart attacks, diabetes and obesity as we age.
3. Get enough love.
Humans are social animals. We don’t do well in isolation and need our friends and loved ones around us. The emotions, conversations, challenges, positive strokes and support we get from them stimulates the brain. Those with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory loss.
4. Get enough laughter.
Think of all your favorite laughter sources. A good belly laugh makes the whole body happy. Not only does it stimulate multiple areas of the brain but we get the release of feel-good hormones (endorphins).
5. Deal with stress.
During times of stress and depression, we release too much of the hormone cortisol which can destroy brain cells. So not only will quality of life be affected, but also memory when we’re under pressure.
Stress busting techniques include meditation, counseling, relaxation techniques, journal writing and talking your situation over with trusted friends. Do what works for you.
6. Get the right foods and nutrition.
The right brain food is essential for memory and the right diet can help improve it. Enough said.
7. Get enough brain exercise.
Do crossword and jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, complex board games and chess which are all good brain aerobics. The brain is like a muscle so “if you don’t use it you lose it.”
Exercises should be new, challenging and fun because these qualities all make the brain create new neural pathways that we talked about above. One fun exercise is one that is mentioned above. 😉
So to improve your memory, whatever your age, remember NESSELL–nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep, exercise, love, laughter–is what you need. Also, now’s our chance to defy expectations.