As we age, our memory declines.
It’s a rooted assumption for many of us; however, according to neuroscientist Dr. Richard Restak, a neurologist and clinical professor at George Washington University Hospital School of Medicine and Health, impaired it is not inevitable.
Restak, the author of more than 20 books on the mind, has decades of experience counseling patients with memory issues.
“The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind,” Restak’s latest book, includes tools such as mental exercises, sleep patterns, and diet that can help improve memory.
However, Restak ventures beyond this familiar territory, considering all facets of memory:
how memory is connected to creative thinkingthe impact of technology on memory, how memory shapes identity.
“The purpose of the book is overcome daily problems of memory,” Restak said.
In particular working memory, which lies between immediate recall and long-term memory, and is linked to intelligence, focus and success.
According to Restak, this is the most critical type of memory and exercises to strengthen it should be practiced daily.
But boosting all memory capacity, he added, is key to avoiding later memory problems.
Memory decline is not inevitable with aging, Restak argues in the book.
Instead, he emphasizes 10″ sinsor “blocks of obstacles that can lead to lost or distorted memories.”
Seven were first described by psychologist and memory specialist Daniel Lawrence Schacter: “sins of omission”, such as the distractionand “sins of commission”, such as memories deformed.
To these, Restak added three of his own: technological distortion, technological distraction and depression.
Last resort, “we are what we remember”said.
Here are some of Restak’s tips for developing and maintaining a healthy memory.
Pay more attention.
Some memory lapses are actually attention problems, not memory problems.
For example, if you forgot the name of someone you met at a cocktail party, it may be because you were talking to several people at once and didn’t pay attention when you heard it.
“Inattention is the number one cause of memory difficulties,” Restak said.
“It means that you didn’t code memory correctly.
One way to be careful when learning new information, such as a name, is visualize the word.
Having a picture associated with the word, Restak said, can improve recall.
For example, he recently had to memorize the name of a doctor, Dr. King (an easy example, he admitted).
So he imagines a male doctor “in a white coat with a crown on the head and a scepter instead of a stethoscope in his hand.”
Find regular daily memory challenges.
There are many memory exercises that you can incorporate into everyday life.
Restak suggested writing a shopping list and memorize it.
When you arrive at the store, don’t automatically pull out your list (or your phone); instead, collect everything according to your memory.
“Try see items in your mind,” he said, and just refer to the list at the end, if necessary.
If you’re not going to the store, try memorizing a recipe.
She added that frequent cooking is actually a great way to improve working memory.
Once in a while get in the car without activating the GPS and try to walk the streets by heart.
A small 2020 study suggested that people who used GPS more frequently over time had a more pronounced cognitive impairment in spatial memory three years later.
games like bridge and chess they’re great for memory, but it’s also a simpler game, Restak said.
For example, Restak’s “favorite working memory game” is 20 questionsin which one group (or one person) thinks of a person, place or object, and the other person, the questioner, asks 20 yes or no questions.
For to succeed, he says, the interrogator must remember all the previous answers to guess the correct answer.
Another of Restak’s proven memory exercises simply requires a pen and paper or an audio recorder.
First, remember all of the American presidents, starting with President Joe Biden and going all the way back to, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt, writing them down or recording them.
Then do the same, from FDR to Biden.
Then nominate only Democratic presidents and only Republican presidents.
Finally, name them in alphabetical order.
If you prefer, try it with players from your favorite sports team or with your favorite authors.
The goal is to engage your working memory, “retain the information and move it through your mindrestak wrote.
Read more novels.
An early indicator of memory problems, according to Restak, is stopping reading fiction.
“People, when they start having memory difficulties, tend to switch to reading nonfiction“, said.
In his decades of treating patients, Restak discovered that fiction requires a active participation with the text, starting from the beginning and working until the end.
“You have to remember what the character did on page 3 by the time you get to page 11,” he said.
Beware of technology.
Of Restak’s three new memory sins, two are associated with technology.
First there is what he calls “technological distortion”.
Storing everything on your phone means “you don’t know,” Restak said, which can erode our own mental capacities.
“Why bother focusing, concentrating and straining to visualize something when a cell phone camera can do all the work for you?” he wrote.
The second way our relationship with technology is detrimental to memory is that we often divert our attention of the task at hand.
“The biggest obstacle to memory these days is distraction,” Restak wrote.
Since many of these tools were designed for the purpose of creating addiction to the person using them and as a result we are often distracted by them.
Today, people can check their e-mail while watching netflixtalk to a friend or walk down the street.
All of this hinders our ability to focus on the present moment, which is essential for encoding memories.
Work with a mental health professional if needed.
My vibe plays an important role in what you remember or don’t remember.
The the Depressionfor example, can significantly reduce memory.
Among “people who are referred to neurologists for memory problems, one of the main causes is depression,” Restak said.
Your emotional state affects the type of memories you remember.
The seahorse (or “memory input center,” according to Restak) and the amygdala (the part of the brain that handles emotions and emotional behavior) are linked, so “when you’re in a bad mood or depressed, you tend to remember the sad things,” Restak said.
Treatment of depression, chemically or with psychotherapy, often also restores memory.
Determine if there is cause for concern.
Throughout his career, Restak has been asked by dozens of patients how to improve their memory.
But not all memory lapses are problematic.
For example, not remembering where you parked your car in a crowded parking lot is completely normal.
However, forgetting how you got to the parking lot in the first place indicates possible memory issues.
There’s no simple solution to what should be a concern, Restak said.
It all depends on the context.
For example, it is normal to forget your hotel room number, but not the address of your apartment.
If you are worried, it is best to consult a medical expert.
(Hope Reese is a journalist who writes for Vox, Shondaland, The Atlantic and other publications)
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