- Aging & Longevity
3 ways to prevent memory loss
Growing up I used to have an amazing memory. I could remember almost everything down to the smallest detail. I could memorize words and their definitions effortlessly. Over the last few years, I've noticed a bit of a decline in this capacity, so i set out to find ways to get back to where I was. If you've noticed a bit of a slow down with the hamster on your wheel, come with me on this adventure won't you?
How satisfied are you with your memory?
Where should I start?
When I set out to find ways to prevent memory loss and cognitive decline, I hadn't the foggiest idea of where to begin. I had always heard people say different things like "stop using a calculator because the mental math will help you remember certain things quicker", and "if you read regularly, that will help your brain stay active". The only problem with these suggestions was that after trying them, I didn't really see any improvements in the areas I wanted.
I mean sure, after a few weeks I was able to calculate tips and do other basic math much quicker. I was also able to read a lot faster, but none of this helped me improve my overall memory. I wanted to be able to remember the order in which I had done certain things. I wanted to increase my ability to recall these memories more quickly as well. This seemed to be a pretty tall order, but looking back, I feel I learned a lot, and improved my memory, I may have even improved my creativity coming up with these methods..
Check with the best
The very first thing i did I search on Google to see what comes up. One of the first results was Lumosity, a company specializing in cognitive efficiency and training. Having seen several commercials for their products, I decided to check it out.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Lumosity, they have created a slew of of online "games" targeted towards specific brain functions.
Intrigued, I signed up for a free account. A free account gives you limited access to their plethora of tools and applications. After signing up, you are asked to prioritize the five brain areas: Speed, Flexibility, Problem Solving, Attention, and Memory. Following that, a session is set up for you consisting of 3 of their games. After you finish the session, you are asked to come back again tomorrow for another session.
I kept going back for a few days, and over the course of those days, I began to feel a fair bit more confident in myself and my memory. So I decided to unlock full access by purchasing a subscription. Full access then granted me access to a large number of charts and reports detailing my progress (I have included a screenshot showing my memory score from the time of my registration), as well as unlimited access to their games.
Unlimited access... at a price
I kept going back for a couple of weeks and watched as my stats improved. I was so very proud of my progress, and I noticed the change in my daily life. "This is amazing, I wish I would've found this sooner" I thought, until one week...
I just could not find the time to log on to Lumosity, and I thought to myself, there has to be some way I can take some of what I've learned from Lumosity, and use it in the real world to keep improving my memory and cognitive function. I read up on the science behind Lumosity, and thought about how I can apply some of it to the real world so that if I'm unable to log in, I can still improve. I thought long and hard about it, and it finally hit me, the answer to my questions.
Tricking yourself into great memory
One of the things I was never good at was remembering when I did what. I could remember doing something clear as day, but ask me when that was and I couldn't tell you. This nice little method has definitely helped me improve that ability. It's so simple too, here's how it works:
Take something that you use on a regular basis (toothbrush, your shoes, your favorite pair of socks, etc) and move it to three or even more different locations (not in plain sight or a path you tread often) over the period of an hour or more. During that time, engross yourself in an activity so that you will almost forget having moved anything. This tests your short term memory because you have to remember where you moved it to in order to find it and move it again. The next time you go to find it, you will hopefully have remembered that you moved the object to a different location and go there first. The last time you move it, do not return it to it's original location. Instead, place it in an entirely new spot and then leave it there for several hours (or until you need it next). Hopefully you will remember that you moved it multiple times and the order you moved it in so that you may find it on the first try.
Try doing this once or twice a week (any more than that and you may actually lose something and become very frustrated like I did). You won't notice a change overnight, but you should see an improvement within a few weeks. Once you are feeling more confident, try moving the item more, or leaving a larger span between the last time you move it and the next time you try to find it.
Tips for preventing disaster:
- Write the location you move the item to down and slip the paper somewhere as a sort of "cheat sheet" you can look at if you are having trouble finding it.
- If you have a roommate or significant other, tell them the location you moved it to and ask them not to tell you unless you really need it.
To add a little challenge, have someone else move the item for you and then tell you where they moved it to (make sure they write it down in case they forget!). Don't look for the item again for at least a few hours.
Another trick I found really helps speed up your memory!
Pressure... Will you fold or will you shine?
This one is pretty basic, but make sure to have a cheat sheet, or you could end up in some serious trouble. To give you an example:
I moved my shaver before I went to bed one night. I am required to shave before work. After a full night's rest, I woke up and got ready for work like I normally do, I had completely forgotten that I moved my shaver and where I moved it to. Shaving is one of the last things I do before I get dressed, and I have 20 minutes between getting shaved and getting to the office each morning. Once I realized that my shaver wasn't where it is normally, I was forced to remember where I had moved it to and quickly. Luckily I was able to remember fairly quickly where it was and I wasn't late for work.
Do you now see why I recommend the cheat sheet?
Add a little pressure and eventually you'll be able to remember things more quickly. This also teaches you to remain calm when faced with quick decisions.
Do you believe that games can actually help your brain?
I've found that using Lumosity with these other two techniques works very well in improving memory, as well as cognitive functions. If you do not feel that Lumosity is worth it, there are various games you can play with friends or family that may help to some degree such as memory (the game), chess, or even poker (counting cards is illegal but there's no penalty when playing for fun). Socializing with others is great for memory as well. You are required to remember what was said, who is participating, and call upon past experiences and memories of those people in order to make conversation flow well. There's a great deal that goes into simple conversation and discussion in terms of brain use.
Either way, I hope you have enjoyed this article, and that these methods may help you or someone you know prevent memory loss.
Stay...uh...what was it again? Oh yeah! Stay Excellent!
- The science behind Lumosity
A PDF written by scientists at Lumos Labs detailing the science behind their products.