Brian Beazley, CCA, Northwood

The human brain has the innate capacity to adapt to change, even well into old age. Having a keen and sharp memory, however, does take some practice and a good healthy lifestyle.

There are several things a person can do to improve and maintain a good memory.  Memory increasing activities occur during REM sleep, therefore making it important to develop and maintain a healthy sleeping routine. This should ideally be done seven days a week or as much as possible. Sleep deprivation prevents the brain from performing at its peak.

Physical exercise is as equally important for having a good memory. Taking a mere walk each day improves cardiovascular activity which in turn enables the brain to work more efficiently.

Over the years, studies have shown that laughter plays an important role in our lives and this includes recollection of memories. A life full of laughter and happiness will undoubtedly sharpen memory skills, while laughing at yourself will make you take yourself less seriously. Audrey Hepburn said it best, “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

When we are under stress, it can be difficult to recall memories. Chronic stress can destroy brain cells over time, particularly in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is involved in maintaining new memories and retrieving old ones as well as spatial recognition (spatial memory). Persons with Dementia and Alzheimer’s have difficulty with spatial recognition.

Meditation can also be effective in improving memory. Through quiet focused thinking, the brain is able to sharpen and retain memories.

Also eating an omega-3 rich diet will do wonders for the brain. Omega-3 can be obtained from fatty fish, olive oil (organic extra virgin cold compressed is best), nuts, beans, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains.  A diet high in fat increases your chances of developing Dementia/Alzheimer’s.

In addition to physical exercise, our brains also need to be “worked out.” Changing our daily routines will challenge our brains to work a little harder at remembering. Playing activities with hand-eye coordination such as ping pong, or even video games, can improve memory and sharpen brain function. In particular, pay close attention when learning something new. Involve all senses in this process. Take notice of colour, texture, smell, sound, and if appropriate, taste.  Writing things down or keeping a journal is a great way of committing it to memory. Connecting new information with older memories will also help improve memory. And using landmarks or other notable things about a place you have been for instance, will help you recall the place in your mind with near perfect detail.

Having a good memory….it’s not just in the mind!

This post originally appeared on the Northwood Blog, February 13, 2014.

Brian Beazley works as a Continuing Care Assistant (CCA) with Northwood Homecare. He enjoys writing in his spare time and contributes regularly to Northwood’s Life Magazine, a monthly publication for the Northwood community.