Ever wonder how many thoughts go through your mind over the course of your life? Turns out someone actually went through the effort to find this out. It is estimated that the modern human brain will hold up to 1 quadrillion pieces of information during an average human lifespan. In case you were wondering, a quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000. This statistic roughly breaks down to 70,000 thoughts a day.
Needless to say, that is a lot of work put on one organ. It’s not that surprising when you consider the many things you have to do in a modern day, though. It’s not just about juggling tasks and keeping focus, but retaining all the information we process any given day. On top of conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, memory loss is a natural part of aging. But also contributing to this are potentially thyroid disorders, lack of vitamin B12, and side effects of medication. With all these potential threats to your memory, know that there are many things you can do. One of the best options, surprisingly, are memory exercises. These often cost nothing, and can be easily integrated in your daily life.
How Do I Start?
There are two main components to successful memory exercises. These are novelty and challenge. Novelty is important because doing something new literally causes the brain to form new pathways to process the new data you are bringing in. Challenge is important for the same reason it is for a physical workout. Pushing against your current limits will eventually allow you to exceed them.
The nice thing about the novelty portion of this plan is that you can incorporate it into just about anything. Consider doing something simple like taking a different way to work or even something as simple as learning to cook a new dish. Cooking is actually great because it incorporates sight, sound, taste, and smell—more on how this helps later. There are also several small exercises you can do while sitting at your work desk (with no one the wiser). Think up a random top 10 list. It could be your favorite cities, some list from history, anything. If you can’t think of anything, look one up online. Wait an hour or so, then try to remember it as well as you can. Congratulations, you’re working on improving your recall! Be sure to think of things more and more complicated as you go on.
What Works Best?
The great thing about this method is that in essence, you’re on an even playing field. You don’t have to buy that expensive brain-boosting program. In fact, many experts suggest that you should focus on real-world integration of your brain training. In addition, if possible, try to get as many of your different senses as involved as possible. After all, the brain thrives off of associations, so the more you incorporate, the easier it will be to remember things. Think of it this way. You know the lyrics to your favorite song by heart, right? Now, do you think that you would have as easy a time memorizing the words without music?
As you start incorporating these exercises, don’t forget to keep mixing things up. A routine is something that we all have, but falling into the same mental routine is your enemy. When your brain is on autopilot, it’s not processing any new information. Sometimes, if time is short, just doing something like changing your screensaver can help. However, the other extreme is just as useful, like starting a new hobby. If you are looking to go this length, one of your best options is trying to learn a new language. A rich vocabulary has been linked with reducing cognitive decline.
What Else Can I Do?
These exercises are great, but there are other things you can do that complement them. For a start, try getting some exercise into your daily routine, if you haven’t already. One study showed that regular aerobic exercise was associated with growth of the hippocampus. This region of the brain controls verbal memory and learning, exactly the type of support you are looking for. In this study, the participants walked briskly for one hour, twice a week. This makes for 120 minutes a week. If walking isn’t your style, consider moderate intensity activities like swimming, tennis, or dancing. Even household chores can contribute to the total, if it gets your heart pumping enough that you sweat a bit.
In addition, consider changing up your diet to include foods with a nutritional profile that helps the brain. Yes, indirectly, there is such a thing as foods for memory support. Some of these are likely foods that you’ve heard of for other things. For example, salmon and other fish are popular for their high omega-3 content. This fatty acid is said to provide a great deal of brain support. What you may not realize is many other foods also play a role, particularly those rich in vitamin E. Dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, broccoli) are among some of your best options due to their vitamin E content. One cup of raw spinach has 15% of your daily intake of vitamin E, and 1/2 a cup of cooked spinach has 25% of your daily intake.
The road to memory support is full of different ways you can take, and you’re best served trying to use as many as possible. Testing and supporting your brain is a winning combination.