I have plenty of friends in their 30s and 40s who think they have Alzheimer's dementia, because they can't remember where they put their car keys. What I believe is happening in many of these moments is that ordinary stress may be preventing my pals from forming crisp clear new memories.
Have you ever walked into a party, been introduced to someone, and ten seconds later, forgotten their name? If we had a window into the mind at that moment, chances are we would find a brain brimming with thoughts, feelings, and distractions some of them flying beneath the radar of conscious awareness. A brain that is already multi-tasking is being asked to juggle one more thing. New memories form more easily in a calm, clear, relaxed brain.
If you are interested in forming more vivid new memories, consider the following:
1. Be open minded. Cultivate awareness of your thoughts from moment to moment. Passively watching the mind's actions has a calming effect, and the practice makes it easier to be aware of distractions that compete with forming new memories. Learning to meditate is a great way increase the skill of awareness.
2. Exercise the body. Movement supports circulation to the brain and can calm the mind. In a study of people with low aerobic fitness, a few months of regular low-level walking or stationary bike use improved memory test scores.
3. Relax the effort. Strenuously forcing yourself to beat a certain time at crosswords or Sudoku can create more stress than brainpower. Experiment to find something engaging that you look forward to enjoying. Give yourself time and leisure to commit things to memory, and accept repetition as a helpful part of the process.
4. Go easy on caffeine. Compounds like caffeine and theobromine from coffee, tea, and chocolate can increase alertness temporarily. People react differently to these substances; for some people, drowsiness sets in several hours later. If I drink tea one morning, but skip it the next day, I feel less alert.
5. Get some sleep. Many of us walk around sleep deprived without realizing it. Exhaustion can make even strong memories less accessible. Check out these tips to improve your sleep habits.
Read the next blog in the series Feeding the Brain: Macronutrients!
This information is purely educational and does not replace a physician's advice that may be unique to each individual. For all medical concerns, please see a physician to establish a diagnosis and explore proven treatments.