Six Steps To Having A Fantastic Memory
Loss of memory is accepted as being just part of the aging process. Having a “seniors moment” is the newly coined euphemism for forgetfulness in older people. However having a poor memory is not confined to the over sixties. Young people are finding that with everyday stress and the information overload accompanying today’s lifestyle their memories are also taking a toll.
Here are six ways to enhance your memory.
1. Eat Fresh fruit and Vegetables
What we eat and drink affects our mind and brain functioning. It is a common experience that if we have a few alcoholic drinks in the middle of the day the afternoon can become a bit of a daze whereas a cup of coffee is often employed to overcome the mid afternoon slump. While cold, heavy foods such as ice cream tend to make us feel mentally sluggish, munching on an apple can make us feel more alert.
Long term, eating fresh natural foods has a definite benefit to our memory and the entire brain. Fresh fruit and vegetables filled with phytochemicals have been found to boost the ability of the memory. Research shows that the biologically active compounds found naturally in plants have a positive effect on brain functioning. Some particularly powerful memory aids are walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds and almonds. Walnuts, high in polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acids are good for the brain and have been found to improve brain development in infants. Blueberries, containing the highest level of antioxidants, are also an important ingredient in your memory boosting diet.
2. Enliven your memory with Herbs
Memory enlivening phytochemicals are even more concentrated in herbs. A research study conducted on rats found that turmeric actually protected the synapses in the rat’s brains. Alzheimer’s patient’s ability to remember improved significantly when turmeric was added to their diet. Turmeric’s popularity in India may account for their very low rate of Alzheimer’s cases.
Three of the most powerful brain-boosting Ayurvedic herbs are Shankapushpi (aloeweed), Bhrami (bacopa) and Gotu Kola (Indian pennywort). Shankapushpi is considered the very best herb for overall brain and mind support. It gives mental power, bliss, enhances memory and clear thinking, soothes the mind and improves overall tolerance to mental stress.
Bhrami is very balancing to the mind. It has specific hormonal-balancing effects in women so it is particularly useful in menopause. Scientific studies have shown that it can enhance memory and learning ability, provides antioxidant support for the brain and reduces the negative effects of drugs (like the antiseizure drug Phenytoin) on mental ability. Gotu Kola is the most effective herb at enhancing memory power. It contains asiatic acid, a potent inhibitor of the amyloid formation seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Herbs assist in improving coordination between learning, retention and long-term memory. The tendency of modern researchers and pharmaceutical companies to extract the active ingredient and put it in a pill form is inferior to eating the whole plant. Studies show that herbs, fruit and vegetables contain synergistic combinations of phytochemicals that are of great benefit to the body. A single carrot contains over 100 phytochemicals which would not be available in a pill that only contained isolated beta carotene.
3. Eat Good fats
Over the past 20 years or so, fat has gained a bad reputation. However a totally fat free diet is actually damaging to the brain. Fat is necessary for the memory to function. It is important to eat high quality fats as the brain can only use the most intelligent, nutrition rich foods. Rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and other good fats, ghee provides nourishment to the mind and memory.
Olive oil is a healthy monosaturated fat that also aids in memory functioning. Heating olive oil to high temperatures causes it to oxidate and destroys its beneficial qualities. Therefore olive oil is best added to food after it has been cooked. It is best to avoid hydronated fats that raise cholesterol levels and are found in most packaged foods. Polyunsaturated fats such as corn or safflower oil are unstable and create excessive free radicals.
4. Get a good night sleep
Replacing the late night cram with a good night sleep before exams has been found to produce better results. This is because the brain is actually working its hardest while you are asleep. It is rehearsing, rehearing new information, repairing and storing new memory files. One study showed that students who slept the night before an exam significantly outperformed the students who stayed awake half the night studying. Researchers at Harvard University suggest that after learning a new skill it is best to sleep on it. This allows the brain to transfer new skills and information into permanent memory banks.
5. Exercise and breathe deeply
Exercise increases the body’s metabolic rate and helps to oxygenate the brain and sharpen the memory. It is best to exercise regularly and in moderation. Walking, gentle swimming and yoga are ideal activities to clear the mental fog without exhausting the physiology. Yoga is very effective for the mind as the postures direct blood to the brain and cleanses the brain cells and organs of toxins while increasing body/mind coordination.
6. Keep mentally active but not over stimulated
As with any organ in the body if you don’t use it becomes weaker. If your mind is never stimulated the brain is not encouraged to maintain or create neuronal pathways which link the different parts of the brain. Reading a book, memorising information, learning new knowledge or just doing a crossword stimulates the brain and fosters your memory skills.
Decline in memory is also due to improper use of the mind. If your mind is always busy and is never allowed time to process what has been taken in it can become stressed and fatigued. Mental and emotional stress produces secretion of the stress hormone cortisol. Produced in the adrenal glands, cortisol increases alertness and provides quick energy to the muscles for the flight or fight response needed in dangerous situations. However when chronically secreted in response to the endless stress of daily life, cortisol can damage the hippocampus, an important structure in the brain involved with memory function. Overtime too much cortisol secretion can result impermanent memory decline. Meditation is also of great benefit to the brain as it reduces stress therefore limiting the secretion of cortisol.
Next time an exam approaches don’t stress, just eat well, stay rested, exercise regularly and enjoy the amazing ability of your mind.
The author, Wendy Rosenfeldt BA DipHealth(MAVHEC), is a Maharishi Vedic Health educator. She is based in Melbourne but travels regularly to the Gold Coast. For further information on seminars, consultations or any aspect of Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health call 03 9846 5294 or 0438 507 188.