A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of our brain. People of all ages want to preserve and enhance their grey matter — the student studying for final exams, the working professional trying to complete all tasks, or the ageing individual. There are some simple measures that can be adopted to improve memory and intellect.
Genes do play an important role. So does a disciplined lifestyle, a healthy diet, sound sleep, and regular physical exercise.
Memory, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking are all compromised if there is sleep deprivation. Research findings show that sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, and key memory-enhancing activity occurs during the deepest stages of sleep.
Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Try not to break your routine, even on weekends and holidays.
Even a single bout of moderately intense exercise can improve memory. For a more lasting impact, exercise on a regular basis with the same intensity. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and reduces the risk of disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise also enhances the effect of helpful brain chemicals and reduces stress hormones.
Lead a mentally active life. Consistent mental exercises tone mental skills and memory. Any brain exercise is better than inaction. Impactful activities are those which make you come out of your comfort zone. Playing endless rounds of a mentally challenging game on your mobile or reading an epic may sound good, but may not be enough.
Brain games, such as crosswords, chess, Sudoku, bridge, and creative activities like painting, playing a musical instrument, have not been proven to protect against memory loss. Yet, these pursuits can help with everyday thinking skills and can indeed increase a person’s cognitive reserve.
The more your brain works out, the better you will be at processing and remembering information. But not all activities are equal. The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways. You need to keep learning and developing new skills. Learning a new language, volunteering, and activities that strain the brain may be better.
Humans are highly social animals. Relationships stimulate our brains. In fact, interacting or socializing may be one of the best brain exercises. Join a club, see friends more often, or reach out over the phone! And if a human isn’t handy, keep a pet.
Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain which is involved in forming new memories and retrieving old ones.
Remember these two simple tips
l Set a healthy balance between work and leisure time.
l Focus on one task at a time, rather than multi-tasking.
We all agree that laughter is the best medicine. That is true for the brain and memory as well. Listening to jokes and working out punch lines activates areas of the brain vital to learning and creativity.
Several researchers have highlighted that the three Ms — mindfulness, meditation, and mantras — sharpen work-related soft skills and improve one’s memory.
Meditation can improve focus, concentration, creativity, memory, learning and reasoning skills. According to a recent study, meditating for 20 minutes daily can help people recognize mental mistakes and, perhaps, avoid them in future.
Diet and memory
A study of nearly 28,000 men found that those who consumed around six servings of vegetables and fruit per day were less likely to develop poor thinking skills than the men who consumed the fewest (about two daily servings or less). Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants.
Drink green tea. Green tea contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that protect against free radicals that can damage brain cells.
Cow’s ghee is known to improve memory. Grape juice, cranberry juice, fresh grapes, berries, and peanuts contain a flavonoid that boosts blood flow to the brain and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fish is a particularly rich source of omega-3. If you’re not a fan of seafood, consider omega-3s sources such as almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, kidney beans, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds and soybeans.
Ayurvedic herbs, like Brahmi, Ashwagandha, Shankhapushpi, Yashtimadhu, etc., are all known to have medicinal properties that impact one’s memory positively.
Drink one to four teaspoons of fresh Brahmi juice every morning or take one gramme per day in capsule or tablet (Himalaya) form for daily rejuvenation. You may have a cup of Brahmi/ Gotu kola tea with honey.
Mentat tablets/syrup (Himalaya); Sarasvatarishta (Kottakkal) are beneficial for children and adolescents. Mentat DS syrup (Himalaya) is suggested for senile dementia.
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 19 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company