A failing memory can be quite frustrating but don’t lose hope! Meditation and memory training exercises can help with short-term memory loss. So can having herbs like brahmi and ginkgo biloba and antioxidant-rich blueberries. Create mnemonic devices, write down information that you want to remember, or say it out loud to strengthen the connection in your mind. Engage as many senses as you can when you’re presented with information so you can retain it.
You’ve walked into the kitchen but can’t remember what you wanted. Or you struggle to recall the name of a person you’ve just been introduced to. If these happen once too often, it’s natural to worry about your short-term memory. Technically, short-term memory is the tiniest component of memory, which can hold only a little amount of information at a time. For instance, most people can repeat about 6 or 7 letters or digits immediately after hearing them and these are details stored in the short-term memory. And today, the definition of short-term memory has evolved into a larger concept known as working memory.
Working memory is the ability to retain and manage information in your mind for brief intervals. It’s what you use when you remember a sequence of instructions, a shopping list, or a phone number – things that are relevant to you in the present but don’t need to be remembered long term. In contrast, long-term memory holds information that’s more stable. This can relate to events that happened in your life, knowledge of a certain subject, semantics etc. Working memory also serves as a gateway to long-term memory. If you rehearse sufficiently, information in your working memory becomes more lasting. And it’s important for critical functions like planning and decision making. While having an effective working memory is vital, it is also an aspect that is prone to decline as you age. Fortunately, some simple techniques can help you stay on course.
Here’s how you can fight short-term memory loss and keep yourself sharp.
1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness involves keeping your attention in the present without drifting off into thoughts of the future or worries about the past. Focussing your attention on your breath is a common way of practicing mindfulness. And while most of us think of meditation as a stress buster, it can improve your memory too. As one study showed, a 2-week meditation program was effective at improving working memory capacity as well reading-comprehension scores in a standardized test. So set aside a little time every day for meditation.
2. Try Memory Training Exercises
Memory training exercises have also been found to help improve short-term memory. In fact, one study found that a 5-week program for elderly adults between the ages of 64 and 79 not only expanded auditory short-term memory span but also maintained these gains 6 months later. Health professionals and experts in cognitive rehabilitation or psychology offer courses that can be helpful. Simple exercises such as listening to a series of numbers and then entering the numbers in the order in which they were recited or in the reverse order should also help.
3. Have Brahmi
Brahmi or Bacopa monnieri has been used for ages in ayurveda to enhance learning and memory. This traditional remedy is backed by science too. One study found that taking a brahmi extract daily for 12 weeks improved not only working memory but also cognitive processing and attention. Experts suggest this potent herb works at least partially by suppressing the activity of an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase, which plays a role in the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters.
4. Take Ginkgo Biloba Extract
Ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional Chinese medicine over the ages for a variety of health conditions. And research indicates that it can boost your memory too. According to a study, women who took 600 mg of ginkgo biloba extract and were tested an hour after this showed a significant improvement in their working memory.
5. Eat Blueberries
Research indicates that drinking blueberry juice daily can improve memory as well as learning in older people. Animal studies also show that blueberries can not only improve short-term memory but also balance and coordination. Anthocyanins present in blueberries have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may account for these beneficial effects. They are associated with an increase in neuronal signaling in parts of the brain involved in memory.
6. Engage Your Senses
Using as many senses as you can when you are presented with information may help you remember it. One study found that when people were presented with an image along with an odor, they were able to remember the pictures well. Interestingly, the part of the brain that processes odors became active when they saw a picture originally paired with an odor – even when the smell was absent. Noticing the feel, smell, or taste associated with something you want to remember may help you retain the memory better.
7. Write It Down Or Say It Out Loud
Writing down information that you want to remember or saying it out loud can help you remember it. For instance, if you’ve just been introduced to someone, addressing them by their name will reinforce the connection and help you remember it. Or telling yourself out loud that you’ve left your keys on the kitchen counter may help stamp it upon your memory.
8. Create Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices can also help buttress your memory. They transform information in your working memory into a more lasting memory and can help you remember lists. For instance, “RICE” is an acronym that reminds you of the first-aid practice for injuries – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You can also create a narrative where each item works as a cue for the next. For instance, “My cat knocked over a cup of tea, so I have to mop it up” can remind you that you need to take your cat to the vet and buy a new mop and some tea.