Memory Hacks – Part 1

A Balanced Blend 

At Blended Tribes, we care about every aspect of the being; physical, spiritual and mental. The mind-body connection is one of the major keys to our happiness and success. We need to make sure we nourish our minds like we do our physical bodies, otherwise, we can wobble out of our orbit of health and vitality. This post is about simple activities we can do every day to keep us mentally sharp and agile. In researching for this post I came up with 13 activities to help improve memory and  brain function but for the sake of brevity I have broken the post into two separate posts, this being the first of the two segments.

Research Says...

Researchers say almost all humans use 10% of their brains, which seems like then we are leaving a lot of our potential on the table. Imagine happen if you could unleash all your brain’s potential; what could be the result, or how many things would you achieve. Well, I know you want that; we all do.

Though an alluring idea, the “10 percent myth” is so wrong it is almost laughable, says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Although there’s no definitive culprit to pin the blame on for starting this myth has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in The Energies of Men that “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” It’s also been associated with Albert Einstein, who supposedly used it to explain his cosmic towering intellect.

“It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time,” Gordon adds. “Let’s put it this way: the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20 percent of the body’s energy.” We all want quick recall and the ability to learn things quickly.

What Was There Name?

How exciting would it be that you no longer must worry about forgetting people’s names, forgetting names of places, forgetting important points that your professor said in class, forgetting important dates and anything else that needs your attention! Well, although you wouldn’t consider this your brain’s full power, this is just an indication of the potential that this poses in transforming your life for the better. If this intrigues you and makes you want to do something about your life, then learning how to enhance your memory is a step in the right direction.

If you are tired of the embarrassment you experience when you forget people’s names or other critically important information critical to your success even after trying to memorize it, then you have room for improvement. If you want to supercharge your brain with little effort struggle, then read on, this post is for you. I will show you hacks that will help unlock the gate to your mind’s potential.

It's an Organic Machine

Your brain is your body’s central processing unit, just like a computer, it stores everything. This means that if you desire to be better at anything, you must improve your brains health. Just like with any machine, the brain needs maintenance so it can function in peak condition. This means that you must keep your brain top shape for it to outdo itself past performance.

So, how do you do that? Getting your brain into proper shape is multifaceted but not difficult to do. Since the brain is a system, many things work together to ensure that it works well. If you want to fix or improve the performance of anything as complex as the human mind then you MUST address the different aspects using different approaches.

Let’s get into this and look at what we can be doing to improve your mind…

Food for Thought

I am sure that by now, you are quite aware of the saying that you are what you eat but you also need to note that even what you do not eat plays a role in terms of your memory. Let’s look at what foods and nutrients you need to take to have a super brain.

Whole Grains
Energy is essential for all functions in your body, brain functions included. For your brain to focus and concentrate appropriately, it needs an adequate and consistent supply of energy, which is in the form of glucose. Opt for whole grains like whole wheat, oats, brown rice and such foods that release glucose slowly into the bloodstream unlike processed grains like white flour that cause blood sugar spikes. When you eat foods that cause these spikes, you will experience a short “high” after which, your body demands more to keep the energy levels high. As you may be aware, processed grains are not only bad for your brain but bad for your overall health and can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and even diabetes.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
The body doesn’t produce its own EFAs, but it requires them for proper function and the only way to get them is through your diet.
The best source of these essential fatty acids is fish oil but you can also EFAs by eating:

  • Soybeans
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts,
  • Pumpkin seeds

Fish oil can be found in high concentration in:

  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Pilchards

It is important to note here that low amounts of DHA (an omega 3 fatty acid) have been linked to high risks of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Berries and tomatoes
Blueberries: Tufts University has done extensive research revealing that eating blueberries is an extremely effective way of improving or even delaying short-term memory loss.
Blackcurrants: Essential for brain health since they are rich sources of vitamin C, which is known to improve the agility of the mind.
Tomatoes: Containing lycopene, tomatoes are a very powerful antioxidant that protects the body from radical cell damage as seen with dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin B
Folic acid, vitamin B6, and B12 reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. This is because high levels of homocysteine are related to increased risk of one suffering from stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive impairment.

Broccoli and Sage
Broccoli is a rich source of vitamin K, which is known for improving brainpower and cognitive functions. Additionally, for centuries, sage has been known to improve memory and studies have also shown that its oil is essential, and it wouldn’t hurt to add that to what you eat.

A decline in cognitive functions can be inhibited by the intake of vitamin E. Nuts are a rich source of vitamin E but you can also eat green leafy vegetables, olives, eggs, asparagus and whole grains to increase natural intake of vitamin C.

If your diet is insufficient or not well balanced you can opt for supplements. Do note that these should not be a replacement, but you should take them alongside a well-balanced diet. Before taking them, it is advisable that you speak to a medical practitioner who will advise you accordingly.

2. Exercise

Exercise stimulates the brain to work at optimum capacity, it does so by causing the multiplication of stimulation nerve cells. As a result, the interconnections of such cells are improved and are protected from damage. When you exercise, nerve cells release proteins, one specific neurotrophic factor known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor triggers the release of certain chemicals that bring about good neural health, which is essential for learning and cognitive activity.

To demonstrate how important exercise is to your brain, let’s look at a study done on monkeys. In 2010, a study was conducted on monkeys and the results revealed that not only did blood flow to the brain improve but also the monkeys that exercised learned new things faster than those that did not. Researchers believe that this study correlates to humans and those that engage in exercises expand their brain’s memory capacity by 2% every year while for those who don’t the percentage declines.

Exercises That Are Good For The Brain
While you may know that exercise is good for the brain, do you know specifically which exercises you should do for maximum benefit? It is important to understand that exercise is not only limited to physical workouts, you also need to balance the equation by engaging in mental exercises.
You can opt to do activities that intertwine the two modes of exercising. Something like cycling and ballroom dancing both demand cognitive and physical attention. If you want exercises for your brain that return results then ensure it is an activity that integrates movement, rhythm, strategy, and coordination.

Here are some tips to help you when it comes to exercising your brain:

  • Aerobics exercises are very effective as they improve how your brain functions and repairs damaged cells in the brain.
  • Exercising in the morning releases feel-good hormones that help you deal with the stress of day-to-day life. You also will improve retention of new information and ability to deal with complex situations.
  • To get the best out of your workouts, go with something comprehensive. It should include strength training, core work, stretching, high-intensity interval exercise, and regular movement in between.

3. Keep Stress Away

Another If there is anything that the brain hates, it’s stress. Lack of adequate management of stress not only damages brain cells but also the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is in charge of the formation of new memories and retrieving old ones. There is a way that you can kill two birds with one stone when it comes to stress busting and boosting your memory and that is with meditation.

There is a plethora of evidence that supports the benefits of meditation. Meditation is good for improving:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Concentration
  • Creativity
  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Focus
  • Skills you need in reasoning

How does meditation actually work? Meditation changes the brain. Research reveals that individuals who meditate regularly experience increased activity in their left prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain associated with equanimity and joy. Meditation increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex and stimulates the increase of connections between brain cells. All of this results in an increase in memory ability and mental sharpness.

Social Interaction
Another great way of reducing stress is by being socially active. Humans are not designed to be an island and if you are and if are you are experiencing more stress than necessary. Take opportunities to meet new people and make friends. Put yourself out there and create time to spend with friends and loved ones. Have a network of people who can offer you support whenever things are not going well for you. Recognize that when in a group you learn new things, gain new insights and discover how other people deal with stress. Sharing a problem with someone who cares is a problem half solved and a life shared is a life fully evolving. When you are fully involved in life, there is minimal time to sit and be overtaken by stress.

4. Laughter

There is a good reason it is said that laughter is the best medicine because not only does it work wonders for your body, but it works like magic on your brain and memory. Emotional responses are limited to certain parts of the body but laughter engages almost all of the body and several regions of the brain.
Therefore, you should make an effort to expose yourself to humor often it activates areas in your brain that are associated with learning and creativity. In his book, ‘Emotional Intelligence”, Daniel Goleman says that laughter seems to help people think broadly and associate more freely. Let look at a few ways to increase laughter in your life:

  • Laughing at yourself: Be open and share the most embarrassing moments of your life.
  • Go where there is laughter: Don’t take life too seriously. Take some time and just enjoy and laugh with others. Don’t be the coworker or the spouse who is too rigid and never seems to find anything to laugh about.
  • Be around funny people: For you to be infected with laughter, surround yourself with people who are contagious. Be around people who laugh things off and find ways of bringing humor into everyday situations, even the most challenging ones.
  • Have something that reminds you to lighten up: Place an object like a toy in your car or desk that simply makes you smile. Change your computer screen saver into something humorous. Have photos on your desk of you and your family and friends having fun.
  • Learn from the best: Spend time with children and learn from them. They take everything that comes in life with equal measure. To them, all spoons are the same size. Life to children is like a big playground and they don’t waste time on things that make them cry. To them, a good day is a day spent laughing.

5. Play

When I say play, I mean brain games. Your brain loves to have fun which puts it into a relaxed state thus improving function. If the brain is not challenged enough or exposed to new information, it deteriorates. Consider, if you eat the same type of food every day, you get bored with it. By providing your brain with enough play, you are counteracting the effects of this sort of degeneration. This is now where brain games come in.

A professor from the University of California, Dr. Michael Merzenich, has developed a program known as Brain HQ, which helps you to improve a variety of skills like reading, memorization, and comprehension. The program’s website offers many brain exercises (Free & paid) that allows you to monitor how you are progressing.
If you opt for brain games, you will need to set aside twenty minutes per day, but you are not supposed to spend more than five minutes on a single task. This is because the more the time you spend on a certain activity, the benefits of playing it diminish. Some of the websites and games you can play are listed below.

Brain Age 2 -This is a Nintendo DS system that hones your concentration, calculation and memory skills.
LumosityYou do tests and other activities.
Happy Neuron Your brain is tested in five areas namely memory, visual, and executive functions, language and attention.
My BrainTrainerGames and puzzles
Crossword PuzzlesThink and give the word that fits
SudokuThink and give the number that fits
Bra ingle Brainteasers
QueendomPersonality tests and surveys
BrainBuilder – Cognitive exercise to track brain progress

Not all the sites features are free, but many are totally free or come with a trial period where you can test and see what suits you before you commit. I want to emphasize that all work without play makes Jack a dull boy. In this case, Jack is your brain so to ensure that your brain is always rejuvenated, give Jack a chance to play.

This is a pretty good list to get you started playing with your brain and I’ll be following up with Part -2 next week.

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