If you’ve been feeling more forgetful these days, you’re not alone
Our current routines are built around hyper-repetitive schedules and have us feeling like we’re reliving the same day, over and over. And it turns out that this could be severely affecting not only your memories but your general interpretation of reality. By implementing a few new tools into your routine, expect to improve short term memory almost immediately.
You might be “lucky” enough to have the opportunity to work from home. And I say lucky because we know that not everyone’s enjoying it! Ultimately, you may think you have no reason at all to complain about the daily dread of boredom and repetition that you might be experiencing.
JUST ANOTHER “DAY”
For some, every morning is just “morning.” There’s not much difference between a random Monday or any given Thursday, so why should we even bother trying to keep track of what day it is? I can’t tell you how many times during the past few months that I’ve had a friend or colleague ask: ”What day is it?”
Besides work, life outside of the home still brings a sense of deprivation or lingering monotony, as many of our favorite, most comforting places (like movie theaters, restaurants, or places of worship) are not open, or at least not like they used to be.
Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, have launched a study to test just how much isolation—and the anxiety that comes with it—impair our brain function. Their findings suggest that the effects of limited and overly-monotonous schedules spare no one and are affecting even those with highly superior, autobiographical memories!
Of course, these conditions are not affecting every single aspect of what we remember. There are several different kinds of memory. Completely forgetting someone’s name is not the same as forgetting what you wanted to buy at the grocery store.
Specifically, this research is showing how our now-constrained environment is creating this impact. Isolation is the most prominent reason that many people are feeling the need to improve short term memory. But why is this happening?
HELP YOUR HIPPOCAMPUS
We’re not using our hippocampus much as we used to.
This is the region of the brain that processes and retrieves memories. And when we don’t use it, we undoubtedly lose it!
Consider this: Since the beginning of humankind, finding our way back home has always been essential to our survival. The moment we leave home, we really start paying attention to our surroundings. This process activates the hippocampus, and it’s just one example of what we’re not doing much of these days.
According to neuroscientist Catherine Loveday, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Westminster, the hippocampus plays a critical role in forming, organizing, and storing new memories. And specifically, these are the memories connected to events and emotions.
There certainly aren’t many events to process these days. Happy occasions like Friday night dinner parties, holidays, music events, and vacations have gone completely off the radar! When it comes to unique social interactions, there’s not much to discuss. With no events to process for reference, the hippocampus has little data to work with.
Not only do we have fewer stories to share, but we’re also losing out on the opportunity to strengthen the hippocampus with memories because we have even less to talk about with friends and family. Recalling events is a huge component in keeping the hippocampus in its best shape!
BEGIN TO IMPROVE SHORT TERM MEMORY MUSCLES TODAY
While it’s true that your hippocampus has recently lacked some opportunities to exercise its memory muscle, we can fix it by freshening up our routine with a few very simple strategies. There’s really not much effort needed here, only a decision to take some quick action.
According to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, Medical Director of NeuroGrow Brain Center and Affiliate Staff at Johns Hopkins General Hospital, the good news is that the hippocampus can grow and improve in function just as quickly as it shrank!
TRY OUR F.R.E.S.H. ROUTINE HACKS TO IMPROVE SHORT TERM MEMORY
Choosing to keep your routine FRESH has the potential to get your memory up to speed—quickly. Consider implementing things like new daily schedules, spontaneous activities, and freeform exercises.
- F – Find your creativity. This is the most important concept to include on a daily basis. Create absolutely anything new, such as creative (not so serious) journaling, artwork of all kinds (drawing, crafts), or brainstorm new ways to enjoy meals (exotic recipes, meal prep). Creativity endeavors of any kind will encourage endorphins and help to put you in a flow state.
- R – Read to learn. We know that you’re already constantly viewing a screen all day, so the idea here is to read an actual book, if possible. However it’s done, the goal is to stimulate learning as often as possible. Virtual book clubs have become wildly popular. Consider learning a new language or acquiring any kind of interesting, new skill (you have plenty of time to do so).
- E – Exercise daily. Yes, we’re giving you another reason to move! You’ll generate new hippocampi neurons by exercising. A famous neuronal study compared the brains of two different groups of mice. The first group had access to a running wheel; the second did not. The unfortunate group without exercise produced far fewer new neurons.
- S – Shake things up. Brainstorm about anything and everything that you could possibly change. Walk a new path around the block. Explore a park you’ve never been to. Pick a room to reorganize and redecorate. Plant a new garden of indoor plants. Create a new music playlist and include the unexpected. Is it time to add members to the household (tropical fish, a rescue puppy)?
- H – Holiday time is non-negotiable. It should happen as often as possible, and the ideal is different for all of us. Not everyone wants to travel, but outdoor activities might be more exciting in a not-so-nearby location. Also, taking the time to consciously plan for a future adventure is going to help create a neurochemical response.
Our brains are highly responsive, and there’s no doubt you’ll begin to improve short term memory once you begin anchoring your neurochemical response to some of these F.R.E.S.H ideas!
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