Memory is not a perfect process. Creating, storing, and recalling a memory is a multi-faceted relationship that requires both a biological and psychological process.
From a person's perceptions, emotions, and event interpretations, a single created memory is unique to the person who created it. While memories can widely vary, they also have a way of slipping out of our grasp. Memory is not static, and it is often not always completely reliable. With the creation of memory comes the eventuality that many of our memories may completely disappear. This disappearing act, or “forgetting,” may be permanent, but there are ways to improve and strengthen your memory and keep your brain sharp and your memories intact for as long as possible.
As we actively make memories, our brains work hard to transfer, catalog, and store specific pieces of information throughout different areas of our brains. Our brains are mighty data centers and automatically break incoming information into manageable chunks to process and store. Once memories have been formed and stored within your brain, you can retrieve that memory in two ways: recall or recognition.
Recall is when you directly retrieve information from memories. When you recall something, you remember it without any cues or any examples of that specific thing. Examples of using recall are knowing the name of a person or answering a particular question.
Recognition is when information about something you have previously known triggers your brain after experiencing or seeing that specific thing again. Examples of using recognition can be remembering someone's name after viewing their picture or not knowing a store's location, but you recognize it when you see it.
Recall will assist recognition, and these two types of memories help speed up the memory process so you can quickly access the information you seek. Unfortunately this process isn't a completely perfect system, and some factors can affect memory retrieval. The disruptions to retrieval can cause a person to become "forgetful." From forgetting what you packed for your lunch to a request a friend made yesterday, these memory failures are an almost daily occurrence.
From the passage of time to the abundance of new memories overlapping older memories, there are several theories for why we cannot remember even the simplest of things. Three such memory loss theories are decay, interference and memory disorders.
Decay: Those who believe in the decay theory think that our memories slowly disappear and fade because of the passage of time. The lack of recall of these memories causes them to fade away because they are no longer in use or accessed regularly.
Interference: Those who believe in interference believe that memories cannot be accessed because similar memories or information were acquired before or after their original memory. The new memory combined with the older memory, “erases” the older memory, causing the disruption. For example, the original memory of swimming at the beach 10 years ago could be erased and replaced by swimming at that same beach, just current day.
Memory disorders: Memory disorders are defined as suppressed cognition abilities that lead to deteriorated reasoning and decision making skills. Brain deterioration from these disorders can disrupt both communication skills, and memory recall. These disorders affect the brain's ability to continue to form synapses and work at optimal levels. Types of memory disorders include Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, while there are many ways to improve memory and keep your brain strong, they are not a guaranteed fix. Decay, interference or memory disorders can become a serious condition. If you notice that yours, or a loved one's memory loss begins to affect daily life, contact a doctor. Your doctor will run tests that can help determine what (if any) treatments are needed to help with memory loss. While losing memory and forgetting can be frightful, the earlier any problems are detected, the sooner a doctor can diagnose, treat, and educate friends and family about any potential memory-loss related concerns.
While the science behind why we forget is still being explored, there are various ways you can work to help improve your recall and keep your memories healthy within your mind for as long as possible. Below are 5 ways you can actively keep your brain strong and active.
Exercise can activate your muscles and keep the heart working properly, which positively impacts brainpower. People who exercise regularly have improved cognition and an increased ability to solve complex problems. Regular exercise also improves the learning ability and storage of memories when performed before or in close connection to the learning activity.
Quality sleep can optimize the neural processes of the brain. Long, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep plays a vital role in consolidating long-term memories. If you do not get enough rest, sleep deprivation harms your brain's ability to encode new memories, and it has a hard time working at optimal levels. While sleep times vary per person, getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a day is recommended for memory consolidation.
The benefits of meditation are far-reaching, and research has identified that meditation has an abundance of positive health effects on the human brain. When you meditate, the blood flow to the brain increases, which leads to a stronger network of blood vessels in the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex handles mental functions such as learning, concentration, and memory. The increased blood flow that comes with meditation strengthens your brain's synapses and cognitive functions such as concentration, learning, and memory.
Keeping an active social life as you age does more than ward off depression, anxiety, or stress. It has been proven to keep your brain active. While memory declines with age, research has identified that consistent social interaction protects the brain from this effect. So, to stay sharp as a tack, look for opportunities to get together with friends or loved ones. Join a social club, group, or if proximity is a problem, schedule a phone call or video chat. You can also use the Rosy Home console to help you keep in touch! Through Rosy's easy-to-use platform, you can share video and audio memories with friends and family.
Looking at and visualizing images can improve neural connection strength. Rewatching videos, or viewing pictures, can provide improvement in the storage and retrieval of long-term memories. For those who have trouble making new memories, looking at memories from previous times is an excellent way to manage the onset of memory loss.
The Rosy Go app and Rosy Home console make it easy for you to upload and recall pictures all from one convenient location. These systems work together to provide you with a secure location to upload and share photos between friends and family. Not only can you search for images and documents within the search feature, but you can view photos, videos, and audio files with the touch of a button.
For more information on how to keep your memory sharp with Rosy Go and Rosy Home, join our waitlist.