The brain, just like the body, undergoes change. While we tend to associate these changes with decline, scientific findings assure us that the brain can develop to become more flexible, capable, and integrated.
Among the many changes that scare us is memory loss. Although loss of clarity and memory skill can take place under stress or simply with the passage of time, enhancing our memory is within our control. Many of us feel that our memory can suffer or be enhanced by heightened emotions. We are also aware that visualizing things in our imagination helps us remember them better. These two facts give us clues as to where we can focus our brain’s training to enhance our memory capacity.
Chronic stress affects our endocrine system, especially the corticosteroid level and the adrenal hormone. Acute stress stimulates the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland, which helps us to stay alert and ready for the fight or flight. But if we get stressed repeatedly, we accumulate cortisol in our body and become unresponsive to the stress stimuli.
The continued high cortisol level in our blood flow affects our brain, especially the hippocampus, which plays a key role in the memory process. On the other hand, emotions have the power to imprint things in our brain strongly. It is easier to remember something if it is related to some emotion. For example, it is usually easier to remember a traumatic situation than to remember someone’s name or a date or a number that has no emotional clue associated with it.
Imagination can be a powerful tool to strengthen your memory. We remember 72 percent of learning linked with imagination of life experiences, compared to 14 percent linked with auditory information. Also, when you imagine something, similar parts of the brain get activated as when you directly see it. Associating new things with things you already know makes it easier to remember the new things. Practicing regular exercises that both relax and focus your brain on imagining can bring about big benefits to your memory capacity.
Here are some tips:
Pressing the Temples
STEP 1: Place your hands on your head with your fingertips pointing backwards and the thumbs resting on your temples. Using your thumbs, slowly squeeze the acupressure points in your temples.
STEP 2: Rotate your hands so the fingertips point upward and the pads of the hands are resting on your temples. Using the pads of your hands, lightly tap your temples 30 times.
STEP 1: Place your hands on your head with the thumbs close together to the hairline. Press your thumbs in to lightly massage your scalp at the hairline. Move your thumbs apart and continue to massage lightly along the hairline. End at the back of the neck.
STEP 2: Massage the back of the neck with your thumbs, starting at the headline and moving upward to the top of your head and forward to the front hairline, where Step 1 began. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
STEP 3: Lightly tap your entire head with your fingertips, beginning at the top and moving toward the back, and then to the temples, and finally to the forehead. Feel each area as you tap and continue to breathe out through your mouth. Spend 10 to 20 seconds tapping each area.
Relax, Breathe, and Imagine
STEP 1: Make your spine straight and close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Breathe in and breathe out.
STEP 2: Open your mouth slightly and tilt your head a little bit back, and gently shake your head side to side. Exhale out your mouth and imagine your brain is getting relaxed. Your muscles and your mind will be relaxed too. Keep your head and spine straight and focus on your breathing.
STEP 3: Now imagine there is a TV screen in your brain. On this “mind screen,” imagine things you want to remember—let’s call these things “A.” Then imagine things that are associated with A, and also imagine a joyful situation related to A. And play it all like a movie — with a story.
STEP 4: Open your eyes and put what was on your mind screen down on paper. Drawing and writing will both be helpful to consolidate this experience.
Now enjoy your improved memory … !