How to Sharpen Your Memory and Brain Power

Are you a victim of forgetfulness? Do you find yourself going through the same “where are my keys” routine every morning? Do you search for your vehicle when you exit the mall because you can’t remember where you’ve parked it? Do you write things down like directions, reminders, shopping lists — and then can’t find the information when you need it? Forgetting where we’ve stashed essential items can be frustrating and slow us down considerably.

What about names? Do you forget someone’s name as soon as you hear it? This can be embarrassing, especially in business. Do you leave the house without everything you need, and then remember what you’ve forgotten after you’re halfway to your destination? Do you misplace your cell phone and then have to call yourself in order to locate it?

You’re not alone! Forgetfulness is a common problem for many of us, and it doesn’t mean the brain is losing its ability to function. While studies indicate that memory, response time, and attention span tend to diminish with age, the losses are more often due to a lack of exercising the brain than to diminished brain capacity.

There are many exercises you can use to improve brain function and sharpen memory. In a recent study, exercise was shown to increase levels of BDNF, a brain derived neurotropic factor which is known to promote the health of nerve cells. Occupational therapy practitioners take this one step further by teaching their clients how to perform evidenced based physical and cognitive exercises to increase brain function by incorporating specific exercises that encourage new neural connections.

To develop a better memory, start working the abilities you’ve got, but don’t use. You can
strengthen your memory by changing your thinking and your habits. Changing habits and thinking differently improves brain circulation and encourages the use of both sides of the brain. This helps to improve not only memory, but other brain functions as well.

Remembering means committing new information to long-term memory. This requires attention. If you come home and let your car keys drop wherever, you’re not likely to remember where they are in the morning. Instead you’ll simply begin the routine of searching the house and retracing your steps from the night before. When you go to the mall and pay no attention to where you’ve parked, it stands to reason that you won’t remember where to find your car.

To remember new information, connect it to something you already know. If you’ve just met “Bill,” connect him to that unpaid bill in your e-mail. To remember where you’re parked at the mall, connect your parking spot to something visual like the nearest flagship store.

Maintaining a fit brain and a sharp memory requires regular exercise in the same way that physical fitness does. One of the best ways to exercise your brain is to challenge it with novel experiences. Something as simple as taking a different route to work will exercise your brain, as will listening to new music or eating something for dinner you’ve never tasted. To challenge your brain even more, perform short tasks with your non-dominant hand.

The problem is that we become so comfortable with the familiar that we stay in the same routines. This does nothing to help the brain stay fit. To exercise your brain on a regular basis, make it a point to change your routine in small but meaningful ways every day. This will bring different areas of the brain into play, improve cranial blood flow, and strengthen neural connections between different areas of the brain. The regular practice of brain fitness exercises can even help to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Airing to over 45 million on Public Television, Functional Fitness with Suzanne Andrews leads you in her Brain Power DVD with a therapeutic, physician-approved workout designed to help viewers with an interest in increasing brain functionality and mental power, offering a specifically targeted fitness routine focused on fostering maximum effects through minimum impact, and easy to follow step-by-step instructions for each move.

Available at all major retailers (online only) including Walmart.

Suzanne Andrews, Functional Fitness,

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