When it comes to thinking about memory loss causes and trying to defend yourself against them, there’s something you should know:
It isn’t possible to ‘lose’ your memory.
That might sound like a weird thing to say but it’s true.
You might say ‘Well, what about people with dementia or Alzheimer’s?’
My answer is simple. Those are diseases of the brain as a whole, of which memory impairment is only a part. Many of those diseases cause the brain to deteriorate. If there’s less brain matter, there will be less interaction between the different parts of the brain and therefore less ability to remember.
Think about this:
Your memory is an ability that you have, just like any other ability. It isn’t something you own or don’t own.
Let’s say you learned how to ride a mountain bike on cross country dirt tracks, but you haven’t done it for a while, it’s likely you won’t be as good as when you were doing it regularly.
It’s the same for your memory. Use it or ‘lose’ it.
The Top Memory Loss Causes
When we talk about memory loss causes, we’re simply talking about things that block you from being able to use your brain to its full extent.
Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you tell yourself that you’re losing your memory, you’ll actually become more forgetful, which is the reason that the first in my list of memory loss causes is:
1) Telling Yourself You’re Losing Your Memory
The human brain is an incredibly powerful tool. Its power to visualise in great detail, using all of your senses, is unrivalled and unequalled by even the most complex computers.
There are massive benefits to owning this supercomputer ability. Without going all metaphysical on you, it’s possible to clearly visualise a chosen outcome and then allow your subconscious to come up with ways to make it happen.
The downside is that anything you’ve consistently told yourself – such as ‘I’m losing my memory’ – becomes fact in your subconscious. Regardless of whether it’s a good or bad thing that you’re telling yourself, from then on, your subconscious will work on the basis that you’re right.
This can be catastrophic for your memory because your subconscious is working 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, even when you’re asleep.
Think of it like a person constantly telling you that you’re an idiot. Eventually, you might just start to believe it.
- Stop telling yourself you’re losing your memory! – We all have memory gaps every so often, but they’re not caused by ‘losing’ your memory. They may, in fact, be caused by some of the following factors…
2) Not Getting Enough Sleep
Another one of the major memory loss causes is sleep deprivation.
Your brain requires a certain amount of sleep per 24-hour cycle. Without it, your brain will be sluggish because it won’t have the energy or rest time it needs to repair your body and mind after a day’s work.
Significantly, with many of your functions impaired, you won’t remember much. This is why staying up to study something the night before an exam is not a very bright thing to do.
- Get enough sleep! – This will vary slightly from person to person, but it’s between 7.5 and 9 hours per 24-hour cycle for the majority of adults. Check out this excellent guide to help you.
3) Stressing Your Mind
What if someone told you that you had to remember your full bank details in the next 20 seconds or you’ll lose all your money?
How easy do you reckon it would be to remember any of it?
My guess? Not easy at all. The high stress and adrenalin levels in your brain would cause you to forget details because you’d be too focused on the time limit hanging over you and the potential loss of cash.
That’s an extreme example, but the truth is, you’re putting yourself under similar pressures all the time.
Stress is one of the biggest killers as it causes untold damage to your body. I’m talking strokes, heart failure, the lot. It will also kill your memory.
Stress produces a hormone called cortisol which is damaging to the brain.
Many people would say that negative stress is unavoidable. (If you’ve read Andy Shaw’s brilliant ‘A Bug Free Mind’ books, then you’ll know that’s not true.)
Regardless of what you think, there are ways to deal with stress that will help you to not be as affected by it. As a result of removing stress from the memory equation, you will remember more.
- Get some exercise – Regular exercise produces endorphins in your body which relax you and make you feel good, making it easier to remember.
- Meditate – This allows your subconscious and conscious minds to interact more freely and removes tension by allowing you to be there, in that moment, without stress or anxiety. It’s a lot harder than you might think to achieve that state, but when you do, it will open your mind to more learning.
- Avoid prolonged high-stress activities – As an extreme example, if your job is to save people’s lives (you might be a fireman or a surgeon), make sure you get the breaks you need between calls/operations and use them to do something that relaxes you.
4) Consuming a Poor Diet
I’ve spoken of this in other posts like this one, so here I want to focus on some specific elements that might be killing off your memory.
A balanced diet will allow your brain to get all the nutrients it needs to function.
Having a diet that’s high in sugar, high in salt or full of additives (such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate) will damage your body as a whole and with regards to memory loss, damage your brain functions.
- Eat better (this really isn’t rocket science, is it?) – Make sure you have three meals per day, with each one containing protein, fruit and/or vegetables and a complex carbohydrate. For example, bacon on wholegrain bread/toast with a glass of fruit smoothie for breakfast.
- Don’t snack on crap food that’s high in sugar or salt, or that contains loads of additives.
- Get plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration will ruin your chance of functioning in a lot of areas, including memory.
5) Alcohol and Drug Use
This is pretty obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway as you may not realise the damage you’re doing to yourself…
Drugs and alcohol (which is technically a drug too) can have negative effects on you for days after you consume them.
Sure, they may make you feel chilled out and at one with the world and your friends, but the fact is, they are damaging your brain.
According to Dr. John B. Arden in his excellent book, Improving Your Memory for Dummies, people who regularly consume alcohol display:
- Decreased performance on memory tests
- Decreased visual and spatial learning ability
- Decreased ability to make precise motor movements (their co-ordination is affected)
- Decreased short-term memory
And the list goes on and on…
Marijuana users tell a similar story.
Smoking pot regularly can make you irritable and lacking in motivation or clarity of thought.
Also, it is very well-known for causing significant short-term memory loss. If you smoke weed, your memories can become clouded and confused.
- Stop smoking pot – Seriously, I don’t care how relaxed it makes you feel, it’s damaging your memory in a BIG way. Unless you’re being prescribed it because you have cancer or glaucoma, forget it. And even in those cases, it won’t stop your memory from being affected.
- Moderate your alcohol intake – The ideal situation is not to drink, but that’s unrealistic. I like a glass of wine or a cheeky G&T as much as anyone. A little alcohol is OK, but excessive drinking or bingeing is just stupid. For guidelines on how much is ‘safe’, check out this visual guide.
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So, there you have it, the top 5 memory loss causes and how you can avoid ’em.
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Category: Memory Power Tips
About the Author (Author Profile)I'm James Gladwell, chief contributor and editor of SmartMemoryPower.com. I'm fascinated by the human mind and I set this site up in order to help people increase their memory power, while I learned how to improve mine. Feel free to leave a comment on the site and let me know how you think I can make the site better.
Sites That Link to this Post
- 12 Memory Myths That Could Be Harming Your Brain Power : Smart Memory Power | 30 October, 2012