Good working memory could be important for a happy and successful life

Drawing of the brainNew research has found that having a good working memory is likely to be vital for a happy and successful life. Working memory is being able to remember and process things at the same time. The study suggests that people with good working memories tend to have better jobs and relationships, and be more positive and optimistic than people with poor working memories.

Dr. Tracy Alloway, from the University of Stirling in Scotland, led a study of 1,200 people aged in their late teens to their sixties. Participants did psychological tests and questionnaires to test their working memory. The tests assessed how well people can process data and remember things at the same time.

The study found that the people with good working memories were more self-confident and positive than those whose working memories weren’t as good. The research also showed that happiness to do with work and relationships stems from good working memories.

Dr. Alloway said: “We found that people who have a high working memory tend to be more optimistic, more hopeful about life, more confident that they can cope with problems and adjust to situations.”

“People with a poor working memory tended to be more brooding and to spend more time fixated on problems when they arose in their life. People who brood tend to be depressed more often.”

To read the entire article, visit BBC News.

So how can we have a better memory? Read on for ideas.

Tips to improve memory

Keep mentally active

We need to keep our minds active or, like muscles, they weaken if we don’t use them enough. As they say, “use it or lose it”.

Challenge our mind — start a course, learn another language, do difficult crosswords…

Do memory exercises

There are plenty of techniques around to help us remember things. One technique is to create a short, imaginary story out of the things we need to remember, such as a shopping list. Visualize (imagine) the story as it unfolds. When we want to recall the items on our list, we remember the story and, therefore, the items as well.

Be physically active

Studies show that, generally, the more physically active a person is, the sharper their mind is.

A recent study found physically fitter children tend to have a bigger hippocampus (a part of the brain) and perform better on a memory test than their less-fit peers.

Our brains receive nutrients and oxygen via the blood. Exercise improves blood flow around the body (circulation), and helps prevent fatty deposits building-up inside the arteries and blood vessels. Healthy arteries and blood vessels combined with good circulation help our brain receive enough oxygen and nutrients, so help us think and concentrate well.

Have healthy eating habits

We can’t expect to have a good memory if we eat lots of junk food. If we want our brain to function well, we need to eat enough of what it needs.

Here are some healthy eating tips to be aware of, if we want to have a good memory.

Eat enough omega-3 fat

Our brain is mostly made of fat, of which a large proportion is omega-3 fat. The type and amount of fat we eat affects our memory, mood, concentration, intelligence and more. A lack of omega-3 fat can cause low mood, poor focus and poor memory.

For a good mind, mood and memory, eat enough omega-3 fat.

Get enough vitamin B

The B vitamins are vital for a sharp mind. People deficient in vitamin B can have a poor memory as a result. Boosting vitamin B intake to adequate levels can enhance memory in these instances.

CBN Health & Science reported in early September 2010 that taking a daily dose of vitamin B could help your memory, and could also delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new Oxford University study.

The discovery that vitamin B can help stop brain shrinkage and also help people in the early stages of failing memory could lead to a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Get enough vitamin C and E reports on one study that found vitamin E and vitamin C supplements have a “significant protective effect” against memory problems and loss of mental alertness, according to a Cornell University medical publication. The study found that the two vitamin supplements protect against loss of mental function due to heart disease (hardening of the arteries). The research was published in the journal Neurology.

Don’t get carried away with vitamin supplements though — overdosing can cause health problems.

Control blood sugar levels

Spikes in blood sugar can cause memory problems by affecting the part of the brain that helps form memories, a recent study published in the Annals of Neurology found.

How can we avoid spikes in blood sugar, so have more steady blood sugar levels? Here are some tips:

  • Do regular physical activity. Exercise improves blood sugar regulation and is one of the best ways to control blood sugar.
  • Eat a low glycemic index (GI) diet. In simple terms, the glycemic index is a ranking of how the foods we eat affect our blood sugar levels two or three hours after eating. A low GI diet includes plenty of foods with a low GI, such as peas, beans, lentils, carrots, wholegrain pumpernickel bread, and rolled oats. Low GI foods release blood sugar slowly into the bloodstream, keeping bloods sugar levels steady.
  • Eat one or more high protein foods with all meals. Foods high in protein include meat (red and white), poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, cheese, tofu, beans, and lentils.
  • Drink little or no soft drinks and other drinks that can cause a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, then a quick drop shortly after drinking them.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Eat a few small to medium sized meals throughout the day rather than one or two large meals.

Take memory boosting supplements

Supplements that have shown to help boost memory include lecithin, ginkgo biloba, brahmi, gotu kola, and ginger. Remember, supplements can have side effects, and they can interact with some prescription and non-prescription drugs, herbs and other supplements. Research supplements before taking them and/or talk to a relevant health professional.

Get enough sleep

A lack of sleep can result in a poor memory, and can make us foggy-headed, grumpy and drowsy. We must get enough good quality sleep to have a good memory, feel alert, and concentrate well.

Drink alcohol in moderation

Drinking lots of alcohol badly affects brain cells linked to memory. Drink low to moderate amounts of alcohol to avoid alcohol-related memory loss.

If you’re depressed, get suitable treatment

Depression can cause memory decline. Depression causes an increase in the chemical cortisol in the bloodstream. The increase can reduce the size of parts of the brain, including parts that affect memory. Get treated for depression, if this applies to you.

Avoid high levels of stress, anger and anxiety

These three emotions can all dull memory if they are too high and/or chronic. Seek help if you feel that anger, stress or anxiety might be badly affecting you.

written by Nyomi Graef

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