Do you remember when you ran into someone from high school at the gym but you couldn’t remember their name?
How about when you and your siblings jokingly bicker about “who really broke Mom’s vase” when you were all kids?
Well, if you’ve experienced anything like this then you’ve experienced a problem with your episodic memory, which is our brain’s “largest and most complex memory system.”
Episodic memory is the result of two different parts of your brain working together: the hippocampus and the frontal lobe. The hippocampus is responsible for recording new thoughts, perceptions, and sensations while the frontal lobe is dedicated to focus, retrieval of memories, and contextual issues.
Thankfully, as we age, episodic memory, or just “memory” can actually improve with a little TLC. Whether you are tired of being described as forgetful or if you want to cling onto those college golden days as long as you can, we can all support our memory. So, let’s get to know our memory a little better, including how it works, and the steps we can take to preserve it as the years pass by.
How A Memory is Created
Interestingly enough, a memory requires us to experience an event called encoding, which is simply “the process of receiving and registering information.” Without this process it’s impossible to recall anything that happens to us.
To properly encode details of an event, a person has to be paying attention to what’s going on. Now, if you’ve ever had somebody ask if you’re even listening, and were guilty of not listening, you may have been able to recall the general idea of what the other person was saying.
However, without the encoding process, the details would have escaped us, leaving our brain unable to process and reproduce what was being said. So if you’re hoping to have a better memory, paying attention can go a long way!
Magicians Are Masters of Memory: What We Can Learn From Them
Believe it or not (pun intended if you’re not too old to get it -- Ripley’s anyone?), magicians are masters of episodic memory.
As we mentioned above, in order to see, comprehend, and recite what we saw, a person must be paying attention. If we weren’t paying attention, our brain never saw it, and it didn’t happen.
So, how could a magician or illusionist exploit such knowledge? The trick is to draw our eyes and mind, away from what the performer doesn’t want us to see.
In other words, if the trick is happening in the right hand, the point is to get the audience to look at the left hand! Pretty cool, right?
How would you feel about performing in front of 10, 100, 1000 people and being confident that you could draw all of their eyes away from the trick? You can see why they make the big bucks then!
So How Can I Improve My Episodic Memory?
Episodic memory is clearly a powerful tool and something we constantly use in our daily lives. Having a better memory can help us recall birthdays, old friends, our favorite cheesecake recipe, and all the memories and people attached to that info.
So, in honor of never forgetting your favorite cheesecake recipe, let’s all improve our memory by following some simple steps:
Focus Your Attention
As we said above, memory all starts with encoding and our brain’s ability to receive then process an event. By focusing our attention, we allow our brains to better convert a sensory image or sound into a memory. Therefore, encoding is just turning internal thoughts and external events into short or long-term memory.
If you’re struggling to remember something, you can always use a cue that’s easier to remember.
Maybe your best friend goes through a lot of relationships, and his newest girlfriend’s name is Sophia, and for the life of you, you just can’t ever remember her name even if you’ve met her multiple times. Maybe you struggle to remember “Sophia,” but, you know Sophia is from California -- Santa Barbara to be exact, and the “S” in Santa Barbara triggers your brain to recall “Sophia” since it also starts with an “s.”
That’s a cue. We can use cues to help trigger our memory on anything from names, to recipes, directions or songs. Anything can have a cue!
Create Mental Images
Much like a word cue we talked about above, we can also use mental images to create an association for a memory we have stored.
For me. this has always been a life saver as I’m more visual when it comes to learning. Say for example you love The Rolling Stones, and the song “Wild Horses” is your favorite. but you can never remember what album it’s on. It’s on “Sticky Fingers,” if you didn’t know, but if you can’t recall that, create a mental image of the album cover that your brain can draw an association with if you were browsing through your records by image!
So, the tips and tricks above are awesome, but you want to create real change and increase your memory physiologically.
Well, you’ve come to the right place, as there are numerous supplements that can be easily added to your daily routine that can boost that brain power.
Take a look at these easy to add supplements to step up your memory game:
Omega-3 Fish Oil
Omega-3 Fish Oil has been around for decades, but the benefits continue to amaze us with claims of supporting heart health, brain health, and even weight loss (paired of course with proper diet and exercise). Studies have shown that adults who eat more fish and or use fish oil supplements were more likely to carry mental wellness into old age, and they also performed better on cognitive tests than those who consumed less fish/fish oil.
Ashwagandha is another supplement that has been found to have numerous health benefits including supporting psychomotor performance, cognitive performance, and soothing tension throughout the body.
Ashwagandha and Omega-3 Fish Oil can both be found in ASYSTEM’s Superhuman Supplements -- fitting name, right?
Earlier, we talked in depth about memory, paying attention, and focus. Remember, magicians take advantage of drawing your focus elsewhere while the trick happens!
To support your memory, it’s important to improve your focus, and Rhodiola Rosea is all about focus. Known also as the “Golden Root” or “Arctic Root,” this ingredient is found in mountainous regions of both Europe and Asia.
Studies have shown that participants who took a supplement of Rhodiola Rosea had improved mood, concentration, and even lower levels of stress after just a week.
Found in some of your favorite foods such as blueberries, red wine, chocolate, and peanuts, Resveratrol has been shown to support mental health and brain health through old age. Lesson here: continue to enjoy some of your favorite foods, but studies on this supplement have shown a dosage of 200mg per day is needed to create the benefit.
Episodic memory is a type of long term memory that involves conscious recollection of previous experiences, as well as information related to those experiences.
Encoding is the key allowing our brain to translate sensory inputs into long term memory, and requires us to focus on what we want to remember.
Good memory, especially as we age, isn’t a given, but thankfully there are things we can do to keep our brains healthy for as long as possible. Focusing on what we want to remember, using cues, and supplementing our diets with important brain-healthy ingredients can ensure we maintain the highest cognitive function today, and everyday to come!