In another post, we talked about episodic memory, memories based on individual experiences. If you strip those memories of emotion and personal context, you are left with facts and knowledge of how the world works. This recollection of pure information is known as semantic memory.
A few examples:
Reminiscing about your childhood sheltie puppy (episodic memory) vs. identifying what a dog is (semantic memory).
Memories of your grandma's spaghetti and meatballs (episodic memory) vs. knowing how to use a fork to eat spaghetti and meatballs (semantic memory).
Remembering your friend Chad’s birthday (episodic memory) vs. recalling that Chad, the African country, is located south of Libya (semantic memory).
These two types of memory are strongly linked and work together to create our explicit memory, what most of us refer to as just “memory.”
Semantic memory is often derived from episodic memory, especially during childhood development, like an experience with a puppy. That little fluff ball might be the first dog you ever came into contact with, but as you got older, you could recognize other dogs, and even start to identify different breeds.
Semantic memory also tends to be re-enforced by episodic memory and even vice versa.
Great news! Studies suggest that unlike episodic memory, semantic memory does not decline with age.
However, because they are so distinctly linked, it is important to care for your brain as a whole in order to maximize your health and memory to its fullest potential even as you age.
Here are six natural ways, backed by science, that support brain health, and thus help support your semantic memory.
Recent studies point to exercise as one of the most effective ways to combat the negative effects of aging.
Research shows that exercise can promote the production of new brain cells, which can support overall cognitive functioning. Even moderate exercise on a regular basis is associated with improved memory in people of all ages.
The key to being active is to find something you enjoy doing and stick with it. Not a runner? Take a brisk walk (I recommend, with a cute sheltie). Avoiding the gym due to COVID? Invest in a few weights and find your new favorite bootcamp guru on Youtube. Didn’t jump on the Peloton craze? Dust off the bike in your garage and take her out for a spin.
Just don’t forget the recovery to receive the full benefits for your brain without exhausting your body.
Challenge Your Brain
Equally critical to exercising your physical body is the need to exercise your mind. Routine participation in activities such as jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, card games, and chess (“The Queen’s Gambit,” anyone?) can improve focus and memory.
Learning new skills is not just a way to pass the time during quarantine, it also helps to strengthen connections in the brain. Picking up a new instrument, learning a new language, or expanding your vocabulary stimulates multiple regions of the brain, improving creative thinking and memory function.
It is never too late to learn something new. The benefits you gain in the short-term will allow you to show off your new skills to your friends, and in the long-term, will build your semantic memory.
Meditation is the practice of calming your mind by bringing awareness to your thoughts, your body, and/or your surroundings. Studies show a variety of mental and physical health benefits that are associated with meditation. The experience is linked with an increase of gray matter in the brain, positively impacting memory and cognition.
The goal of meditation is mindfulness, a focus on the present without judgement or criticism of anything going on internally or around you. Meditation techniques include breathwork, body scanning, chanting a mantra, movement (yoga, qigong, walking with shelties), visualizing positive imagery and focusing on your five senses.
Taking even just a few minutes out of your day to close your eyes and pause for a few deep breaths can have long-term impacts on your cognitive functioning and semantic memory. Go ahead and give it a try right now, even if just for a minute. Notice you’ll feel a little lighter. You’re welcome.
Add Some Plants Into That Diet!
We’re not saying you have to turn into a vegan, but incorporating more whole foods into your diet will ensure you get the appropriate amount of vitamins and antioxidants for a healthy mind. Recent studies have shown that high levels of Vitamin C and E, found almost exclusively in plants (i.e. fruits and vegetables), are associated with reduced memory loss.
There is an abundance of evidence showing that well-rounded meals which are heavy on fruits, veggies, and grains, with moderate amounts of fish and minimal meat and dairy, can help protect against dementia.
Find creative ways to get more fruits and veggies into your daily life. Sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Box which delivers produce from a local farm to your front door. Drink your vitamins, by juicing or making smoothies. Add herbs and spices to your meals as a simple way to get some extra nutrients. Enjoy some homemade soup loaded with vegetables, beans, legumes and, okay go ahead and throw in a little ground beef. After all, we’re moving on to supplements next.
Supplements are an important way to, well… supplement all the other activities you’ll be doing to support your semantic memory. Ingredients like Fish Oil, Ashwagandha, Ginkgo Biloba, and Resveratrol support healthy brain power and can improve cognitive performance and focus. Some of these can be found in your favorite foods, but in order to maximize benefits, ASYSTEM offers Superhuman Supplements, a convenient supply of each nutrients in its appropriate dosage in a neat little easy to take capsule.
Our products contain ingredients actually backed by clinical data that are proven to deliver results, alongside ingredients which harness the potent powers of nature to support and rejuvenate you.
As we all know by now, getting adequate sleep is critical for your physical and mental well-being. Sleep allows your body to rest, while also providing a time of repair for the next day’s functioning, and that time helps to consolidate memories in your brain. Throughout the night, the brain is actively forming new pathways that will allow for improved semantic memory. A proper night of sleep enhances learning and encourages higher information retention.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation negatively impacts activity in parts of the brain. A lack of sleep can lead to behavior change, decreased problem solving skills, compromised immunity, increased risk of disease, reduced attention span, and you guessed it… impaired memory.
Solidifying Semantic Memory
Keeping your memory sharp is vital to living a productive and fulfilling life. It’s important to focus on physical and mental health in order to help keep memory loss at bay as we age. Physical activity, challenging your brain, practicing meditation, eating healthy, supplementing your diet with brain-healthy nutrients and getting proper sleep will all go a long way to ensure episodic and semantic memory stay strong.
Our semantic memory allows us to continue functioning in the world, collecting bits of knowledge and retaining critical information. Our episodic memory allows us to put context to our experiences and connect personally to the environment around us.
It might have been a while since you’ve had your grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs, but thankfully, you’ll still know how to use a fork the next time she cooks it up thanks to semantic memory.