Why Laughter is the Best Memory Medicine

A recent study indicates that laughter can boost your memory and also help your overall demeanor. Magnetic resonance shows that when you laugh, your brain lights up just as it would when exercised by a brain-teaser. Exercise is good for your brain and can instantly improve your mood, mask pain and even make for better relationships.

Many consider humor and laughter a silly diversion, but in fact the neuropsychological benefits are astounding. When you hear the end of a joke or struggle to get a punchline in an anecdote, your brain gets a huge workout.

When you laugh, a chemical reaction takes place in your brain which helps your entire makeup. Here are a few benefits of laughter:

Boosts immunity – Your immune system can greatly benefit from laugher, which can be suppressed from stress and pain.

Reduces stress and pain – The chemical reaction from laughter is directly connected to the nucleus accumbens in the brain. This area of the brain releases dopamine which is a natural opiate.

Bonding with others – Developing relationships is an important part of keeping a healthy brain. Laughter can repel anger and promotes reconciliation and is said to be one of the most desired traits in a life partner.

Studies performed with groups watching a funny movie indicated more improvement in memory recall, cognitive functions and ability to learn compared with other groups who didn’t watch the movie.

Diabetics, especially, benefited from laughter because it cuts down on the harmful hormone of cortisol and boosted memory scores. Cortisol may also decrease the hippocampal neurons which make up the memory portion of the brain and increases the flow of blood and boosts your mood.

The increase of dopamine and endorphins in the brain when you laugh can provide pleasure and sense of accomplishment.

Laughter also promotes neurochemical brain changes which increase the memory enhancement – gamma wave band frequency.

Try and add some elements of laughter to your life each day and use humor to deflect negative thoughts from entering your mind.

Before you settle down to sleep at night, watch a funny show or ready a funny book to get your evening of rest off to a good start.
Recent studies have been so positive in the use of laughter to improve memory and overall health of the elderly that humor may be incorporated in wellness programs designed for senior citizens.

All of your worries may not simply melt away with adding more laughter in your life, but try it for a while. It’s definitely true that “laughter may improve memory and quality of life.”

7 Tips to Maintain a Healthy Brain

The brain needs a workout the same as the body. When you flex the muscles of your brain, you’re helping to build pathways to memories from the past and you can recall them much easier.

If you want to maintain a healthy brain and keep building those neural pathways throughout old age, you’ve got to exercise your brain properly. Here are a few tips on exercising your brain so that you build those important memory muscles:

Make it challenging – Any task that increases your knowledge can help flex your brain muscles. For example, you may want to learn a new language, game, sport or go back to school and take a class or two.

Make it fun – If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, it’s not likely you’ll be able to focus on it. Choose brain activities which are fun and challenging – games such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles are excellent exercises.

Focus on the task at hand – Multi-tasking isn’t a good idea if you want to remember what you’re doing and how you did it. Your brain becomes confused when you’re trying to do too many things at once, so be sure you’re focused on whatever new challenge you choose.

Use all your senses – Smells, textures, colors and tastes can all help you remember things much better. Taking notes, speaking aloud what you want to remember, noticing the smells surrounding you and taking visual, colorful pictures can stimulate the brain in all areas.

Do something different – Put a variety of tasks in your brain exercises and don’t stick to things you already know. Studies show that even varying the route you take to work can enhance your work day by helping you concentrate.

Focus on the important – When attempting to remember complex or volumes of materials, focus on the basic formula or “picture” rather than trying to remember all the details. It may be helpful to create a “mind map” which is a visual creation of a map with the main areas highlighted.

Organize your thoughts – You can remove the brain clutter and remember things much easier if you organize your thoughts as you would unclutter a desk or cabinet. Write down things such as thoughts, conversations and other experiences you want to remember and then go over them at some point during the day.

There are so many fun ways to keep your brain active and alert. Research all you can and find new ways to challenge yourself on a daily basis.

How Stress Can Sabotage Your Memory

You may know about how stress can affect your body – making it difficult to sleep so you’re groggy during the day, depression, anxiety and inability to focus on work and other tasks. Your memory can also be highly affected by chronic or extreme stress.
The memory works by processing information we acquire through the pathways of the brain. We can retain and recall experiences and things we’ve learned in the past through the neural pathways.

Short-term memory (working memory) is what we notice or think of first when we’re reading or memorizing something. Then, it’s processed into the long-term memory – if conditions are healthy in your brain. Here are the three stages that information goes through before it’s processed into the long-term memory:

Encoding – Encoding happens when you listen or observe something. You must move on to the next two stages for it to stay in your memory.

Consolidation – Much like you would burn a CD, consolidated information becomes burned into your memory so you can move on to the next stage.

Retrieval – The part of your brain which allows you to recall the information you encoded and consolidated.

Stress may interfere with either or all of these memory processing stages in the following ways:

Interference – Stress can interfere with any of the above processes by distracting what you’re trying to remember. For example, if you’ve just memorized some important information and then experience a stressful situation, you’re not likely to remember the data you were trying to process.

Not finishing the process – If you don’t complete all three of the stages to process memories you probably didn’t encode it in the first place. For example, if you forget an important business meeting, you likely just heard the date and time, but didn’t write it down or think of it in ways to remember it and store it in your long-term memory.

Stress hormones – Stress can create stress hormones that may prevent passage of memories through the neural pathways. These hormones interfere with the chemical balance of your brain and can greatly reduce your recall ability.

A certain amount of stress can actually be good for you – especially when it’s involved with emotions. You can probably remember some traumatic event that happened in your life because it was an emotional experience and your brain recorded every detail.

We’re born with a certain amount of this ingrained emotional memory ability because of the “fight or flight” response we had to develop early on, when survival depended on it. Think about the stress in your own life and how it may be affecting your memory recall.

Medical Conditions Which May Affect Your Memory

There are certain medical conditions which may affect how your brain operates and how you recall information. Some medical conditions require that you take medications which also can impair your memory.

Some medical conditions that may affect long or short term memory are:

Vitamin Deficiencies – A good diet helps your brain to function properly, but you may still suffer vitamin or nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B1 and B12 can impair your memory and so can a Vitamin D deficiency.

Lack of Sleep – Sleep deprivation may cause fatigue which can result in loss of concentration and memory problems. It’s important to your health and brain function to get both a good quantity and quality of sleep each night.

Stress – It’s difficult to focus when you’re under severe stress. It may also lead to depression which can make it difficult to remember things. Emotional trauma may also cause memory loss.

Stroke – Many people suffer from strokes and don’t realize it for awhile. If you have short-term memory loss, you should see your physician to test for a blockage of a blood vessel or leakage of a blood vessel to the brain.

Smoking, Alcohol and Drug Use – If you’re using any of these mind-changing items in excess, you could have short or long-term memory loss. All of these items cause derogatory changes in the brain.

Head Injury – You’ve seen this scenario in movies – someone gets hit in the head and they wake up not knowing who they are or anything about their lives. It does happen, but memory will likely improve over time.

If you have depression, allergies or other medical condition, you may be required to take prescription or over-the-counter medications. Some conditions requiring medications that can cause memory loss are:

Anxiety – Any medication prescribed for anxiety may have an effect on your memory.

Muscle problems – If you have a condition which requires you to take muscle relaxants, be aware that the medications could impair your memory.

Allergies – Antihistimines – prescription or over-the-counter – can slow the operation of your brain and cause memory loss.

Pain – Prescription pain pills should be taken only when you need them and stop immediately when you don’t. They can prevent your brain from creating new and healthy cells.

Sleep medication – Sleeping pills can make you wake up in the morning feeling groggy and can keep you from focusing during the day.

Of course, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the worst robbers of our memories. If memory loss begins to interfere with your lifestyle, see your health care provider immediately and take steps toward getting your memory – and your life back on track.

Flex Your Mental Muscles

You know you can flex your muscles to make a difference in your body’s fitness, but did you know that you can exercise your mental muscles and gain a better memory and more brain power?

When you flex your mental muscles the brain creates neuro pathways to the brain. Some exercises and activities can effectively work the brain in five main cognitive area functions. If you can perform these exercises on a daily basis you can train your mind to become fit and active and your memory recall will increase.

The brain contains the following areas of cognitive recognition:

Language – This part of our brains is devoted to remembering, understanding and being able to identify words. You can challenge this area of your brain by practicing new languages, increasing your grammatical skills and increasing your vocabulary.

Attention Span – It’s difficult to focus on something if you’re a multi-tasker. Noises and other distractions can also inhibit your ability to focus your attention. You can help your attention span part of your brain by changing the way you do things. Changing your route to work or any type of routine can awaken your brain and help it pay attention when needed.

Memories – As we age, the memory area of your brain can deteriorate. Sometimes, that’s because of dementia or Alzheimer’s, but most often we simply need to increase our cognitive activities. That includes mental calculations, reasoning powers and reading to remember. Games you play such as crossword puzzles can boost a chemical in your brain called “acetylcholine” which boosts your brain memory skills.

Executive Function – The part of your brain known as the executive function performs the tasks of helping your logic and reasoning powers. Executive functioning helps you develop strategies to reach goals and other major decisions in your life. Video games are great stimulation for this area of your brain and social interaction can also help.

Visual-Spatial Skills – Since we live in a three-dimensional world, filled with color and visuals, we must be able to analyze them in order to function without our various environments. Visual-spatial skills are developed by observing what you see in front of your eyes and within your peripheral vision. To develop these skills, look at a picture, turn it over and then write down every object you saw in the picture. It’s a good exercise to help you focus on what’s around you.

Just as you would exercise all your body muscle to gain overall fitness – so you need to stimulate these five areas of the brain to remain mentally sharp and active as you age.

Brain Exercises To Stimulate Your Memory

You must exercise your brain just as you would your body for the ultimate fitness and function. Research has proven that regular brain stimulation can keep the brain active and healthy far into later years – a great piece of news for our aging population who are worried about memory loss.

The way the brain works properly is to create new neural pathways which can connect with the stored information. When stimulated, the brain tends to create new pathways to a sort of savings account in the brain, where knowledge is stored and retrieved through the pathways.

When people maintain brain function by exercising the brain throughout their lives, a higher level of brain functioning is found.

We depend on our brains to remember people’s names and faces and even the most minimal things such as where we put our reading glasses.

There are many ways you can keep your brain active and vital well into your later years. Here are a few that you may want to try:

Mnemonic devices – The use of mnemonic devices such as puzzles that involve both numbers (Sudoku) and words (crossword puzzles) can stimulate the memory portion of your brain and are fun to do.

Brain tricks – Some studies show that you can trick your brain into remembering things. Chewing gum while you study is one way – moving your eyes back and forth when trying to memorize is another.

Focus on one thing at a time – Unfortunately, multi-tasking has become prevalent in our uber-busy society, but studies show you’re much more apt to remember things if you focus on one task at a time.

Speak aloud – When you say aloud what you’re attempting to remember something. For example, after you’re introduced to a person, repeat his or her name as you’re shaking hands.

Chunking – The art of chunking involves grouping things or numbers together so you remember them better. For example, if you have trouble remembering your driver’s license number, break it down into two or three number at a time.

Acronyms – Use this mnemonic device when you need to remember large amounts of information. For example, the word,

HOMES can be an acronym for the Great Lakes – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior – or make up your own.

Acronyms – A mnemonic device that’s great for remembering a large amount of information. You can use acronyms which are already in place (such as H-O-M-E-S, for remember the Great Lakes – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior) – or make them up.

Ingredients in a recipe can be remembered by making up an acronym such as, B-R-O-C-H for the ingredients: Beans, Rotel, Olives, Chili powder and Hominy to make chili.

The brain is a perfect example of the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Learn something new each day and focus on every task to ensure that your brain keeps busy making new pathways and connections for your memory.

Best Vitamins and Nutrients for Your Brain Health

Feed your brain the same as you would your body for the ultimate in keeping brain-fit. If you have a deficiency, it can affect your brain in several ways including focus and clarity, mood swings, mental decline, depression and anxiety, dementia and memory recall.

There are many “supplements” on the market which are promoted to be especially for the brain, but you should know which really work. Below are the three essential vitamins and nutrients which are absolutely essential for a healthy brain:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in omega-3 fatty acids. DHA is the main building block of the brain and without it, brain problems such as those connected with the nervous system and psychiatric disorders may occur.

DHA deficiency may also affect mood swings, depression and anxiety, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Many of the symptoms of these conditions may be helped with omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Studies have shown that elderly people with high levels of DHA are 50% less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s as those with lower levels.

Vitamin B12 – If you find yourself having difficult recalling information and feel that you’re in a fog most of the time, you may be deficient in a B-complex vitamin.

Studies show that there’s a connection between Vitamin B12 deficiency and the two most feared conditions of the elderly – dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Since people may have a difficult time absorbing Vitamin B12 as they age, a vitamin supplement may be in order. Be sure and check your B-level vitamins during your yearly checkup.

Vitamin D – This vitamin is close to DHA in importance to the brain’s health and memory recall. Vitamin D can get rid of depression and anxiety, help you focus and be better able to solve problems.

Besides having a profound effect on your memory, Vitamin D can also protect against such diseases as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Your bone density can also be affected by a deficiency of this vitamin and may prevent osteoporosis, which is a leading cause of hip fractures.

Other vitamins which are also important to brain health include antioxidants which can help rid your body of free radicals which can harm the neural pathways in the brain.

“Smart drugs” have become popular brain boosters and are only available by subscription, but you should speak to your physician before deciding to go this route.

You can enhance your brain power and memory recall by ensuring that your body is getting the proper vitamins and nutrients. If not, supplements can make a difference.

Bad Habits = Bad Memory

Studies are constantly appearing which have us worried about the habits we form in our daily lives. It may have to do with drinking too much, smoking, not getting enough sleep or too much stress. There’s always something that we should change to become healthier.

Those bad habits may also be instrumental in hindering your brain health – memory, in particular. Alzheimer’s disease is a constant concern among the ageing baby boomer population and it’s now sixth in the cause of American deaths.

Although Alzheimer’s disease is mostly considered a disease of the elderly, bad habits that you develop early on can begin a domino effect which can harm your brain and make it easier to become affected by memory diseases.

Here are some habits which can greatly affect your memory and the health of your brain:

Poor diet – A poor diet can take a toll on your brain as well as your body. You may not be able to see the effects on the brain as you can with the body, but the harm is happening is subtle ways such as difficult in focusing, bad memory recall and cognitive functioning.

Smoking – Everyone should know of the harm that smoking can cause to the brain, but smoking can also be a factor in decline of memory between the ages of 40 and 50 years old.

Lack of sleep – When you don’t get enough sleep at night, you may feel as if you’re in a fog during the day. If this condition becomes chronic, you run the risk of damaging the neural pathways of the brain which may affect memory recall.

Lack of exercise – Your brain can mimic the body when you don’t exercise enough. The hippocampus portion of the brain which is responsible for memory storage may become sluggish and your cognitive and recall brain functions may be impaired without the proper amount of exercise.

Alcohol and drug use – Some people may have conditions which require prescription drugs for treatment, but overuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can greatly impair your ability to remember things. Alcohol consumption may also destroy cells of the brain and make it more difficult to build them back up.

Other reasons to change bad habits are the effects they may have on your body. Heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer and diabetes may also occur if your bad habits aren’t under control.

Best Foods for Your Memory

Healthy eating isn’t only for your body’s fitness – eating the right foods may lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and heart disease. It may also be a factor in early onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

When you combine certain foods with a healthy and vital lifestyle and brain exercises which can boost memory-saving chemicals, you’re taking steps to live a long life and live it on your own terms.

Here are some foods which can make a difference in your brain health and they’re great for your body too:

Avocado – Rich in powerful vitamin C and the powerhouse brain-booster of vitamin E, avocado is a food associated with reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sunflower seeds – Another food high in vitamin E, sunflower and other seeds can supply 30% of your recommended vitamin E intake in only one ounce.

Fish – Heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (including DHA) are found in tuna, mackerel and salmon. These vitamins are necessary for the brain’s neurons are functioning normally.

Leafy, dark green vegetables – Vitamin E and folic acid are found in the food sources of spinach, kale, broccoli and other greens. Eating these healthy foods can lower an amino acid called homocysteine which is found in the blood and may cause death of brain cells.

Red wine – Moderate amounts of red wine may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and can greatly improve the bad cholesterol which can lead to heart disease.

Berries – Recent research involving the impact eating berries have on health indicate that acai, blueberries and strawberries may halt the onset of cognitive problems of the memory.

Oil-based salad dressing – These dressings tend to be high in vitamin E and serves as a powerful antioxidant to protect nerve and neuron cells. In many memory-related diseases, neurons begin to deteriorate and eventually cause cognitive problems.

Whole grains – Fiber loaded whole grains should be part of a nutritious diet plan to lower your risk of cognitive impairment and the eventual onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

While these foods are important for the continued health of your brain and in preserving your memory, you should combine a good diet with exercise and a healthy lifestyle, free of bad habits and doing everything you can to preserve your brain’s health.

Your brain needs the protection and stimulation of good food and exercise the same as the body needs them to stay fit. Pay attention to the foods you eat and you’ll reap the benefits of living a long life with a healthy memory in tow.

5 Best Brain Exercises

It’s important that you regularly exercise your brain to keep the neural pathways open and your memory sharp. The neural pathways are the parts of your brain which helps you recall information, solve problems and perform tasks that you’ve experienced in the past.

When you exercise your brain, you’re stimulating the pathways so they’ll stay vital and active. To accomplish the exercises your brain needs, you need to change your routine once in a while and learn and develop new skills.

Mnemonic devices are some of the best ways to keep your brain stimulated and active. Here are five of the best mnemonic exercises for your brain:

Acrostics – Acrostics involve making up a sentence where the first or last letter of each word represents the items you want to remember. One popular acrostic is, “E, G, B, D, F” – for “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” to remember the lines of the treble clef in music.

Visual – Like taking a picture with your mind. Make them colorful and three-dimensional to make the recall easier. For example, to remember who was president when the first Atomic bomb was detonated, you could picture Harry Truman in front of a huge mushroom cloud.

Chunking – This method is great for breaking up a long string of numbers into chunks that are more easily remembered. For example, telephone numbers are better remembered than a driver’s license number because they’re broken down into three chunks.

Acronyms – These are words formed by taking the first letters of the items you want to remember and creating a new word from them. For example, to remember a grocery list containing “Laundry detergent, Olives, Diapers and Eggs,” you’d form the word “L-O-D-E.”

Rhymes – Use rhymes you remember from school days or make them up yourself. You may have remembered the rhyme, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen-hundred, ninety-two,” to remember when the explorer began his fateful trip to the New World.

All of the above methods are great ways to keep your brain in shape and to ward off such memory problems as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Keep in mind that the more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and recall information.

Challenge yourself in different ways. Learn a new skill, language or sport. And, any exercise which requires you to use your hands can also exercise your brain. Take up a musical instrument or some type of needlework to work out the hand-eye coordination area of your brain.

Most of all — be mindful rather than mindless. Get off the couch and try something new.