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How To Improve Your Long Term Memory

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How To Improve Your Long Term MemoryLong term memory is the ongoing storage of unconscious and conscious information. It exists beyond your awareness but can be called into focus as needed.

This type of memory can last for days - or decades. It is created from short term memories which are replayed and reconnected several times.

We can break down long term memories into two categories:

  • Declarative memory resides in your conscious mind. It can either be episodic (such as your first day at school) or semantic (such as the capital cities of the world) and requires your conscious effort to recall.

  • Procedural memory is a largely unconscious or automatic response to your environment, such as how to ride a bicycle or play the piano. You can recall procedural memory without consciously thinking about it.

In this article, we'll look at the causes of long term memory loss and how you can actively improve it through brain games, memory supplements, and simple lifestyle changes.


What Causes Long Term Memory Loss?

Long term memories naturally fade as you get older - this is completely normal. Generally the effect is exacerbated by stress and illness, so it pays to create a healthy, low-stress lifestyle and keep your immune system strong to fend off disease.

How To Improve Your Long Term MemoryHowever, serious long term memory loss can be caused by brain injury, for example as the result of a car crash. You may have trouble processing and storing new information which makes it hard to form new long term memories. Or you may have difficulty remembering certain tastes, smells and sounds - it depends on what part of the brain has been affected.

Other causes of serious memory loss are neurodegenerative diseases - including Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Huntington's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease. For more information see The Wider Causes of Memory Loss.


How To Improve Your Long Term Memory

Here are some powerful ways to improve your long term memory:

  1. Exercise Your Body - Research has found a clear connection that exercise not only keeps the body fit and strong, but reduces the chances of developing dementia. That's because it improves the function of your cardiovascular system - it keeps the heart pumping fresh oxygen to the brain. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels (essential for diabetics coping with memory loss) which affect the size of the hippocampus, part of the brain which is critical to memory.

  2. Exercise Your Brain - Another study has found that seniors who do crosswords, puzzles, read, write and play card games delayed the onset of dementia. It's recommended you do this kind of mental exercise twice a day in order to help prevent your mental powers from stagnating.

    Web's Best Brain GamesFor memory improvement games, I recommend Lumosity (right). They offer a huge range of simple and scientifically-proven games designed for all ages. By practicing daily, you can track your performance and monitor your level of improvement in terms of memory, attention and creativity. It's an excellent website for young and old to sharpen their memory skills and improve their mental performance all-round.

    Click here to access FREE Lumosity brain training games now.

  3. Sleep Well - Ever noticed how babies sleep far more than adults? That's because their brains are rapidly developing, allowing their neuronal connections to be remodeled during sleep. So if you are sleep deprived, you are also depriving your brain from essential remodeling work and memory consolidation.

  4. Avoid Stress - When you are stressed, the brain releases a chemical called cortisol which adversely affects your memory and other brain functions. So if you are frequently stressed out you will find it tough to recall long term memories - you'll have that feeling that your mind has gone blank - even when the answer should be obvious. Cortisol also diverts glucose in the blood to muscles and away from the brain, so your hippocampus is again deprived of oxygen.

  5. Eat Well - Sometimes memory loss can be attributed to a nutritional deficiency in the diet. Experts recommend eating more nutrient-rich foods or specific vitamin supplements to improve memory. This provides the brain with all the nutrients it needs to function properly, including the way it forges and retrieves memories. To find out what supplements may work best for you, see Memory Vitamins.

  6. Concentrate More - Don't allow your brain to rot away by letting information and opportunities wash over you. Take an interest in the task at hand and give it your full attention. If you aren't mentally challenged by your job, find new ways to stimulate your brain by taking up a hobby or learning a new skill. It's essential that you actively engage your brain in challenging tasks every day.

  7. Use Mnemonics - A mnemonic device is a clever way of engaging the brain and improve your long term memory at the same time. It works by evoking vivid and unusual mental imagery and emotions, thereby giving dry data meaning. In my article on Mnemonic Devices I explain various systems including The Linking System, The Name Game, The Loci System and The Peg System. They can all help with long term recall tasks like remembering news and phone numbers.

  8. Replay New Memories - If you are studying for an exam, review all your data several times at different intervals to cement it in your long term memory. For example, spend a few minutes reviewing your data about 10 minutes after the initial lesson. This will keep it fresh for about 24 hours. So review again the next day. Then again after one week. And finally review again after one month. By this time it will take little effort to recall the information from your long term memory.

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