When you experience forgetfulness, brain fog or lethologica (when something is on the tip of your tongue) it can be easy to become irritated with yourself – and your brain. We often feel like there must be something wrong with us, or that we should have a better memory. The thought that we are some sort of failure when our memory worsens – when we leave the car keys on the fridge or forget a dear friend’s birthday can be incredibly counterproductive – can lead to anxiety and the symptoms of depression.
A recent survey of 2000 adults, commissioned by leading wellbeing brand Healthspan, found that on average we have bouts of forgetfulness three times a day, with examples such as forgetting why we entered a room, what we were about to say and even other people’s names. Hence, forgetting small things is quite common in busy, full lives – but if we nurture ourselves and our brain, we’re likely to not only have better cognitive performance, but feel happier too.
Reappraise the situation
One powerful tool we use in psychology known as ‘cognitive reappraisal’ (sometimes called ‘reframing’) can help with the frustration that often accompanies forgetfulness. Cognitive reappraisal is all about changing our responses to a situation, which has demonstrable effects in terms of both quality of life and high-order cognitive functions such as memory and recall.
One study with 124 young adults found associations between this type of reframing and working memory abilities, in addition to the presence of positive emotions such as joy and cheerfulness. Therefore, next time you forget your password or what you need to buy at the shops, use this experience as a signpost for self-compassion.
Often phenomenon such as tip-of-the-tongue lethologica is an important amber warning that you need to take a step back, delegate some tasks or prioritise a bit more rest and self-care time.
Have fun with your brain
Whilst your brain does need rest from daily demands, it also needs to be stretched – just like our bodies. Learning new information and skills are obvious ways to tone your mental muscles, but don’t overlook the more enjoyable aspects of life.
We can become rather bogged down in learning things for a particular purpose – for work to advance our careers, skills as a side-hustle or languages to aid travel – but exercising your brain for sheer fun is important also. Research shows that dance, storytelling and even video game playing enhances memory, particularly visuospatial short-term memory in the latter.
Arrange mental playdates
Human beings are social creatures and have evolved to live in groups – this is why isolation is so damaging to cognitive function. Yet, we tend to have divided attention when meeting with other people, keeping an eye on phones or thinking about future tasks. This decreases the quality of the interaction – therefore next time you meet with friends and loved ones, focus your attention on the conversation whole-heartedly. Your attention may naturally drift and if this happens, gently redirect your mind back to what your mate is saying.
To help, actively attend not only to their words, but their body language and non-verbal behaviour also. This type of active listening will work your brain much more than passive ‘hearing’ – and undoubtedly make your date feel valued.
Feed your brain
Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition says, “A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and oily fish – a bit like a Mediterranean diet – helps promote the health of gut bacteria that produce butyrate / butyric acid and other fatty acids.
We’re starting to realise now how important these microbes are because they can help us regulate gut-brain communication in a way that is beneficial for our brain / mental health. Take a probiotic such as Healthspan’s SuperPro 50, 60 capsules £29.95 and contains five of the best strains in just one vegan capsule.
Stack up on vital brain nutrients – Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition says, “Evidence is beginning to shape our understanding of how food is linked to brain health and this includes thinking, memory, improved cognitive function and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Specific foods linked to brain health include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B, D and E, choline and flavonoids, creatine and caffeine and this involves improved cognitive functioning in older people by way of how cells communicate.
The use of “nutrient stacks” or combinations of individual neuro vitamins and minerals to target a specific outcomes , e.g. Healthspan Love Your Brain (28 day supply £19.95, available at healthspan.co.uk and Superdrug stores) combines key ingredients proven to support your mental performance, cognitive and psychological function.
If you found Better memory – Why it’s time to love your brain! interesting, you’ll find more healthy living ideas for over 50s on our Nutrition channel.Tags: brain health, Dr Meg Arroll Last modified: July 1, 2022