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How to have the memory of an elephant

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Easy exercises to get your brain going every day.

Our memory gets worse only if we don’t use it. Dr. Cecile Maitre offers some advice for putting it to work every day. 

How does memory work?

Memory allows us to capture, accumulate, and recover information we take in. There are three successive stages in this process: First is sensorial memory. It is very quick and involves the five senses. It is essential for moving on to the second stage, short-term memory, which lasts for several dozen seconds and is what makes it possible to recognize faces, landscapes, a number, a bit of music, etc.

This information is registered and then stored in long-term memory, which lasts months, years, and even your whole life. It allows you to conserve memories such as historical or geographical knowledge, but it also makes it possible to carry out actions like driving, typing, playing the piano, etc. 

Depending on the action you are doing, different parts of the brain are activated, and that’s where it becomes important to vary our mental activities. And to be persistent: the ease with which we  learn diminishes with age, but not our capacity to learn. 

How can we exercise our memory?

By learning — A little bit of everything: poems, recipes, telephone numbers, addresses, directions to places, shopping lists and (why not?) Bible verses. For this, you can use mnemonic devices. Learn important things of the day, of past months, and past years.

By playing — Choose games that demand thought, logic, and knowledge: cards, chess, Scrabble, crossword puzzles, sudoku, Memory. Alternate them, since each one appeals to a different type of brain function. 

By reading — Reading makes your brain work more than screens do. Alternate nonfiction books with newspapers, magazines and novels. There’s nothing better than traveling in time and space to revive those memories of when we were schoolchildren. 

By staying calm — Stress and anxiety make it more difficult to learn. 

Let yourself be surprised, amazed! — Indifference is an obstacle to memory. 

And … by sleeping. — At night, the brain classifies and organizes the information from that day. So memory is affected by a lack of sleep. 

Dr. Cécile Maître

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