As we get older, we just have to accept that we’ll become more forgetful and have “senior moments,” right? Not according to neuroscience expert Patrick K. Porter, PhD, who shared a few of his go-to tips to help improve our memory and overall brain health.
“When you think about ancient tribes, they didn’t place all the wisdom of the tribe with the young people. They placed it with the elders,” Dr. Porter explains. “Contrary to popular belief, we can have a thriving brain at any age.”
Porter tells us that increased levels of stress in our daily lives is one of the leading culprits for cognitive decline. “When we get overloaded, something has to give, and usually it’s our memories,” he says. “Everyday forgetfulness is a result of too much stress and not enough time to assign meaning to something. Before our brains can process one piece of information and store it, something else comes in and becomes more important because we’re constantly being bombarded with information.”
Sound familiar? Luckily, if you find yourself feeling constantly overloaded and those “senior moments” start to creep in more and more, Porter has an easy trick that can help.
“One tip to remember something simple — such as where you left your keys — is to exaggerate the memory so your brain stores it,” he explains. “For example, put the keys where you want them and then imagine a giant lion standing guard over the keys. That will help you remember where they are because the brain stores that exaggerated thought.” There’s no denying that will get your creative juices flowing (which is also shown to improve your overall brain health).
Porter says practicing mindfulness at least once a day is another great way to keep our brains in good shape. It’s why he developed the BrainTap app, which offers sessions designed to encourage moments of mindfulness throughout the day. “In the morning, we have audios that we call digital coffee,” he tells us. “In the afternoon when you need a pick-me-up, you can listen to a brain reboot to help your body and mind synchronize around new concepts and new ideas. When it’s time for sleep, we have sessions that drop you off into delta — the deepest sleep state possible to help your brain detox. ”
Sleep is another important element when it comes to reducing our risk of cognitive decline. In fact, Porter describes regular, quality sleep as his “number one brain-boosting hack.” He’s backed up by a recent study that found getting deeper sleep each night can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers discovered the deeper the sleep, the easier it is for our brains to get rid of toxic amyloid-beta and tau proteins that are commonly associated with neurodegenerative diseases.
On top of all of this, Porter reminds us that exercise and eating healthy will improve our brain health as much as the rest of our body. “We can’t stop aging, but we can slow down the effects of it on our brains,” he says. “Moving, doing breathing exercises, increasing blood flow, decreasing stress — these are all ways you can prevent cognitive decline and improve brain function at any age.”