Uh…what day is it again? Oh yes, that’s right – it’s National Memory Day! (Sometimes it can be hard to remember.)
Although many people believe that they simply are born with a bad memory, a great deal of research has shown that the memory parts of the brain can be stretched and exercised just like the body. So those who want to improve their memories can do so in a variety of ways.
Fitting closely with the beginning of spring, National Memory Day might be the perfect day to celebrate the amazing gift of memory – before you forget and the day is over. If forgetting seems likely, go ahead and tie a string around that finger to be sure to remember to celebrate this day!
History of National Memory Day
The discipline of studying human memory dates back at least 2000 years. Aristotle was a philosopher who believed that humans are born with a mind like a blank slate and memories are imprinted on them in a way similar to making an impression on wax. This philosophy leans toward the “nurture” side of the “nature vs. nurture” question. And scientists have been trying to learn about memory ever since.
The brain is a complex and mysterious organ that is extremely difficult to study. However, modern technology has brought significant advances to the understanding of the processes of memory. A study has revealed that the brain goes through three memory processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. So in order to be able to recall memories, all three processes must be working well!
While it might be hard to believe that it starts that young, scientific research has shown that the first memories in human development begin in the womb, even before a baby is born. And although the capacity of the human memory is considered to be basically limitless, most people cannot recall memories that happened to them prior to the age of 3-4. Some scientists believe it’s not that the memories aren’t there, it’s simply that they are unable to be recalled.
National Memory Day is the perfect time to enjoy a variety of memory-related activities–and to think about someone who might struggle with memory a little bit more.
How to Celebrate National Memory Day
For those who remember to make a little extra effort and plan ahead, celebrating National Memory Day can be a load of fun whether alone or with a group of friends or family members. Clever and fun ideas for celebrating the day might include:
Get a Good Night of Sleep
Most people don’t realize that getting enough sleep is a critical factor in the ability to have a sharp memory. People who have healthy sleep lives are more effectively able to store and retrieve long-term memories.
For those who struggle to sleep, try practicing healthy sleep hygiene habits such as cutting out caffeine, dimming the lights, turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, reading a boring book, and going to bed/waking up at the same time every day.
Watch Finding Dory
A spinoff of the first Disney Pixar film, Finding Nemo, this animated movie features the voice of Ellen Degeneres as Dory, Nemo’s memory-impaired friend. Dory, the adorably forgetful blue-eyed tang fish can only keep her thoughts straight for about 10 seconds, and then she has to start over.
In the story, she does somehow know that she was separated from her parents when she was younger. So, Dory and her friends, Nemo and Marlin, set out on an adventure to find her parents and, ultimately, release them from captivity. It’s a delightful look at friendship and tenacity, even when forgetfulness gets in the way!
Make Memories for the Future
Spend the day with people you love, doing things you love, and capture it in your mind and heart to keep for the future. For those who want to keep a creative record of the day, it can be fun to make a memory book or scrapbook.
People who are interested in looking back from the future might consider creating a time capsule. Fill it with interesting things that represent this current season of life, what’s important or interesting about today, friends and family who are a part of life. Then bury it in a special place. Choose a time in the future (maybe 10 or 20 years from now) when it will be time to go back and dig it up. The memories will be fascinating!
Create a National Memory Day Playlist
Throw a few songs about the memory onto a Spotify playlist as a soundtrack for sharing with friends, family, or coworkers:
- Memory (1981) by Elaine Paige, from the musical Cats
- Memories (2019) by Maroon Five
- I Will Remember You (1993) by Sarah McLachlan
- Photograph (2005) by Nickelback
- September (Do You Remember?) (1978) by Earth, Wind, and Fire
- When We Were Young (2016) by Adele
Participate in Memory Games
Like any other part of the physical body, the brain and memory need exercise in order to stay in tip-top shape. Memory loss is less likely to occur in old age for those who work hard at exercising their minds.
Why not try one of those on-line brain games to test out how well your memory skills function? Or devise your own test at work – cover your eyes and try to remember all the items on your colleague’s desk.
Or what about trying to remember the lines from your favorite TV show’s theme song from back when you were a child? Some experts say that even simply doing a sudoku or crossword puzzle regularly can help keep the memory sharp and the brain in its best working order.
Eat a Memory-Boosting Meal
Certain foods are known to be excellent helpers for boosting memory and brainpower. Try cooking with new recipes or ordering in foods that contain these special ingredients:
- Fish — with Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Coffee — with Caffeine and Antioxidants
- Blueberries — with Antioxidants
- Turmeric and Curcumin — with Antioxidants and helps grow new brain cells
- Broccoli — with Vitamin K
- Dark Chocolate — with Flavonoids
Although not a food, Ginkgo Biloba is a health supplement that has been shown to slow down or even prevent age-related memory problems, memory loss, or other types of mild cognitive impairment.
Support an Important Charity
On a more serious note, it is no secret how devastating Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are to both its sufferers and their loved ones. Why not mark this day in a meaningful way by supporting one of the great charities that help in these areas?
The Alzheimer’s Foundation is one of many organizations that help with this difficult illness that is deeply connected with short-term memory loss. The organization provides a memory screening program and tests, caregiving resources, scholarships, and various events for people affected by the disease as well as their families and caregivers.
Or, it might be thoughtful to go visit someone you know who is affected by memory loss. They may not remember it, but you will – and your world will be a little better for practicing this kindness.