When we consider how to keep our brains healthy, it’s common to focus on external habits we can change, like our sleep patterns, exercise, and nutrition. However, multiple scientific studies have proven that practicing mindfulness increases the growth of the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with processing and storing information and memories. It seems we may have overlooked our internal landscape as one of the ways we can improve how we learn and remember new information.
Our brains rely on past experience and learnings to shape our reactions in the present. This reliance can interfere with learning and remembering new information when it conflicts with what we already believe. In other words, concepts that conflict with what you already know to be true are more difficult to remember. For example, you might find it more difficult to find items when they reorganize the grocery store, or you may call a new acquaintance by the name of someone they remind you of.
Studies now prove that increased hippocampal growth improves our working memory. Therefore, practicing mindfulness is connected to both enhanced brain structure and brain function.
Ready to put some simple strategies into place to make learning easier and improve your memory?
1. Notice When You’re Struggling to Learn
The first step is to notice that you’re finding it difficult to learn new information or that you need more reminders. Start paying attention to when it takes you longer than usual to learn something new or when you need to review new information more often.
2. Notice the New Information
We get so much data pouring into our brains every day that it can be a bit overwhelming. Be intentional in noticing and differentiating between new and old information, especially where there’s a conflict or a disconnect. It can help to visualize the new information and form a strong image in your mind. Try saying the new concept out loud a few times.
3. Notice What’s Happening Around You
Take a few minutes at various intervals during your day to notice what’s going on around you. What task are you engaged in? What can you hear, see, smell, taste, and feel? Pay attention to what thoughts are in your mind and how your body feels. Now, allow the present moment to unfold. If thoughts or judgments come up, just notice them and let them go.
These 3 simple steps can help you learn and remember new information, as well as assist you in finding calm and serenity in a busy world.
As neuroscience discovers more about how the brain functions, no doubt we will continue to learn how brain health is impacted not only by our external lifestyle but also by the thoughts and associations that exist in our inner world.