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When to Worry about Your Memory Loss

Worried About Memory Loss?

Paula Kiger considers herself to be a wife of one, mom of two, and friend of many. She can be found sharing stories about her various passions regularly on her blog, Big Green Pen, Paula’s Perspicacity.

memory loss forgetfulnessWorried about memory loss? Are you finding yourself hunting for your keys more and more frequently, going to another room only to arrive and wonder why you went there, or hunting for your eyeglasses …… which are on your very own head?

As this PsychCentral article explains, it is not unusual for women in midlife to worry that “forgetfulness” may evolve into Alzheimer’s or some other debilitating condition.

When I read Deep Work recently, a book that encourages readers to remember that attention is a precious resource, I decided that although I can’t necessarily forestall a memory disorder later in life, I can take action now to keep my memory in great shape.

As I became friends with Lumosity, and did its activities every day, I couldn’t help drawing some conclusions beyond how much more supple my brain was becoming:

Life Lessons from Lumosity

Some Games Are Much More Likable Than Others

My least favorite game is Tidal Treasures, which exercises working memory. As the game progresses, you have to choose an item on a “beach” that you have not chosen before. It is the game that takes the longest to play and is so very hard to conquer (but I am experimenting with mind tricks to be better, which I guess is the point of it being an “exercise.”).

Although Lumosity gives me the option to change games when Tidal Treasures comes up, I don’t. This goes in the category of “you have to take on the big challenges to improve.”

You can’t get a perfect score every time.

After each game you are shown whether or not your score that time fit in the top five of your scores in that game. It is so tempting to keep retrying if it happens to be a day you didn’t score in the top five.

It’s short sighted to not just get on with your life when you can’t get perfection every time.

Things Go Better If You Take a Split Second to Get an Overview

One of the games, Train of Thought, addresses divided attention, the ability to simultaneously respond to multiple tasks or task demands. As you increase your level of play, there are more trains going more places, and some trains look very similar to other trains (like the green train that has a BLACK top, compared to the all-green train). I’ve learned to take a split second before re-routing tracks to try to figure out where all the stations are — it makes a difference.

It doesn’t work to start playing a game right away if you don’t take a moment to figure out what field you are on.

Don’t Make Things Harder on Yourself

In the game Speedpack, which exercises visualization, the ability to manipulate or imagine the interaction of objects in your mind, the player has to “move” a camera to a certain compartment of a suitcase and try to put it in a compartment that won’t be full once the suitcase is closed. It reminds me of how much I hated those “what shape will this paper be when it is folded?” kinds of exercises we had when we took the ASVAB back in high school (is the ASVAB still a thing?). Sometimes, I can sit there trying to figure out which compartment to put the camera in when there is a whole row empty that involves no hard decisions.

When an easy option presents itself, take it!

Some Distractions Have Nothing To Do With Your Solutions

In Pinball Recall, a working memory game, the goal is to figure out where a ball is going to go based on its starting point and various bumpers in the way. Newsflash: some of those bumpers can’t change the direction of your ball no matter what. They are just there to make things look more complicated than they are!

Don’t assume every barrier is actually going to get in your way.

Don’t Paralyze Yourself By Lack of Confidence

Every single boss I have ever had (that took the time and effort to evaluate me) has said “if only you were more confident in your decisions.” SIGHHHH. So true but trust me never has that been said to me that I then walked out of that office and proceeded to automatically exude more confidence. Lack of confidence is a pretty deeply ingrained challenge. Lumosity to the rescue! At least for the ten minutes I am playing every morning. Success at some games, especially the ones which work on speed, depend on quick reflexes. I can either just make the confidence choice or get a lower score because I questioned myself.

Confidence often pays off.

Everything in Your Field of Vision DOES Matter Sometimes

The Eagle Eye game tests “field of view” – the “area over which you can absorb visual information without moving your eyes.” (Quotes from Lumosity.) There is a piece of information in the center of the screen (like a number) and a “bird” elsewhere on the screen. The player has to remember the center item while recalling where the bird was.

This game always feels like life itself – you have to remember what is at the center and often be able to take care of important items “on the side.”

We Are Not Always The Best Judge of Our Own Strengths

I hate to admit this (and please don’t tell any future editing or otherwise communications-based clients) but “Word Bubbles Rising” is not (give me just a moment here ….) the game at which I score the best. It is a flexibility game and I score best at problem solving games. Hmmm.

In the same way that a 360 degree evaluation in the workplace gives you insight you don’t expect, opening yourself up to an evaluation of your brain capacity strengths and weaknesses to monitor for potential memory loss can surprise you.

Mood and Sleep Matter

Every time I start playing, Lumosity asks first what kind of mood I am in and how much sleep I got. Chronic stress can create long-lasting brain changes and depression can contribute to memory problems (uh-oh). Sleep deprivation can lead to problems with memory, concentration, optimism (gasp!), sociability, creativity, and innovation. I can see why Lumosity asks, and having to “report in” every morning is making me think about how I can improve my mood and enhance my sleep hygiene.

Mental Fitness Is a Gift

I’ve been worried ever since I read Still Alice about early brain deterioration. Living with an in-law with short-term memory disorder leads me to be terrified, daily, of what the future might hold. Playing Lumosity may not be the key to staying supple in the brain forever, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.

Just like exercise may keep our physical bodies stronger, our brains deserve a chance, too. Exercise them the right way to help stave off memory loss.

Paula Kiger

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    Sunday 5th of March 2017

    Hey nice post! I hope it's alright that I shared it on my Twitter, if not, no issues just tell me and I'll remove it.

    Either way keep up the good work.

    Anne Parris

    Monday 6th of March 2017

    Sure, it's always okay to share. It's why we make it easy with the share buttons! Thanks for reading and sharing.

    Leanne | crestingthehill

    Wednesday 15th of February 2017

    I've just started using the free Lumosity (to check my brain is still functioning!) My dad had Alzheimers and any time I feel like my memory is flagging I start having palpitations! So far, so good - but it's worth keeping my mind active (blogging is another big help)

    Paula Kiger

    Monday 6th of March 2017

    Blogging definitely is a brain (and heart) stretcher.

    Debbie D.

    Wednesday 15th of February 2017

    Thanks for highlighting these brain exercises. I've never tried mind games to strengthen memory, but am definitely exhibiting symptoms of midlife brain freeze. Then again, I've always been a bit on the "absent-minded" side and am easily distracted. Both my mother and her mother suffered from late-onset Alzheimer's, so that is a concern. This is something worth looking into.

    Paula Kiger

    Wednesday 15th of February 2017

    Hi Debbie. I think MANY of us in our age demographic worry about it -- and the concern is more real when someone close to you suffers from memory loss. Lumosity has a free version you can try - but I wasn't really trying to promote that as the only alternative -- anything that engages your brain in a different way - crossword puzzles, foreign language, etc. I also play Ruzzle which is quick, easy, and a challenge to my vocabulary and speed. Good luck.

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