This week it’s about memory. I have an item on my list of 50 challenges I created last summer to memorise all the countries of the world. Why? Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger then mental challenges can support healthy brain function and lower your risk of mental decline. Secondly I’m just curious about the list, I like knowing stuff. Lastly, it has occurred to me that this would be great general knowledge that will really help my team next time I’m in a pub quiz team. Not that I ever do pub quizzes but it’s as well to be prepared.
Our ageing population means that impaired memory function has had plenty of press in recent years. Reduced memory function is a feature of ageing, but it’s not the same as Alzheimer’s or Dementia which are specific diseases. However even people already suffering these diseases respond positively to physical and mental stimulation. In 2019 the WHO concluded that “there is sufficiently strong evidence that a healthy diet, lifelong learning and cognitive training are associated with reduced risk of cognitive decline”. Hurray, let’s flex our memory muscle to reduce the risk of declining abilities.
When did I last have to memorise material? I’m learning all the time, for example following changes in employment law, learning new colleagues names or figuring out a new recipe, but just memorising a chunk of information isn’t something I can recall doing for a long time. To achieve a memory challenge you might think that learning a list isn’t the most fun thing you could be doing but its easy to choose an approach to make it fun for you, you can read up on a new subject or fine tune existing skills such as your golf, needlework, try puzzle challenges or games. I had a life long learning challenge back in week #17 https://wp.me/pbpqSQ-bU where I took a course that led to a formal qualification for the first time in quite a few years! So following a set learning structure with an assessment was one kind of brain challenge.
The other way to protect your brain health is to look after your physical health, because stress, depression and dietary deficiencies can all have an impact on memory function. I’ve been out for a walk this morning, eaten flaxseeds on my breakfast, taken a multivitamin, had walnuts for a snack and will attempt to have some social interactions today – they are all memory protecting activities!
So did I do it? Can I name all the countries of the world… 6 sides of A4 after I put them into a small font! Can I say yes mostly?! I used some memory tricks to help me, an image of 3 bells for Belarus, Belgium and Belize. Argentina came through as a colour of their flag, and looking visually at neighbouring groups also seemed to help. There were several I’d never heard of, looking them up was a help. Now I’m wondering if I could label a world map correctly with them all, I suspect not!
This activity is free, green and simple for anyone to access, high scores from me! The only problem I have now is that I’d really like to go and visit a lot of them…