Memory is the thread that connects the contents of our mind to make sense of the world – to recognize the things and people that matter to us. Imagine your world devoid of this mysterious property of mind. Nothing would make much sense anymore, making impaired memory one of the most disabling conditions one can endure.

Memory is not just a property of the complex beings that are humans. The most fundamental unit of life – cells – has to remember things and events for two reasons: One, to avoid harmful predators or enemies and secondly, to seek favorable stimuli.  Without this faculty of memory, all living beings are vulnerable to forces of nature. And in this world of modernization, our memory banks are flooded with so much useless information that our minds have less and less time to process what’s important.

We have invented gadgets to help remember things, people, and events. But technology has its limits. We’ve also developed mental technique to bolster our memory by training and challenging our mind to remember and retain mass amounts of information – cross word puzzles, Sudoku, breathing routines, regular exercises, and myriad of stress relieving techniques are abound.

A recent study by Michaela Dewar and her colleagues discovered a simple, yet powerful practice that helps memory last over a long term. Here is an excerpt from this article to be published in the journal Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science.

All they really need to do to cement new learning is to sit and close their eyes for a few minutes.” Dewar and her colleagues show that memory can be boosted by taking a brief wakeful rest after learning something verbally new and that memory lasts not just immediately but over a longer term.

Dewar explains that there is growing evidence to suggest that the point at which we experience new information is “just at a very early stage of memory formation and that further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time.” The process of consolidating memories takes a little time and the most important things that it needs are peace and quiet.

The best part of this study is not the discovery that peaceful and quiet time helps increase our memory’s capacity, but the fact that this technique has already been practiced from time immemorial by our ancient civilizations. For instance, taking brief periods of time off from the stressful chores of the day and dedicating a few minutes to meditation rejuvenates our mind – giving our mind some quiet time where it can process the information. Several religions have already incorporated silent mind rest in their daily practice – Salah of Muslims, meditation by Buddhists and Hindus, etc.

It appears that we might be re-inventing the wheel when it comes to mind-healthy techniques and practices. Still not convinced that meditation techniques bolsters memory? Benefits of meditation is not a mere belief or a myth anymore. We all wonder if there is any evidence to support it outside of our own minds. With scientific advancement, we now have evidence to prove it. Here is one:

Professor Jim Lagopoulos of Sydney University, Australia, the lead researcher of the joint study between his university and researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). According to this meditation research, electrical brain waves suggest that mental activity during meditation is wakeful and relaxed.

 

This default activity of the brain is often underestimated. It probably represents a kind of mental processing that connects various experiences and emotional residues, puts them into perspective…

 

A mind that is wakeful and relaxed is the key here.

This practice of letting your brain rest for brief periods spread over two or three times a day gives your brain some time to better process the information it receives throughout the day. Now we know that there is a purpose to those rituals and practices that our ancestors laid down in our traditions.  In the name of modernization, we tend to dismiss some of the beneficial techniques our ancestors have shown us. So, the next time you dismiss a ritual or practice as nonsense or absurd, try to see the logic behind it.

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