Meditation and Memory – Why Is It So Good?

When asked “How Can I Improve My Memory?”, there are a number of answers I could give.

It really depends what mood I am in, the needs of the person asking the question and specifically what they want help with.

The trouble with most people who ask the question is they only have a general and vague notion that they want their memory to be better.

They rarely come to me and say “Michael I want to be able to meet 17 people only once, spend less than 15 seconds with them and then remember their names and what they look like for the rest of my life.and I want to do that 3 times a week with 3 different groups”.

Now to get something that specific would indeed be a rarity and I usually have to dig a little deeper to get anything even closely resembling something specific.

So many of the requests are quite general.

And so over the years I have developed a set of “general” things that anyone can do to help improve their memory.

Things like a good balanced diet of healthy and brain friendly food, regular exercise, lots of mental stimulation are regular answers.

More recently, and one I have been exploring myself is that of meditation.

At the weekend there was a feature in the Sunday newspapers about a teenage girl, stranded at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, who was forced to meditate (by circumstances I hasten to add rather than actual coercion).

Initially she rebelled and struggled with it but after a few days she settled into it and began enjoying the process.

She also started to notice many improvements including being happier, less stressed, peaceful and an improved memory.

Her increased abilities to recall the Buddhist chants were the most notable feature of her improved memory.

So what is it about meditation that gives an improvement in memory?

Well first of all lets look at the wider benefits of a good dose of meditation.

It really depends on the meditational practice you subscribe to but a general slow down and deepening of the breathing will be one of the first effects.

This will slow down the heart rate and induce a greater feeling of relaxation.

Now if you are like the majority of highly active and stress threatened individuals in this day and age, just that process alone will create a better mental environment for your memory to function.

But in addition, that state will also start to induce more alpha brain waves – the relaxed alert state that in accelerated learning terms, is the ideal learning state.

So the relative effects of starting to meditate will be the transition from a stressed and agitated state to a more relaxed and calmer condition that is more conducive to proper memory functioning.

But what of the longer term effects?

Well a continued practice of meditation will induce greater clarity of thought and a calmer mind with an increased capacity for concentration.

If you read my post on short term memory loss you will see that poor concentration is often one of the conditions that creates events we call “memory lapses” when really it is not a problem with recall at all.

I am sure there is a wealth of research on this somewhere, but my experience and the anecdotal experience of others seems to point to meditation being a good thing for the memory.

So how do you meditate?

Well I am no expert on this and a good Googling on “meditation and concentration” will give you better advice than I can offer but seeing as you asked, here is what I do:

1.   I kneel on the floor (because I can – you might want to sit in a chair) with my hands cupped in my lap, eyes closed, facing east (seems like a good thing to do – rising sun and all that)

2.  I then focus on my breathing trying to smooth it out and slow it down, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth

3.  Slowly I consciously relax all my muscles and body parts working from head to toe

4.   Once relaxed I count down from 20 to 1, breathing slowly all the way and imagining a sinking and melting sensation throughout my body with each number

5.   Once I have counted down to 1 I then bask in the glory of spiritual enlightenment and ponder on the majesty of the creation of the universe.NOT

6.  Whilst trying to focus on my breathing I keep trying to shut out the everyday thoughts that keep cropping up and if I get a millisecond of peace, it is a good result.

7.  After an indeterminate time, I count back up from 1 to 20 becoming more aware of my surroundings as I get closer to 20.

Then it is the groan of stretching my legs after crushing my knees for 20 minutes and then off to do my daily efforts.

Does it work?

Cant remember – oh if only I had £1 for every time I hear that sort of joke!

Seriously I feel much better in myself when I meditate (and exercise, and eat well and think positive thoughts and stimulate my mind etc etc) and do notice a clearer state of mind which does contribute to me thinking far better which includes a sharper memory.

So try that out and let me know how you get on or if you have any suggestions from your own practice.