Do you walk into a room and forget what you're looking for? Forget names? Start a story and lose track of the gist halfway through?  Or maybe you're just "not as sharp as you used to be."  Most of us get scared by these lapses and give ourselves a hard time for "being stupid," or resign ourselves to aging that includes forgetfulness. We worry that these events mean the decline of our intelligence--maybe even that we're on the way to Early Onset Dementia. After all, wasn't it the kid who had his hand up first that was considered the smartest? Aren't we all impressed by quick answers?  In our society, fast recall = smart, slow recall = dumb.

These fears have sent millions running to computer games to shore up their mental functioning. Research shows that they can't hurt. But don't count on real gains in memory.  In fact, focusing on memory and your ability to recall things actually interferes with your "executive brain functions, " says one of the leading researchers in the field of neuroscience.

Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., neuroscientist and Director of the Center for Brain Health in Dallas, Texas, reports how to use the brain you were born with to increase mental effectiveness and “slow cognitive decline…which begins in the twenties as you start to lose 1% a year”[emphasis added] .  Her research shows why you need to stop some of the trendy brain exercises touted on TV and the Internet in her book Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy, and Focus (Free Press, ©2013).  Working with executives and returning military personnel, she has developed a process that measures current brain activity and then teaches how to stop focusing on memory as the measure of intelligence. Instead, the Dallas Center teaches participants to practice exercises that draw “on all three key domains of frontal lobe functions: strategic attention, integrated reasoning, and innovation.” More than these three key functions, she shows how “blocking irrelevant data, synthesizing information and remembering key ideas” are far more critical than remembering names, dates, doing crossword puzzles, and Sudoku.  The result: A slowing of inevitable cognitive decline.  “Smart,” Chapman says, “needs to be redefined.”  Setting priorities for the day is critical to brain health. “Prioritize to [the] two most important things to do per day.”  Limiting incoming information is crucial. Chapman names “[b]rain supporters: Socializing, eating well, sleep, and aerobic exercise.”   

My husband and I make remembering a game and laugh at ourselves when we can't come up with the name of that movie or song. The important thing we've learned is to focus on thinking through important issues together, drawing from each other's natural brainstyle. The names come without tension, and we get on to the more important things to discuss. 

BrainStyles®will assist you in defining which of these areas you already do well, help you do them more, and relax in knowing that the biggest contribution you can make is to draw from your experience, solve problems with your natural abilities, and allow yourself a minute to let that name or punch line appear.