Uh, Do You Have Digital Dementia? A Memory Coach Explains
Quick question: How many phone numbers did you know by heart growing up? I personally have a mental rolodex of childhood friends’ landline numbers, the majority of which have since been disconnected. Now, how many phone numbers have you currently memorized? Chances are the amount of digits has significantly decreased.
According to renowned memory coach Jim Kwik, author of Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life, you might be dealing with digital dementia. Don’t worry, though—you’re not alone. Here, Kwik explains the modern phenomenon and what to do about it.
What is digital dementia?
“Digital dementia is this idea where our smart devices are making us less smart,” he explains on the mindbodygreen podcast. “They act as external memory drives for us, so we don't need to flex our memory muscles.”
Think of the aforementioned phone number example: Now that our smartphones have the ability to save contacts, we don’t have to worry about memorizing people’s numbers—so we don’t. This, in a way, makes us more dependent on these devices. “You could be texting or calling somebody every single day,” says Kwik, but what if your phone had no battery or you didn't have it on you? You’d be helpless!
That’s not to say you must memorize your entire contact list. “But it should be concerning to us that we've lost the ability to remember one [number], or a pin, or a passcode, or a seed phrase,” adds Kwik.
Technology is convenient, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t flex your memory muscles from time to time. It’s the same reason why experts recommend taking the stairs occasionally, even if you have access to an elevator—inactivity comes with a cost.
What to do about it
Flex those memory muscles with Kwik's tips below.
Tie information to emotions
“When it comes to our memory, it's important that we have purpose in remembering something,” says Kwik. Meaning, you tend to remember how you feel about something rather than the information itself.
So add emotion to the information! “Just ask yourself: Why do I want to remember this?” advises Kwik. “Just come up with one reason, and you're more likely to get the results.”
Nourish your brain
What you eat matters for your brain. Take it from Kwik: "Your brain is only 2% of your body mass, but it requires 20% of the nutrients," he explains.
And the right nutrients can support your cognitive function, neurological well-being, and brain longevity in a number of ways. Namely, some nutrients, botanicals, and bioactives show clinical significance for memory1, recall, and related brain outcomes (e.g., learning, processing, retention, and cognitive performance).
In other words: Yes, memory supplements really do work. Just make sure you select one that includes scientifically backed nootropic ingredients (like citicoline, kanna, and resveratrol, for example) in efficacious doses and forms. Need help navigating the market? Check out the best memory supplements here, backed by a nutrition Ph.D.
Move your body
It only makes sense, then, that "when you listen to a podcast or an audiobook and you're going for a brisk walk, you're on an elliptical, or you're doing something rhythmic, you'll actually retain and understand that information better," Kwik says. The bottom line? Move your body to boost your memory.
Digital dementia is less scary than it sounds, but it’s more common than you think. Try to rely less on your devices if you can—you can even make a game out of it to assess how much information you can remember without your smartphone. Regardless, do your best to implement Kwik’s brain-health tips above; you can find a few more hacks here, if you’d like to train your brain even further.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.