Taking small moments in our day to reflect on life’s happenings can give us some balance, even during the most hectic days. As time goes on, this can also have great benefits for our mental and overall brain health to ward off forgetfulness. New research suggests that having a strong sense of purpose can be associated with having a sharp memory, which can actually get better with age.
Angelina Sutin, lead author of a recent study published in Memory, tells Woman’s World that prior research has shown that an increased sense of purpose in life, whether that be connecting with people around you are participating in an activity you love regularly — is linked to better performance on standard memory tests such as having to remember a list of words. “We wanted to look at whether this association extended to the quality of memories — that is, whether important memories are subjectively perceived as vivid or dim, coherent or fragmented, accessible or inaccessible, etc.,” she explains.
Sutin and the other study authors looked at this connection in about 800 participants with ages ranging from 19 to 85. Participants reported on their sense of purpose and completed tasks measuring their cognitive processing speed before the Covid-19 pandemic from January to February 2020. They were later asked to recall a memory in July 2020 related to the pandemic to better understand this link.
The researchers found that those who reported having higher sense of purpose had an easier time retrieving those memories when needed. Sutin adds that older participants (ages 50 and over) had more vivid, coherent, and accessible memories than younger participants. This led to them concluding that aspects of memory quality like being able to recall things in a first-person perspective and having more positive feelings doing so seem to improve with age.
Sutin highlights that this sense of purpose is personal and will vary for everyone. However, she offers these four daily strategies that may help increase your feeling of purpose over time:
- Follow your curiosity and invest in activities that make you feel engaged.
- Reflect and find meaning in your everyday activities.
- Connect with other people and participate in activities that help other people.
- Set a long-term goal and then set shorter-term goals that need to be accomplished to achieve the long-term goal.
Since it’s never too late to continue nurturing yourself, take some time to do so each day. You’ll make lots of meaningful memories and have an easier time remembering them for years to come!