Hello, McFly?
November 3, 2009 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm very distressed that I cannot remember anything and do not feel sharp. How can I improve my memory and feel more with it?

I have never had a good memory but lately it seems my head is empty. I can manage my day to day life reasonably well but still feel dimwitted. I cannot remember plots or characters of books I have read. I don't remember names very well. If a person tells me they are going on vacation/having surgery/buying a new house I will forget to ask about this major event the next time I see them. I'm not familiar with many things that other people seem to have no problem with. There are huge stretches of childhood and adulthood that I cannot remember. There are stretches of my children's lives that I can't remember. I cannot remember some simple facts. Is this normal?

Sometimes I fall short on sleep but mostly get adequate sleep. I exercise a few times a week but sometimes have stretches of inactivity. Maybe since I haven't worked in years has something to do with it. I stay home with my children and work very part-time in my chosen profession but it is a very laid-back environment that requires little brain power. I used to have a job that requires very specific skills. If I wanted to return to this type of job I would have a lot of brushing up to do.

I'm basically distressed that my mind feels very dull and empty. I don't have quick comebacks. Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with intelligent conversation. Sometimes I stammer and have problems expressing a thought. I just feel very dull and while my memory has always been average I feel duller and more forgetful than ever. (I don't have a problem learning new things. I learn and grasp concepts reasonably well but don't often remember them and have to look them up to refresh my memory.) I do have some social anxiety and have trouble living in the moment. Maybe I am too busy thinking about other things to remember what is happening in real life.

How can I improve my memory and feel more "with it"?
posted by Fairchild to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I find that exercise helps my mental faculties.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2009

One thing that really sharpens memory, no kidding, is memory exercises. I also, of course, would suggest you get checked out by a doctor on the recent sense of dullness/big gaps.
posted by bearwife at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you get enough exercise?
posted by aniola at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2009

Thanks for the responses so far.

I do exercise -- I run, swim, and lift weights about three days a week. I also practice yoga on a regular (almost daily) basis but have not practiced in a month. I find that yoga helps me feel less scattered.

Maybe it's time to up the cardio to a daily basis.
posted by Fairchild at 12:08 PM on November 3, 2009

Exercise the body and exercise the mind. Use it or lose it (or some such cliche).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:14 PM on November 3, 2009

Consider seeing a doctor about clinical depression. My experience has been that a lot of these "can't-put-my-finger-on-it-but-I'm-foggy-all-the-time" issues are depression. Not your fault, nothing you can really do. Just brain chemistry fouling your judgment.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:17 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

The most likely explanations are age-related shortcomings within what is considered normal, depression/anxiety, and sleep issues. This would be a good time to see a doctor and check in to the latter two.

I'm betting on anxiety though.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2009

Memory does not necessarily relate to 'feeling sharp.' People in my life always scold me for forgetting things. I can't remember any of my childhood.

Instead of focusing on 'not being able to remember' try and focus on what you're doing right now. The reason yoga helps you feel less scattered is exactly because it takes your mind out of the picture.

Some people would relish having a mind that felt empty. Try and see it as a good thing.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 12:27 PM on November 3, 2009

I recommend going to your doctor for a checkup. It could be something as simple as anemia (which makes me foggy headed).
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:42 PM on November 3, 2009

Low thyroid can do this.
posted by HotToddy at 1:48 PM on November 3, 2009

Many people experiencing mental fogginess have benefited from taking a daily tablet of Vitamin B12 + folic acid.
posted by dacoit at 2:10 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am a teacher, and in the summer I stay home with the kids. By the end of August, I feel like someone has opened up my head and replaced my brain with cotton. For me, the "use it or lose it" cliche is a true thing.

The memory problems are also something I struggle with. My doctor diagnosed me with ADD a few years ago, and said the two were related. I would rather not take medication, so I tried other things. I now journal extensively and take lots of pictures, especially of events and moments related to my kids. I enjoy going back and reading over my thoughts and experiences, although it is a little disturbing sometimes when I just flat don't remember something I wrote about.

See your doctor; take some challenging classes; keep a journal. Can't hurt, might help.
posted by SamanthaK at 3:05 PM on November 3, 2009

I think Lumosity is a project headed up by a MeFite (though I may be mistaken about that). Memory games like this are really good for the ole noggin'.

I worked in a memory and aging lab for several years, and some of the key factors that differentiated adults with high memory spans from those with low memory spans were: regular use of crosswords/sudoku/brain teasers, exercise, and, perhaps most counter-intuitive but also most significant, regular involvement in social activities.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:31 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

What Cool Papa Bell said. Since I've been in my current depressive state, my short-term memory is horrible and long-term ain't so great either. Have your doctor do a check-up. S/he can ask the right questions and run some general blood-work to rule out (or in) any problems.
posted by deborah at 5:56 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was like you if not worse until recently. Check out a question I posed to Ask Metafilter about six months back. My life was turned around by high-intensity cardiovascular exercise (in my case, running every day for a minimum of 30 minutes), Piracetam (800mg, three times per day taken with a choline supplement) and duel n-back, a short-term memory game rapidly gaining scientific acclaim for its proven effect on fluid intelligence.
posted by Zé Pequeno at 8:14 PM on November 3, 2009

Nth'ing potential depression - remember, depression is not feeling sad or mopey. It's a condition that affects brain function in many, many, many different ways, some of which may not feel like sadness to you at all.

Also, have your doc prescribe a sleep study. There might be factors interrupting your sleep cycle (sleep apnia, etc.) If you go to bed tired, sleep a full night, and wake up tired... there's an issue. That could make you all kinds of foggy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:19 PM on November 3, 2009

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