5 Memory Building Activities for Aquired Brain Injury Survivors

Memory loss is usually one of the first problems people experience after an acquired brain injury (ABI), and is one of the last of the cognitive functions to return. Even after the acute recovery phase is over, many individuals continue experiencing trouble with learning and remembering new information, events, or day-to-day appointments and activities. However, there are a number of simple ways to get your memory back on track, especially when they are practiced daily and combined with cognitive rehab.

Keep a Daily Journal

According to numerous sources, the good old-fashioned pen and paper are some of the best tools for our brain’s development and memory. As a brain injury is something that can cause temporary or permanent impairment to the memory, keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of daily activities, express thoughts and feelings, and establish a clearer sense of self. Get the most out of your journaling adventure by trying some of the tips below.

  • Journal every day (or as much as possible) – It’s scientifically proven that you will remember more about your life if you write about your experiences every day. Not only that, but your experience of time will also expand, meaning your memories will feel like they lasted longer because you wrote about them!
  • Date your entries – Writing the day, month, and year at the beginning of every journal entry is a great first step to enhancing memory. Not only can it help you remember today’s date, but it can also be helpful in the future when you want to recall the dates of your different experiences.
  • Leave your journal in a noticeable place – Making a habit out of journaling can sometimes be tough, which is why we suggest leaving your journal in a place where you won’t forget about it. If you drink coffee every day, consider leaving it near the coffee pot! Or, if you like to relax and watch TV every evening, consider leaving it next to your TV remote. A nightstand near your alarm clock is also a great place for a journal.
  • Write about your day – One of the best ways to remember daily events and tasks is by taking time to write about your day, every day. If you prefer journaling in the morning, consider writing about your favorite experiences from yesterday, as well as some of your plans for today. If you prefer journaling in the evening, take time to write about some of the things you did today, as well as some of your plans for tomorrow. This will help you acknowledge all the great things you’ve already accomplished and experienced, and also act as a reminder for upcoming tasks and events.

Therapeutic Arts

Providing your loved one with  an hour of therapeutic art everyday can improve memory, interpersonal communication skills, and quality of life. Studies show that creating art daily – especially for those who have memory issues – can  “improve neuropsychiatric symptoms, social behavior and self-esteem.”

Some memory-boosting arts include:

  • Beadworking
  • Collage Making
  • Memory Boards
  • Watercolors
  • Clayworking

Memorize Your Favorite Quotes or Song Lyrics

If retaining information from longer stories and books is difficult, reading and re-reading shorter chunks, like famous quotes, song lyrics, and short jokes, are a great way to reestablish memory pathways that were lost. Consider some of the ideas below to rebuild your memory pathways, and to prepare your brain for reading longer stories and books in the future.

  • Reader’s Digest Jokes – The Reader’s Digest has a page of short, funny jokes that is always being updated with new ones! Consider taking time to pick a new joke every week, and re-reading the joke everyday of the week until you can remember it! With all of these jokes memorized, you will always be the funniest person in any room.
  • Brainy Quote – This website has a wide variety of quotes from some of the world’s most inspiring people. For a fun memory building exercise, choose a new quote every week and read it to yourself every morning when you wake up, or before you go to bed. Saying it outloud to others is also helpful, so be sure to enlighten your friends and family with a new quote every time you speak to them!
  • Lyrics.com – Just like books, song lyrics often tell great stories. Every month, pick a new song to focus on, and take a few minutes everyday to read the song lyrics while listening to the song. Using lyrics and music is also a great way to reflect on memories from the past. For example: favorite childhood songs, songs from your favorite concerts, or songs that remind you of someone.

Try A Game or Puzzle

Recently, experts have been prescribing games and puzzles as forms of therapy for individuals with ABI. Games that use memory and problem-solving are especially great memory exercises, but can also help with attention level, making connections, as well as reading and reasoning skills. Consider some of the games below for a great brain workout!

  • Color Sudoku – Color Sudoku is a great memory building game for those who have trouble with their mathematical memory, which is what people use to remember names of numbers or letters, or matching up colors. In fact, studies show that using colors can boost your memory retention by 25%. Try Color Sudoku online for free.
  • Card Games – Card games such as Go Fish, Old Maid, Memory, and Solitaire are games that require simple memory skills, and are extremely stimulating to the brain’s neurons due to their repetitive nature. Such games can often be found at second-hand stores, such as Goodwill, or low-cost stores like the Dollar Tree.
  • For a list of more memory building games, visit BrainInjurySociety.com

Challenge Your Taste Buds

Another great exercise for improving memory is challenging your taste buds, and it requires nothing but food to do it! As you eat, try identifying different ingredients in your meal, including the subtle flavors of herbs and spices .The game is especially fun when you have a list of ingredients in front of you, that way you can look at the list and identify different flavors while you eat.

If you’re up for an even bigger challenge, try the challenge at a friend’s house or restaurant! Most restaurants will be willing to provide a full list of ingredients for the meals they serve, or you can just use the few ingredients listed on the menu. Bon Appétit!

Practice is Key

While these are just a few memory exercises to try, there are many, many more out there! When you find the right exercise for you, remember to inform your cognitive therapist or other assistant, practice daily, and not give up. Practicing these exercises may be a little difficult at first, but once it becomes habit your brain will thank you!

For more memory building exercises, including a list of apps specifically designed for individuals with ABI, visit www.BrainLine.org.

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