hen I was young I remember snickering to myself when my mom would walk into a room, look around vacantly, and ask, “What was it I came in here for?”
Now that I’m older, forgetfulness no longer seems a laughing matter. Remembering clearly experiences I had as a young child is not difficult, but recalling where I laid something down no more than five minutes ago can be much more challenging.
According to recent news reports, however, researchers say they have the answer to improving memory retention—memory boot camp.
A June 13 ABC news article by journalist Gigi Stone1 describes a class curriculum taught by Gary Small, director of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Center on Aging. Along with the usual menu of physical exercise, healthful nutrition, and stress reduction, Small has added an innovative new element called mental aerobics.
“‘If you learn specific memory techniques, you will improve your memory performance not only in a very short period of time,’” Small states in the article, “‘but you can have sustained effects up to four, five years.’”
The goal, it seems, is to stave off Alzheimer’s disease or dementia—and many people are quick to cash in on the trend.
“Brain health programs are popping up around the country,” Stone writes, with the latest example being the Sarasota Neurobics Club in Florida. This gym, it seems, doesn’t boast a single treadmill or exercise bike. Instead, for a monthly fee of $125, members are given “access to computers loaded up with brain fitness software and personal training sessions. . . .
“The idea is that the mind works best when it works out, which means stretching beyond what it does every day and tackling new tasks.” Solving anagrams and crossword puzzles is also proclaimed by some experts as a memory enhancer, and the market for video games designed to help us become “mentally sharper,” such as Nintendo’s “Brain Age,” is growing rapidly.
The Entertainment Software Association, Stone says, reports 24 percent of the computer and video game population is now over the age of 50—a demographic many computer companies are noting.
But is exercising the brain actually a new concept?
Adventist Church cofounder and prophet Ellen G. White wrote copiously in the nineteenth century about the importance and benefits of studying the Bible—largely for the purpose of coming into a saving relationship with God, gaining a clearer knowledge of the character of our Lord, and understanding more fully His will for our lives. But one of the practical advantages of Bible study she espoused was memory enhancement.
“Nothing will so help to give [students] a retentive memory as a study of the Scriptures,” Ellen White wrote in Testimonies for the Church, volume 8, page 156. “Nothing will so help them in gaining a knowledge of their other studies.”
But she wasn’t referring to just the cursory glance at a text or two done in haste, because she also wrote that “little good is accomplished by skimming over the surface of the Word. Thoughtful investigation and earnest, taxing study are necessary to an understanding of [the Bible].”2
When I reflect on the love and majesty of our Creator, I am amazed not only by the “big” things He has done for us, but even more so by the small and intricate ways He has arranged for our well-being and our spiritual and physical growth. God made us, and He knows what’s best for us—even how to best exercise our brains.
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Peter tells us (2 Peter 3:18). The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more we will mature in our love and faith relationship with Jesus. Our hearts will become closer knit with His, our minds will more clearly understand His will for our lives, and our plans and desires will become attuned to His. Bible study is not optional—it’s vital.
Let’s make exercise not only of our bodies but also our minds a priority. Who knows, maybe the next time we’ll remember what it was we came into the room to find.
2White, Ellen G., Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 483.
Sandra Blackmer is an assistant editor of Adventist Review.