This past weekend, we had the opportunity to speak with the newest member to our team, Nelson Dellis. Nelson is a four-time USA memory champion, currently tied with the most national wins. Nelson has been featured many times through The Dr. Oz show, The Science Channel, Fox and Friends, and many others. He’s also a popular keynote speaker, educating his broad audience about the right lifestyle habits to incorporate when it comes to cognitive well-being.
To be honest, average. Nothing special. Maybe I’d have a better memory for something I was very interested in, but for the most part, nothing to write home about. I know it sounds crazy, but I only learned memory skills late in life.
After I started to get into memory techniques, I really got hooked on them. It wasn’t so much that I was good at them, it was more I loved the feeling of having a superpower of sorts. That fueled me to train more and harder. Like anything, when you practice and dedicate yourself to something, progress tends to be made. So once I was well on my way with training, the progress came swiftly.
The main catalyst for me wanting to train my memory in the first place stemmed from the passing of my grandmother from Alzheimer’s. Watching her struggle with the disease and eventually pass way was what caused me to think to myself: “I don’t want the same thing to happen to me.” So I got to work and fell in love with memory techniques.
Stress is a huge deal when it comes to memory. In fact, it directly impacts memory in a negative way. No matter how good your memory is, stress will wash it away. And of course, in competitions, everything is stressful. I can never eliminate it, but I can work at managing it better. I do that by training in high-stress situations: while sprinting on a treadmill, working out, performing in public with people watching me, with strict time constraints, etc.
I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique. You set a timer for a manageable amount of time (25 minutes, let’s say), and you focus on your task at hand for those 25 minutes, NO DISTRACTIONS. Then when the timer goes off, you get a 5 minute break to check your phone, social, whatever. Then do another session of 25 minutes, no distractions. I usually repeat this cycle 3-4 times before I take a longer 30 minute break. It really helps make me be more productive.
A few things: sleep well, exercise frequently, and eat well. I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, I exercise for at least an hour a day (6-7 days a week), and I eat a lot of DHA Omega-3 nutrients for my brain (mostly in the form of an algal supplement).
I’m not always perfect, but I do my best to eat well. The things I try to avoid the most are refined sugars. Those, I’ve found, are probably the worst thing for my memory performance. After that, I’ve experimented with a bunch of diets and found that super-low carb diets are also great for making my mind sharper. Foods that I gravitate to are foods high in anti-oxidants (to reduce inflammation) and foods containing DHA Omega-3.
I don’t meditate in the way most people think of meditation. But my memory training is a form of meditation (to me, at least). I go into my mind, quiet everything out, focus on my breathing, and memorize!
For me, it’s been the branding. I’m an athlete, and I need something robust and strong to help protect my active brain. I like the messaging behind Brain Armor’s products. That’s always stuck with me.
Short term benefits is that my brain stays sharper on the day to day things. Long term is that I’m giving my brain the fatty acids it needs for prolonged life and performance. My main goal in all of my memory endeavors, from day 1, was to not end up with Alzheimer’s like my grandmother. I don’t know if what I’m doing willfully prevent that, but I feel very confident that it will, at the very least, delay it (if it is destined to happen to me).