The ABCs of Improving Your Memory
Wouldn’t it be nice to always remember the name of a new acquaintance? Maybe you can’t remember where you placed your keys, checkbook or cordless phone. What if you could never again forget a friend’s birthday?
Simply put, memory is the mental activity of recalling information you learned or experienced. The ability to remember is one of our most useful personal and professional tools. The bad news: not everyone has a photographic memory. The good news: memory is a skill, and with practice it can develop and improve. Using the ABCs of memory you can begin improving your memory today.
Keeping an active lifestyle can ward off memory loss associated with aging. Regular aerobic exercise improves circulation throughout the body, including the brain. Exercise also makes you more alert and relaxed, which improves your ability to remember. Exercise reduces heart disease and keeps oxygen flowing to the brain.
Example: You should join in the fun when your children or grandchildren are playing. Being an active participant in any activity keeps your mind and body sharp and keeps life interesting. Consider taking a short walk through your neighborhood as a calming activity each morning.
Keep your brain active! Exercising the brain allows it to grow and encourages development of new nerve connections that can improve memory. Developing new mental skills challenge your brain. Complex mental skills are great for memory.
Example: Challenging your brain with puzzles and games is one way to keep your brain active and improve its physiological functioning. Learn a new hobby, skill or even a computer game. Consider learning a new language.
Create mental images of things you need to remember. Use vivid and colorful images. Give your images three dimensions. Use all your senses to code or dress up information. Create sounds, smells, touch or movements of items. The stronger you imagine and visualize a situation the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall.
Example: Perhaps you need to remember to pick up a get well gift for a friend. Create a beautiful and vivid image of exact colors and shapes of the special flowers or plant you have in mind. This will help you remember to complete your task.
Do it again
Repeat out loud or write down things you tend to forget. When learning a new task, repeatedly practice the task until it becomes part of your routine.
Example: To remember a new neighbor’s name or a street address, repeat it to yourself several times. When taking a yoga class, repeat each new move until it becomes natural as opposed to something you’re trying to replicate.
Eat and sleep well
A healthy diet contributes to a healthy brain. Eat foods containing antioxidants. Broccoli, blueberries and spinach are great examples. B vitamins, thiamin, vitamin E, niacin, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids also seem to promote healthy brain functioning. Sleep also affects the brain’s ability to recall recently learned information. Without a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night our ability to concentrate is minimized.
Example: Check the labels of foods you buy. If you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, there may be a healthier and more natural option. Visit your local farmer’s market and learn about seasonal items available in your area. Invest in the best bedding you can afford and your overall memory (and health) will improve.
Fix the mess
Get organized! Fix the messes in your life. Clean up excess clutter and stress. Chronic stress can make concentrating and remembering much more difficult. Chronic stress changes your brain which affects your health and memory. It is best to learn to control stress. Clean up parts of your life that cause unnecessary stress or demands.
Example: Keep items you need frequently (keys or eyeglasses) in the same place. Organizing the physical space in your home reduces stress and helps with memory recall.
Group things together
Memory works by association. Memory is very similar to a filing system. Just like everything in a filing cabinet, everything in your long-term memory must first be identified through your sensory or short-term memory, then organized and filed for retrieval at a later date.
Example: When writing a grocery list, group items together in categories based on their location in the store. Group produce, dairy and frozen items together on your list.