It doesn’t take as much energy as you may think to improve your memory. You simply have to use your imagination and then follow through. It requires paying attention, focusing on what you are trying to learn, and making a few minor adjustments in how you try to recall information.
Your mind is capable of all sorts of different activities. The “on” switch is always lit - there is no ‘off’ switch. Even when you are asleep your brain is working, catching up on daily activities and storing them to memory.
On demand, most of the time, your mind is able to process in milliseconds all sorts of information, like what you are seeing while someone is talking to you. It is capable of multi-tasking, but does have to slow down a bit for this, and occasionally some information has been misfiled and it takes just a little more time to find it and pull it back. Much like looking for your car keys, the information is there but it takes some hunting to get it back.
How often has your memory embarrassed you? Most of the time these lapses are slight and insignificant, but what happens if you start to forget bigger things? Usually it doesn’t mean you are starting dementia, but simply that you have to de-clutter your thoughts and get it back into focus.
Here are 10 tips that can help you remember better:
1. Pay attention and focus. Most often our memories are not what they should be simply because we are not paying attention. When someone talks to you, look at him or her as they speak. Focus on what they are saying. It only takes 8 seconds to completely focus on something and have it effectively transfer from short-long term memory into long-term.
2. Play a game to remember names and faces. When you are about to meet a new person, look at them as they approach you and find something unique about their features that you can associate them with - for instance, the woman approaching you has a regal nose or full lips. Pay attention to their face as they are introduced, and then repeat their name back to them. This not only makes sure you heard it correctly, but it reinforces it in your mind.
3. Take advantage of your surroundings. Use little tricks to help you remember, like switching your watch around from the wrist you usually wear it on to remind you that there is something you don’t want to forget.
4. Exercise. Getting the blood circulating throughout your body gets nutrients and oxygen to your brain. Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen you take in daily. If you increase your oxygen you will increase your brainpower.
5. Visualize and associate. Create pictures in your head to help you remember, making sure to associate them with something personal. You are more apt to remember something that is personal to you than just random thoughts.
6. Practice chunking. When trying to remember a list of items, group them into smaller sections in order to remember them easier. For example: If you have 1to remember 12 vocabulary words, group them into 3 or four words sections. The human brain is not usually able to remember more than 7-9 things in a string (unless you have learned memory techniques).
7. Practice the Loci Method – Take something familiar, like houses in your neighborhood, and put items you want to remember at different houses. Then, when you want to recall them you will link them to the houses they are placed at. You can do this physically or in your mind – or you could use a bus route, or pieces of furniture and rooms in your home – anything you can associate with to make it easier to remember.
8. Restrict drinking. Occasional light to moderate drinking should not hurt you, but excessive drinking can damage your memory, and your liver.
9. Get enough rest. A well-rested body is a well-rested mind. Lack of sleep makes it hard to concentrate, and if you can’t concentrate you won’t be able to learn and remember. Be sure you get 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
10. Seek help for depression. Studies show that prolonged depression increases the size of the hippocampus and decreases memory. If you are depressed, get some help. Depression hurts your ability to concentrate, learn, remember and can cause physical problems as well.
Most of all - Practice! All great athletes have to practice in order to perfect their craft. Practice and repeat what you want to remember. Practice makes perfect!