How To Improve Your Memory
As baby boomers start to age, they also realize they are beginning to forget things. There are many reasons why our memory no longer works the way it use to. We cannot really claim it is age. We are embarking on our 50’s and 60’s, not our 80’s when signs of dementia set in. Let’s also disregard brain injury, which is another reason for memory loss due to an accident of birth or an accident from the environment. Let’s assume when didn’t just get hit by a car or something fell on our head. So why then are we beginning to forget the very things that were so easy for us to remember 20 years ago if it is not age related?
Well, one really good reason is that we are living in very stressful conditions. We are worrying about jobs, our family life, our kids, our health, our future, and the list goes on and on. Stress and anxiety play a big role in memory loss. We may not remember something because we never really learned it in the first place. Have you ever noticed how your spouse or child swears they told you something and you swear they didn’t? Why do you think that could be?
Let’s assume that Johnny told you he had football practice after school and you swear he didn’t tell you. Is he lying to get out of being reprimanded for not coming home straight after school when you needed him to mow the lawn before it got dark. Why was it that you could have forgotten that he told you he had football practice? Let’s examine what you were doing when he told you. You behavior might be the key to this episode of forgetting something so important. Let’s say that Johnny is rushing out the door to catch the bus, and you yell out don’t forget to come home straight after school to mow that lawn! He mumbles something back, but you are not paying attention. One of your youngest children just fell down the stairs while the other one throw up his breakfast all over the kitchen floor. The answer here is obvious you didn’t forget you were really not paying attention to what Johnny was telling you as he ran out the door.
That kind of example is easy to understand, but what about when there are times you really want to remember something and somehow you can’t? What can you do to improve your memory?
As we have seen in the previous example we can be very easily distracted and then we do not remember what we want to remember because we really did not hear it or read it or see it properly in the first place.
Remember those dreaded times-tables in school and how you hated to memorize them? You learned them very well didn’t you, and you still know them today. Why is that? It is because you practiced, you repeated them over and over again until it was second nature to you. Repeat over and over and over again what it is that you want to remember until it sticks in your head, until it goes from short term memory to long term memory or long enough that it can be retrieved and used and then forgotten. An example would be to remember to make a dental appointment. You don’t have to remember that the rest of your life.
Realize your memory changes over the years
Realize you are not the quick-witted 20-year-old you used to be who could remember a phone number after only being told once. Your brain has slowed down since then, chances are if someone tells you their phone number if you are not practicing it in your head all the way home, you better write it down.
Write it down
To make sure you don’t forget something important to you, write it down. Set up calendar of events to mark off important events and activities for the future that you want to remember.
The brain is a muscle like any other and you either use it or lose it. Challenge your brain to work in ways that are unusual, that will keep those neurons firing and keep your brain healthy and active. Play scrabble, cross word puzzles, chess, dominoes, or your favorite Facebook game, which causes you to think. Learn and recite poetry, learn a new vocabulary word a day, break habits like putting your pants on left leg first, to putting them on right leg first, do things differently. It forces your brain to think. In other words involve one of your senses to do something different and that challenges your brain to remain active.
Know your learning style
People learn differently. Some people are better as visual learners, some are better as audio learners and some are tactile learners. In the example with Johnny telling you about the football practice perhaps it would have been better for him to leave you a note.
If you have trouble remembering the things you have read, perhaps you can tape record the information you need and will remember it better that way.
Some people are tactile learners, they will not remember something told to them or even remember a visual presentation until they actually get a chance to do it for themselves. Once they have actually had “a hands on experience” they will remember how to do it. Let’s say you are watching a video on how to knit a pair of slippers, you may actually have to get out your wool and knitting needles and do it yourself, make mistakes and correct them before you finally remember how to knit a pair of slippers.
Use many mediums to remember. For example if you are reading something, rewrite it. The physical act of writing something we have read helps us to remember. If you are watching a cooking show on TV write that recipe down and then go and recreate that recipe. This in turn helps to seal the recipe in your mind and of course the best memory test is to taste it!
Using the familiar
Relate the information you need to remember with something that is familiar to you. For example, you want to remember the phone number 555 7426. The 555 is easy to remember however, it is the last 4 digits that will be the clincher. You might connect that grandpa is 74 years old, and your daughter is 26 and this will be the way you will always remember the phone number.
If you have to remember numbers such as your social security number, chunking into small segments is easier to remember. For example, I am Canadian my social insurance number is 9 numbers. I remember it in chunks of three.
Tell yourself you will remember. Be positive. Don’t think that you cannot remember. Being positive can make all the difference in the world.
Method of loci
This is an ancient form of memorization, which was used for remembering speeches but you can use it for whatever you need to remember. For the speech, remember different locations that might help trigger the information you need to present to your audience. If you are giving a speech on “going green” you might remember the green grass in your yard to represent one part of the speech, the gas station at the corner of your house when you want to talk about a carbon foot print, the grocery store down the street to talk about the dangers of plastic bags, and the need to recycle and the bridge you crossed to get to the community center where you were delivering the speech to remind you to speak about how plastic bags find their way into the waterways, or how our fish are being poisoned by the various pollutants dumped into our rivers.
Minimize the details
When you are trying to remember complex or detailed information minimizing the information is often better than trying to remember everything. The more details you try to remember the more chances of forgetting the more important details. For example, remembering a homeowner had a china vase in an open house that you saw when looking for a home might be quite interesting, but not as important as remembering the size of the room or even its color if you are planning on buying that house.
Mnemonics Memory Techniques
I am dyslexic and I drive my son crazy because I will say foxfire. He gets upset. So I have now visualized a cave with a fire outside of it and the fox is looking at the fire. I am in the cave so from my perspective it is fire then the fox. I now do not forget the word is Firefox when I am talking about the browser.
If you need to remember a certain idea or procedure, use an acronym. For example, BRASS is an acronym of how to shot a riffle: Breath, Relax, Aim, Sight, Squeeze.
Rhymes and alliteration
Invent easy to remember rhymes for names of people you have a hard time remembering: Example: curly Shirley, Mark the spark, Bobby Brown is a clown. Or character descriptions which you will keep to yourself of course such as: Wacky Wendy, Crazy Carol, Balding Bob, Horrible Harold, Luscious Lucy, Lazy Larry, and so on. If you want to remember calling a plumber go around saying bummer, if you need to call the doc put on your old apron smock.
Create a sentence that will help you to remember
Musicians have memorized the sentence “every good boy does fine” to remember the notes E G B D F.
Silly stories or jokes to remember a chain of events
Create a story around a series of events you need to remember: For example, get the kids from school, buy the some groceries and then pick up your dry cleaning on the way home. If you need to remember this sequence In that order you might create a scenario in your head where perhaps your daughter spills milk on the teacher’s suit who rubs it off with a banana peel and then steam irons it dry. Whatever crazy scenario you make up make sure it will trigger the real event that must take place. Funny or crazy things are easier to remember than serious ones.