Here’s How to Improve Your Memory
Pay more attention to the details
It’s hard to recall every single little detail, but if you tend to lose your sunglasses more than the norm, or if you misplace your keys before work, then you can benefit from these tips on improving your memory.
Exercise and eating well matter
Stick to the basics to improve your memory, according to Sheryl Brooks, a women’s health expert from Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tuscon, Ariz.
Here are Brooks’ best tips:
Exercise and eat well - Physical fitness and brain fitness go hand in hand. Those who engage in regular aerobic exercise tend to remain sharper, mentally. A diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats lower the risks for heart disease, but also lessens the risk of cognitive problems, including dementia, later in life. Your brain depends on good blood flow for its nutrients. So move your body and feed your brain well, not just to feel your best, but to think and remember better.
Get enough sleep - Your body and brain restore themselves during sleep. They need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each most nights to function optimally. If you aren’t making sleep a priority, you are setting yourself to be less healthy and for feeling what some call brain fog. When you’re losing sleep you’re missing opportunities to form new memories of you’re the learning and experiences you gain.
Be present - If you can’t find your car, your keys, remember names or where you put that report you completed, you need to start noticing how often you are doing one thing, but thinking about another, or several others. When you do that, you aren’t there, so why would you know what you just did or what was just said? You need to listen and focus on the here and the now. With normal cognitive aging we are less efficient at blocking out distractions. Mindfulness is essential for remembering those details you might be missing. Mindfulness will help you to be more efficient and you might be surprised at how much you’ve been missing. Meditation is a wonderful way to practice becoming more mindful.
Eliminate what stressors you can and manage your response to the rest - Several studies have shown that being in a state of ongoing stress reaction is linked to memory loss. Intermittent, short term, stressors that we encounter each day aren’t the problem, but feeling anxious, out of control and overwhelmed most of the time may be setting you up to forget things. Get some tools for bringing down the intensity of your response to what happens during the day. Meditation and breath work can help you come out of your stressed state. Also, spend some time looking for ways to get more organized. Don’t create more stress by running late or searching for things. It may be cliché, but a place for most everything can make things simpler.
Be intentional and create the memory - Memories improve when you are purposely trying not to forget. When you learn a new name, be present and take a few seconds to connect it to someone or something familiar to you. Do you have a good friend with the same name, does it rhyme with something catchy, or can you associate it with something meaningful you already know? Repeating the name is helpful, as is asking how it is spelled, then creating a mental image of it, as if written down. If you meet several people at a meeting or event, try writing the name down and adding anything that might be helpful to associate with it. Just the act of writing can be helpful when you want to remember something.
Laurel Clark, a teacher with the School of Metaphysics and author of Concentration, shared her favorite memory-enhancing tricks.
“The secret to a good memory is undivided attention. You remember best that which you give the most attention. That's why emotional experiences (both pleasant and unpleasant) are memorable. The emotion is like a kind of glue that makes the memory stick,” Clark said.
So to improve memory, she said, the key is to purposely give attention to what you want to remember. “To remember names, for example, affirm to yourself, ‘I am great at remembering names’ so that you are creating a positive frame of mind. Then, give your full attention to the person you meet. Pay attention to your senses, what they are wearing, the color of their hair and eyes, the image of their face, how they smell, the feel of their handshake. When they introduce themselves, repeat their name out loud. Say it again at the end of your conversation. If you got distracted and don't remember the name, instead of being embarrassed and trying to cover, simply say, ‘Tell me your name again,’ before you part. The other person will be flattered that you want to remember their name.”
And keep in mind that this works for anything. Affirm that you have a good memory and pay attention, giving your undivided attention to what you want to remember. It helps to eliminate distractions. If you are going to study, do not play music while studying because you give your brain two inputs: the information you're reading and the music you're listening to. If you want to remember what you've read, you need to listen to the same music to draw out of your brain what you put in, Clark said.
“Concentration exercises help to develop undivided attention,” she said.