Tricks to Help Sharpen Your Memory

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Did it ever happen to you that you are already talking to a person at a gathering, and you keep talking in the hopes that you can recall that person’s name? You do remember that she’s a lawyer, and that her children go to the same school as your children, but somehow you can’t just recall the name.  It is sometimes embarrassing to ask “uhm…what’s your name again?” It makes you wonder how you could forget something so basic when you can recall all the other details.  Truth is, you didn’t.  During the course of your conversation, it never occurred to you that you learned her name in the first place.  Our memory’s ability to absorb new information slows down over the years, explains Glenn Smith, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the Mayo Clinic.  In order to help your mind process, you need to focus it.  Here are some exercises for your memory by forcing you to pay attention.

Repetition

Try to repeat yourself.  Locking the door, unplugging the iron, taking your vitamins—these aren’t called mindless tasks for nothing.  To help you brain remember a routine activity, recite it audibly enough for your to hear it  (“I’m taking my vitamins”), as advised by Cynthia Green, Ph.D. of Memory Arts LLC, a company providing memory fitness training.  To fend off distraction, for example, as you head towards the kitchen to get a glass of water, repeat aloud “I’m getting a glass of water.”  Memory experts advise that your repeat a person’s name when you are being introduced to each other, say “Hi Margaret,”  and as you finish your conversation (“Nice meeting you/ nice talking to you, Maragaret”), if you don’t feel comfortable with it, or if it makes you feel unnatural, just repeat your new acquaintance’s name as you walk away.

Bigger bites

Because your brain only processes limited information at a time, try taking bits of info in bigger bites.  For example, when you try to remember a phone number 2-9-7-0, you may repeat to yourself twenty-nine, seventy.  That way, you’ll only have to remember two numbers instead of four.  If you need to buy lettuce, milk, ground beef, bread, and cereal, you may instead think “dinner” (lettuce, bread, patties) and “breakfast” (milk and cereal).

More meaning to words

Use mnemonics.  Some people find this memory or learning aid useful in remembering, say, a name when introduced: Hannah- Montana.  You can make a rhyme or relate a name to a familiar song lyric or anything familiar to you.

Use recall triggers

A very old example of using recall triggers to remember something is tying a string on a finger.  You may find your own way of remembering things to do such as switching your watch to the other wrist.  Altering this habit- not finding your watch where it should be will most probably trigger your recall.

Don’t try so hard

Sometimes you’re chatting with a friend about a film actor in a memorable movie, then suddenly you just couldn’t remember the name.  It’s at the “tip of your tongue,” you say.  Then you fret, “Why can’t I remember?”  Then several minutes later, the name pops into your head.  The reason behind this is that, “anxiety distracts us, making it even harder to remember,” says Dr. Small.  Break the cycle by taking a deep breath, de-stress yourself, and think of something else, preferably do something pleasant.

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