How Can I Improve My Memory?
When we are young and energetic we don’t give much thought to our memory, much less to improving our memory. We remember almost everything if we pay attention to what is going on around us, because, when we are young we might not remember because we missed it altogether.
As we get older we may pay closer attention to everyday occurrences, stopping to “smell the roses” and enjoying every moment. But we just don’t remember things or the answers come to us more slowly than they did before. So, what can we do to improve our memories so that we remember names that go with faces or remember what to get at the store without writing it down every time?
In fact, there are a number of ways to make that memory better. With special training, association techniques and maybe even a few specific vitamins, older folks can improve their ability to recall details. How, you may well ask?
The first step is to use your brain more often. Research seems to show that we lose the ability to remember if we don’t “exercise” our minds on a regular basis. Unfortunately we can just add memory like we would in a computer. Our brains are composed of living cells that aren’t replaceable. So we have to give some effort to improving the memory.
What are some of the techniques that may help? Let’s take a quick look at what memory is and how it works.
In the simplest terms, memory serves us over the short term or the long term. Some things are put into the “memory bank” just long enough so that we can use the information immediately. We don’t need to remember a phone number that we will only use once. We don’t have to store a few simple directions that won’t serve a purpose a couple of years from now.
In contrast, we remember some things for months or years. It generally takes a little more effort to put this in the memory and retain it over a period of time. This may be a conscious effort, such as studying for an important test or information that we use in our work. We might retain some long-term information for a longer time even when we don’t realize that we have “locked it in” so to speak. Our brains retain information from repeated tasks or situations, for example.
Some of the advice for memory improvement focuses on nutrition, diet and, in some cases, natural or man-made supplements. Since the brain is a living organ made of certain types of chemicals, we need to make sure that we put in the right ingredients to make it work well. There are also some “trick” techniques that will help stimulate brain activity. Try using your “off” hand for basic tasks. This requires concentration and can stimulate the brain.
Try some of these ideas:
Force yourself to focus and pay attention. Even a few seconds of this will help the information stay in the brain. This takes some practice but it works
If you can’t remember what you read, use recorded information, books on tape etc. Some people retain this information better. There is such a thing as visual learning
Use association, such as connecting a color or another simple object to the information. Try something simple. If the car needs gasoline tell yourself, “Won’t go far if I don’t gas the car.” Once you’ve repeated this two or three times, forget it. It will probably come back.
Organize and understand in a less complex way. Don’t try to remember every detail. Just get the important overall “feel.” You’ll be surprised how much you retain.
Use rhymes and visual images – such as the car example above or simple versions of seemingly complex items – even if it seems “childish.” Get a little more physical exercise, eat right and challenge your brain. It will help.