- 24 Handy Ways to a Better Memory
Irene B. Colsky, Ed.D., teaches “Brainpower,” a popular program on learning and memory techniques for students, business professionals, and members of the community.
Quick Fixes for Memory Lapses
Who among us hasn’t forgotten a name in the middle of an introduction or spent the better part of an afternoon searching a shopping mall parking lot for a misplaced car?
Backtrack. Circling the shopping mall parking lot looking for your car? Stop circling and mentally switch into reverse, says Irene Colsky, Ed.D., adjunct professor of psychology and education offering learning and memory seminars.
If you replay the trip to the mall in your head, you’re likely to hit upon some key information that triggers a memory of where you left your wheels. For example, visualize what you saw when you left the driveway, headed west on Elm, and pulled into the South View Plaza, and you’re likely to recall seeing the Good Friend Pharmacy right in front of you. Great. Now look for your car around the drugstore.
Backtracking also helps when you walk into a room–your bedroom, for example–and can’t remember why, says Dr. Colsky. Ask yourself, “Where was I before I walked in here, and what was I doing?”
TRAIN YOUR MIND TO REMEMBER
Avoid distractions. “Make a mental note of what you’re going to do before you do it,” says Dr. Colsky. “It will minimize distraction, which makes you forget why, for example, you walked into the living room. You head for a room to find something in particular, but as you enter, something else gets your attention.”
So tell yourself, “I’m going into the living room to get the photo album,” for example, and you will be less likely to get distracted by the magazines and papers on the coffee table.
Make meaningful connections. To remember things like street addresses or a shopping list, says Lapp, make up a story or a sentence that links that information in a meaningful way. To remember someone’s address, for example–say, 65 South Street–tell yourself, “Sixty-five is retirement age, and many people move South after they retire.”
Or, to remember to buy milk, eggs, and four cans of bug spray on the way home, turn the list into an acronym: MESSSS (M for milk, E for eggs, and the four S’s for the four cans of bug spray.)
Increase your intake of the “memory minerals.” Studies suggest that iron, zinc, and boron deficiencies can interfere with concentration and recall. To assure adequate intake, say, researchers, you need to eat at least three servings of red meat (a good source of both iron and zinc) each week and at least five servings per day of fruits and vegetables (for sufficient boron).
Sharpen your memory with exercise. In one study, researchers found that volunteers who got an hour of aerobic exercise three times a week performed better on memory tests than those who didn’t work out. Exercise, they speculate, may increase oxygen flow to the brain and speed glucose metabolism, improving recall. Exercise can also reduce stress, which can interfere with memory.