by Dana Ehrlich
Have you ever been introduced to someone and, about two seconds after shaking his hand, forgotten his name? Don’t worry. This is not evidence that you’re losing your mind or that you’re on the fast track to senility. Turns out, this is actually an extremely common occurrence for many busy people today including me!
The good news is that, not only is there plenty of research on the subject to help us cope with this problem, there are also a number of simple, practical actions we can take to improve our memory now and long into the future.
No Pain, No Gain
Wouldn’t it be great if we could improve our memories as easily as we upgrade our computers? Unfortunately, our brains, like our bodies, require the benefits of regular exercise, a healthy diet, and other good habits like not smoking, not drinking excessively, and getting the proper amount of sleep each night in order to function at the highest level. If it seems that your memory is getting worse and worse each year, it could be that you’re just not managing one or more of these areas as well as you probably could.
With this in mind, here are some great tips for proactively strengthening your memory:
You know all about the wonderful effects aerobic exercise has on the heart, but have you heard of neurobic exercise for the brain? According to Lawrence Katz, co-author of Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises, the best exercise for the brain is to force it to form “new patterns of association” or new pathways.
In other words, challenge your brain every day; take it off auto-pilot and make it relearn or create new associations with the most routine activities of your day. The book offers numerous examples of small changes you can make to activate your brain, including: brushing your teeth with the other hand; taking an alternative route to work; moving your wastebasket to the other side of your desk; closing your eyes while putting your key in and unlocking the front door; and changing where you and your family members sit at the dinner table.
Turns out there are actually three steps or stages of memorization: acquisition, consolidation, and retrieval. Once we acquire new information, like someone’s name for instance, how we consolidate that data directly affects how well we’re able to retrieve it from memory. Whether you’re a visual or auditory type of learner, there are many mnemonic devices that can help you to better organize or consolidate the new information that you need to recall. Here’s one that might help.
First, associate the data you want to remember with common images. For instance, let’s say you meet someone named Jennifer Green. Imagine Jennifer playing golf, or picture her wearing all green clothes, or imagine her face painted completely green. Second, think of associations you can use to help you remember this person. For instance, link Jennifer to the quality that best fits her personality (use alliteration and rhymes whenever possible): Jolly Jennifer Green. Finally, connect sound to your memory by saying the name aloud. Do this regularly and, before you know it, you’ll never forget anyone’s name again!
If you have any tips on improving memory, don’t forget about me! Please call and share them with me, so I can add them to my list.