Forgetting names is one of our memory’s most common failures – but there are ways to make them stick, says psychologist Tom Stafford.
“Memory – Your strongest muscle and worst enemy is your mind. Train it well”.
Memory lapses are common, especially when you lead a busy life, with work and family commitments, all the while being overloaded by information on mobiles, computers and tablets.
When it comes to the functioning of your brain and your memory, the saying is “use it or lose it”. But there are plenty of other things you can do to stay mentally sharp and keep your memory strong and your mind collected.
Don’t neglect the mind. It controls your body!
Sure, there’s not much you can do to stop time or age. You can, however, improve the quality of your life within the time you have — and that includes keeping your mind sharp and vibrant. From eating the right foods to practicing “deep listening,” here are some very simple ways to keep your brain sharp and vibrant.
Research – shows that physical exercise enhances cognitive function. One reason might be because it increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that improves learning, memory and higher thinking by stimulating growth of new neurons and helping existing neurons stay alive.
- Where you allow yourself to take a pause and a deep breath.
- Do not rush when communicating. Wait, take a pause.
- Breathe. Inhale deeply and exhale completely, allowing the mind to quiet.
- Listen with your heart. Notice how words make you feel. Try to engage all of your senses.
- Write first. If you feel emotionally charged, you may want to jot down what you’re feeling to help gain clarity before you speak out.
- Find a safe place to rant. You can choose a friend, therapist or counselor whom you know you can safely speak to without worrying that you might be judged. You will find that when you release whatever is pent-up, you can more easily listen and communicate.
It could as simple just to take a walk outdoors, where the terrain isn’t predictable, so that you’re perfecting your balance and working your foot-eye coordination at the same time. Yoga or tai chi also enables you to practice coordination, flow of movement, balance and the engagement of different muscle groups. And don’t forget to fit in some aerobic exercise as well, getting your heart rate up for at least 15 minutes a few times a week.
USE – Mnemonics
This is a trick you might have used to remember lists of things in high school, such as the names of the planets. It involves using phrases like My Violent Evil Monster Just Scared Us Nuts. It provides clues to what it is you’re trying to remember, and provides order and structure so you don’t forget the details, like which planets come first. If you have to remember a list of random items, it might be easier to establish a mnemonic in order to keep it organized and help you remember the first letter of each item on that list.
Be a person of order – keep things organized
It’s harder to remember things if your brain can’t see any order to them. That’s why you should take the time to organize the data you want to remember in a meaningful way. When you go to remember it you’ll have an easier time, because the brain will have compartmentalized it in a similar way to how you organized it in the physical realm. The more complex the subject matter, the more important organization becomes.
You can’t afford to lose Memory– FOCUS
It’s easier said than done in certain situations, but the more you can tune out the world around you and focus in on what you’re trying to remember, the better. Do whatever you can in order to help establish or maintain your focus, until you feel that you have the object committed to memory. You can then go about your day and periodically check in to see that you still remember what it is you were trying to remember. If you’ve forgotten, simply regain that focus and try to memorize it again. Eventually, you’ll be able to log it in your long-term memory and won’t need to focus in order to recall it.
Read More – Yes, I said it
In our Information Age we’re inundated with all sorts of tidbits of information flying at us, and it might seem like we’re reading more than we once did. But reading news blogs and emails is not the same as getting immersed in a novel; reading helps to give the brain something new to chew on. New ideas, new concepts, a mystery to solve, or even trying to remember character names and subplots all help keep your brain at its best. Not only is it important to feed the brain good nutrients, but you don’t want it to rehash the same thoughts over and over again, so it’s important to give it new information regularly, preferably daily.
Music is almost magical the way it can alter your mood, either making you sad when you otherwise weren’t or getting you revved up if you were calm and relaxed just moments ago. There are even certain types of music that can aid in concentration and focus, and you can use these to your advantage to help keep your brain growing and learning. Try listening to Baroque music while studying and see if you notice a difference. There are also playlists on YouTube specifically for studying and concentration. Each person has their own music tastes and responds differently to different types of music so it’s a matter of finding out what works best for you.
Everyone has their own potential to live up to so don’t try to compare yourself to others, and try to unlock your own hidden talents and latent abilities. With continued practice and a bit of determination you can start to see the fruits of your labor. But it’s not going to come in a quantum leap where you’re suddenly solving physics equations a la Good Will Hunting.