Perhaps you find yourself having slips in your memory. If so, here are tips to help you rev it up, along with what to do if you still have concerns. Even if you aren’t yet experiencing any challenges, these tips contain helpful ways to improve your memory.
First, The New York Times takes us back in time to 80 B.C., when the oldest known text on memorization, Rhetorica ad Herennium, was written. This text shares information about the method of loci, known more poetically as the memory palace. At its core, the method has you associate ideas or objects you need to memorize — say, a grocery list — with memorable scenes at well-known locations. So, to memorize your grocery list, picture memorable images in each room of your house. Your entranceway, for example, could be decorated with toilet paper, while your kitchen sink is full of dancing lobsters. Your dining room table? Covered with melted butter.
People who could remember the average number of items before trying the loci method — the average number is seven — could be trained to remember lists of 80 to 90 items. Even people who had memory-sapping procedures, such as coronary bypass surgery or surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer, could improve their memories.
An article in a Harvard publication shares more tips. The first is to repeat out loud what you hear, whether it’s someone’s name or a new idea. Repetition helps to record important information in your brain and reinforces new connections in your brain cells, “much like blazing a trail in the woods.” Also create associations between old information and new items that you’ve learned. An example given in the article: If you meet someone named Sandy, picture that person standing on a sandy beach.
You also can break longer amounts of information into easier chunks. If trying to memorize a speech, for example, try focusing on one section at a time, not trying to memorize everything all at once.
FastCompany.com goes a different route with its suggestions, which include meditation as a memory device. Simply by taking two to 10 minutes to meditate, to give yourself time to “let go of the noise and focus on yourself,” can have a “big impact.” Sit comfortably in a chair and close your eyes. Take deep breaths in and out, focusing on nothing but groups of your muscles. “Start with your forehead,” the article reads, “and then relax those muscles. Go on to your shoulder muscles, then your stomach, legs, feet, toes. This systemic relaxation will bring on a kind of meditative state in a matter of minutes.”
This allows your neural circuits to “focus attention, to relax, to let go; you’re teaching your mind to let go of the mental chatter.” In today’s world of information overload, it’s natural to struggle to focus. So, for more ideas, we suggest you read the entire article.
When to Consult Your Doctor
If you have concerns about your health and well-being, it never hurts to mention them to your doctor. If you are noticing some of the following signs of memory loss, they may be early signs of dementia.
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Forgetting common words when speaking
- Mixing words up — saying "bed" instead of "table," for example
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, such as following a recipe
- Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer
- Getting lost while walking or driving in a familiar area
- Experiencing changes in mood or behavior for no apparent reason