EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT A MEMORY GENIUS, THESE COMMON-SENSE STRATEGIES CAN HELP YOU FORGET LESS OFTEN.
It is possible to improve your memory
You probably know someone who seems to never forget a thing: Names, events, things that happened years ago can be recalled in seconds. How do these people do it? Yes, you can train your brain to have superhuman memory.
Mnemonic tricks can be helpful, but more importantly, good lifestyle habits as well as strategies for processing new information can improve how your memory works. It’s not just about rote memorization—it’s about how info “sticks” in the brain to use later on. “Memorizing ‘stuff’ should not be the goal,” says Jennifer Zientz, MS, head of clinical services with the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Using what you remember—combining memories with other knowledge to form new ideas and to make choices—is a more healthy way to use your brain, and will enhance your life more than worrying about your ability to remember ‘stuff.’” Read on for some tips on expanding your brain’s potential.
In order to free up your brain to remember new and important information, don’t waste energy trying to recall where you put your keys: It really is easier to find things if you always put them in the same place. “Having a routine can be very helpful for memory,” Zientz says. “Routines help us attain efficiency so we don’t have to expend a lot of brain power on predictable elements of our day. Efficiency in everyday activities frees up time and brain power for more meaningful things in our lives.” Try these genius brain boosters you can do before you leave for work.
Use your senses
If you have to put something in an unfamiliar place, say what you are doing out loud: “I am putting my sunglasses on the table by the door.” Or when you meet someone new, repeat their name out loud. This is one of those memory exercises proven to keep your brain sharp. “Most of us learn better when we can take information in through more than one sense because it puts the information in a greater context,” says Zientz. By letting your ears register the information, research shows you enhance your focus on it, increasing your chances of remembering it later.
It’s no surprise we can’t remember things when our attention is divided. “Today, we have access to an unprecedented amount of information,” says Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth. “It may seem counter-intuitive to slow down, but research has shown that the more people consume at once the shallower their thinking becomes. By taking in less information, you are better able to get meaning, develop knowledge, and actually build brain networks.” Filtering out these distractions improves the focus that leads to better memory, Zientz says. “The first thing we all have to do is put our cell phones away and stop multitasking,” she says.
One way to laser-focus your attention to boost memory is to start meditating. Chapman says the first step to enhancing brain function is to “prime your brain” by quieting it—and research has found meditation helps you avoid distracting, anxious, and stressful thoughts, which improves focus. One study showed students who took a mindfulness class and meditated for ten minutes a day did better on the GRE exam than students who didn’t. Research has also shown that meditation may actually change the structure of your brain by thickening areas associated with attention.
Free up your working memory by using external aids to organize information. Set up reminders of what you need to do each day on your cell phone calendar, or employ these 11 ways to use technology to stay organized. Better yet, studies have shown the simple act of writing things down can reinforce information in your memory. So keep Post-Its in every room and leave handwritten reminders where you’ll see them, and write a list before you go to the store so you don’t forget anything. Jot down these notes when they’re fresh in your mind—planning ahead helps your working memory actually perform current tasks instead of thinking about what needs to be done later.
Go out in nature
This simple activity can boost memory by 20 percent. Similar to meditating, walking in nature may calm anxious and distracting thoughts that mess with memory, as well as give the brain a break from multitasking to improve its performance later on. In one study, participants who took a walk in nature did better on memory tasks than those who walked in an urban setting. “Nature—even getting a mere glimpse of it—helps the brain calm itself and reset,” Chapman says
Published on Reader’s Digest May 8, 2019