Strategies for Improving Your Memory
By Leah Lancione
“It’s normal to forget things from time to time, and it’s normal to become somewhat more forgetful as you age,” so says the Harvard Health Publications website of the Harvard Medical School. The question is whether your memory loss is within the scope of normal now that you’re older. The Harvard site says that unless these memory flaws “are extreme and persistent—they are not considered indicators of Alzheimer’s or other memory-impairing illnesses.” So you forget where you put your keys from time to time or have difficulty recalling a name instantly or even forgetting about an appointment. It doesn’t mean you need to be alarmed.
First, it’s important to point out that memory is divided into short term and long term. According to www.psychcentral.com “Short-term memory is the kind of memory our brain uses to store small pieces of information needed right away, like someone’s name when you meet for the first time. Research has demonstrated that short-term memory’s capacity is about seven pieces of information. After that, something has to go. Long-term memory is for things you don’t need to remember this instant.” A memorable moment or event is the type of information stored in long-term memory.
The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following strategies “to compensate for mild memory loss and help people adapt to memory problems,” including (www.apa.org/topics/learning/enhance-memory.aspx):
- Take mental snapshots. Try to form a strong association with information as you learn it, such as taking a mental snapshot of where you place your keys.
- Train your brain to remember. For example, to learn a new name, use mnemonic devices to link the new information with familiar information. Another technique is “vanishing cues.” If you can’t remember a name, write down any letters you can remember. Then fill in more and more until your recall kicks in.
- Take advantage of technology. For example, use a paging system to remember appointments or other important dates. Also, a specially programmed personal digital assistant can help users.
- Keep your spirits up. Memory problems can affect mood. Exercise and mentally stimulating activities can help.
A reassuring piece of research the APA cites is that “for the human brain, there’s no such thing as over the hill. Psychologists researching the normal changes of aging have found that although some aspects of memory and processing change as people get older, simple behavior changes can help people stay sharp for as long as possible.”
An example of these simple behavior changes include playing cards whether online or with friends, completing crossword puzzles, doing Sudoku or even socializing with friends and family, will stimulate the brain, increase memory function and improve your ability to store and recall information.
Luminosity.com is an online service that enables users to engage in games and tools designed by a team of neuroscientists. The personalized program will, in essence, be akin to having a personal trainer to help exercise your brain 15 minutes a day three to five times a week. Exercises are classified in the following categories: memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem-solving. You select further category specifications based on what you want to improve specifically. To set your priorities for brain training and to start, try the Fit Test. You must sign up and create an account. It’s free.
Psychcentral.com makes an important point that “anything that generally improves your brain health may also have a positive impact on your memory.” Therefore, daily physical exercise as well as brain-stimulating exercises can only have a positive impact on your brain health and memory. Also, the site suggests eating right, getting enough sleep and keeping stress levels in check to get your memory functioning at its optimum.
Check out the following article from Psychology Today that offers a free exercise to increase your memory dramatically by teaching you how to tap into the visual portion of your brain: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/gifted-ed-guru/201402/how-improve-your-memory-instantly Don’t forget to take the experts’ advice and be proactive about your memory.
If you are concerned that your memory loss is excessive or that your ability to carry out everyday activities is impaired, the Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.org recommends consulting your doctor to have a physical exam as well as one that will assess your problem-solving skills and memory. Other tests may also be conducted to see if there are any underlying conditions causing the memory loss or problem-solving difficulties.