Jun 7, 2009
Keeping our mind and memory sharp are critical not only to our everyday tasks, but also to our mental health. We all know the agony and frustration we go through when we misplace our keys or fail to recall the name of a very familiar person.
It is true that some people are born with a sharper memory, however, it does not mean that others cannot improve on their ability to remember things. Sometimes very simple and basic techniques can make a real difference in the way your memory works.
Following are some of the ways that can help enhance your memory and reduce the chances of forgetting stuff:
1. Write what you read
One of the simplest yet most effective tip, is to write stuff down. When you are writing something, you are repeating it in your mind multiple times. By the time you have finished writing a sentence, you have repeated it at least 2-3 times in your mind and there is a good chance it has moved from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. This also works really well because when we are writing something, we tend to play around with the words a little bit; this requires more attention than just hearing or reading and makes us more focused.
Our mind tries to remember things by sub-consciously associating it with things we already know. We can enhance this process by making conscious or active associations. A very common example of this is remembering birthdays. If a new person we just met shares his/her birthday with somebody we’ve known for a long time, we would always think of both the people when we think of either one of them.
Another example is that you met a guy name ‘Fred’; you immediately realized that your cousin who lives in Florida is also ‘Fred’. Now chances are that if you ever try to remember your new friend’s name, your mind would link it to your cousin and Florida and allow you to get to ‘Fred’.
I have a close friend with the phone number (xxx) – 2164572 and even though I always remember that his phone number has a 2,1,6,7,4 and a 5, I am never able to remember the order of these digits. One day I finally figured that each set of digits in his phone number sums up to 9 and now all i have to remember is the number 9 when i think of calling him. As soon as I do that, the correct order comes to my mind.
3. MNEMONICS / Acronyms:
Suppose you are back in your high-school trig class again and you have to remember this set of formulae:
Sine = Opposite ÷ Hypotenuse Cosine = Adjacent ÷ Hypotenuse Tangent = Opposite ÷ Adjacent
It will take you a few minutes to memorize these. But if I tell you to just remember the sentence “Silly Old Hitler Couldn’t Advance His Troops Over Africa”, it would become much easier to remember.
These MNEMONICS are commonly used in Mathematics for memorization, however, they can be used in our daily life just as easily. Suppose you have to get 4 items from the grocery store, Milk, Apples, Rice and Soda; you can easily increase your chances of remembering these by repeating RAMS or MARS to yourself a few times. Then even if you forget the individual items, you would still remember the number of items and their starting alphabet.
4. Reverse Thinking:
Every night just before I go to sleep, I try to think about the major events of the day. But instead of starting with the morning, I start with the last thing I did and go back in time till I get to the beginning of the day. I have felt this to be a really good exercise because it is somewhat different than our regular mode of thinking and it allows us to use our mind in a slightly different and more challenging manner.
It comes in very handy if you have misplaced something few minutes ago and you are trying to think where you put it.
5. Foods that help:
There are certain foods which are known to make your brain sharper and healthier:
Blueberries: Blueberries are known to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The anti-oxidants in them help your brain function correctly and according to some people also increase your learning ability and motor skills.
Almonds: A handful of almonds daily have a lot of nutrients like B-Vitamin, Magnesium and certain protiens that power many brain processes. These are my personal favorite as I always used them during the exam weeks. One of the suggested methods is to put them in a bowl of water overnight, and eat them the next morning after peeling their skins off.
Green Tea: Besides reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, green tea is known to boost dopamine levels and lower the chances of cognitive impairment.
Other foods like salmon, sardines, oats and walnuts also help a lot in reducing brain inflammation and protecting it from harmful radicals. The stronger your mind would be, the easier it would be to remember things.
These are just some of the things we can do to improve our memory. None of them requires a lot of time or effort to implement. If we gradually embed them in our daily routines, we will see a significant difference in our memory.