Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation – and forgot what you were going to say seconds after you thought of saying it? Or you get up, walk into another room, and can’t remember for the life of you what you were looking for? (If it were me, I would have been looking for my cell phone/shoes/organic bits of white chocolate I all too successfully hide from myself. Cuz that’s how I roll.)
Luckily, our sometimes lack of memory does not mean we are 1) going crazy, 2) have a terrible disease, or 3) going crazy with a terrible disease. Memory gaps are extremely common and are usually the result of stress and fatigue. But there are ways we can sharpen up our brains that don’t require brain surgery!
Chillax. Remember the year 2005 and do some chillax-ing. Elizabeth Lombardo is a psychologist and the author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. As told to Yahoo Health, she says, “The best tip to improve your memory is: Reduce your stress. Research shows that when people experience chronic stress, their hippocampus – the part of your brain that is responsible for some memories – literally shrinks in size.” Think of that next time you’re cursing out someone who just cut you off in traffic.
Pay attention. I know, duh. But you can’t remember something if you never learned it. We need to encode things on our brains, and that’s not going to happen by reading articles while simultaneously skimming gossip blogs for the latest dirt. (Ohh Tim Gunn is telling off more people – LOVE IT!)
Keep a positive attitude. If you tell yourself you have a bad memory, you will have a bad memory. If you tell yourself you want to learn something, you will make it easier to learn.
Write things down. This will help you imprint the information. Did you write that down?
Organize the things you wrote down. I used to do this a lot in school, because I was a nerd obsessed with getting good grades. It worked (with the grades, also with being a nerd). Organizing your notes into categories will help you remember it later.
“Here’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” Ophelia had it right – even though she was totally insane from her ex-boyfriend. (High fives with the “We’ve all been there!”) Researchers have found that rosemary supports memory better than any other scents.
Make a joke about what you want to remember. Funny and weird things are easier to remember than bland facts.
Say it in song. Cynthia Green, PhD, is an expert on brain health and memory. As told Yahoo Health, she says, “research suggests that constantly challenging our brains with intellectual pursuits may boost our “˜cognitive reserve’ and can have the associated benefit of reducing our dementia risk over the long-term.” If you sing something, you’re challenging your brain. When I was little, I was taught the 50 U.S. states in alphabetical order by song. Today, I can say all 50 in under a minute. Now it’s just a party trick that makes people feel vaguely sorry for me”¦but still, I can do it.
Chunk it out. Say you need to call Susie, Sam, Jason and Felicia. Remember it as “the 2 S’s and the J and the F.”
Use the method of Loci. This means associating location with something you have to memorize. Or when you piggyback the information you need onto something that is impossible to forget. Read more about it here.
DO. NOT. SMOKE. And not just because most of the population hates it. According to docs, “smoking heightens the risk of vascular disorders that can cause stroke and constrict arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain.” Mess with your brain, mess with your memory.
Teach and you shall see. Want to make sure you know something? Teach it. I taught grammar at a community college the first semester after I got my Masters degree. You know when I truly learned grammar for the first time because I felt like my life depended on it? The first semester after I got my Masters degree.
Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is when your brain consolidates all the memory it’s accumulated throughout the day.
Think in pictures. Associate positive pictures with things you need to remember. Think of a daisy for your friend Daisy and so on.
Speak with your hands. Gesturing while you are trying to learn a concept helps your brain process the information. If you want to remember someone’s name, write it in the palm of your hand.
Talk it out. Like what you’re reading? Join a book club. Studies show that if you talk about a concept, you are much more likely to remember it. Remember when your teachers tried to get you to talk in class? If yes, then you were probably the one talking.
Draw it out. Doodling in the margins can actually help your brain process information. Who knew daring flowers, boxes and stars could help you think?
Exercise. Keep the blood moving to the brain and your brain will thank you.
Eat your fruits and veggies. Studies show that the healthier a person eats, the slower their brain declines in older age. Other studies show that eating things like brussels sprouts and broccoli can help reverse memory loss, and berries high in antioxidants can boost brain power.
Drink in moderation. Some research suggests that light to moderate alcohol consumption can improve memory. But don’t overdo it. All research suggests that too much alcohol is bad for the brain.