Is it possible to improve your memory?
Most of us suffer from a weak memory or memory failure here and there. Failing to recall a person’s name, a song title, or a movie ending. Memory holes are a bit annoying especially if we’re struggling to remember information that has to do with work, studying, or a presentation.
Most of the clients who seek my services complain of secondary memory problems. Some even address it as a major debilitating issue in their life. Of course, the first thing needed is to rule out any medical cause. However, it’s good to know that most memory complaints are absolutely normal. In fact, if we look closely at how we’re living today, we’ll understand why it’s no wonder that our brain is not keeping up.
There is so much information overload nowadays that our brain is not holding on to all the information it receives. And when we add to this the fact that stress complicates things even more, we realize that most of the information we would like to remember has not been registered by our brain cells.
Stress, when constant and prolonged, will inhibit the ability of our neurons to regenerate, a process called neurogenesis. In addition, stress messes up our sleep, during which our brain is storing all the information it was exposed to during the day. When our sleep is poor, little information is stored.
Not to mention that stress shrinks our hippocampus, that area in the brain that is responsible for strong information.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to help improve your memory.
Tips for improving your memory
Researchers have found that information is organized in our memory in related clusters.
You can take advantage of this by organizing the materials you’re studying or you are working on. Try grouping similar concepts and terms together, or make an outline of your notes and textbook readings to help recall group-related concepts.
Train your attention
Focusing on what you’re working on is key to strengthening your memory muscle. You can sharpen your attention by making a plan for what you intend to accomplish and how you intend to process the matter. Simply, you can schedule rewards and take a break during which you do something entirely different. Find a place with the least possible interference – and don’t forget to switch off your mobile.
Basically, in order for any information to make it to your memory bank, it needs to register first. When we are in a hurry, our brain fails to note that piece of information. I always advise my clients to stop for 2 seconds, make note of what it is they’re doing and want to remember (‘I’m putting my eyeglasses next to my computer “), then carry on with it. That split second of noting that information ensures it has registered in your mind, and therefore whenever you need to recall it, your brain will find it and pull it out.
Read out loud to yourself
Have you ever noticed that when you’re editing a paper it helps to read out loud? You’re able to hear things that you may have missed when you were reading normally. This also improves your memory. By reading out loud, your brain picks up on the things that you may have skimmed over without ever knowing it.
Chunking, or the memory tree method, is the process of classifying, or branching, things into groups to improve your memory. For example, if you want to remember a set of facts, relate them in your mind using a memory tree. Begin with the main branches first, then add leaves. You must label each branch and leaf in ways that are somehow meaningful to you and the facts or “leaves” should remain logically organized.
Improve your sleep
Sleep deprivation negatively affects a variety of cognitive abilities, including memory.
During sleep, your brain reorganizes memories, forming stronger connections between them while you snooze. This is also when your brain links new information to existing data, encouraging creativity in your waking hours.
Studies show that meditating improves the brain’s ability to focus on finer details. Practicing mindfulness by quieting your thoughts to focus on the moment can help keep your brain healthy.
Being outside in nature is a great idea to improve your ability to calm down and focus on the moment.
When to seek help for memory loss?
If you’re worried about memory loss especially if memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities or routines, or if you notice your memory getting worse — these could be signs that require medical attention. Treatment will depend on what’s contributing to your memory loss. Don’t delay a quick check in with your physician. You can also find some tips in my videos that enable you to be proactive in your life.