Forgotten what you walked into the room for… again?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Use our tricks to change the way you think, and improve your memory We’ve all been there – leaving 10 minutes late for a meeting because you can’t find your cellphone that you could swear was in your hands just 30 seconds ago… only to find you already put it safely in your handbag, or in the fridge when you took out your lunch. No, you’re not going mad! According to studies, the average number of memory slips for healthy adults (regardless of age or gender) is six a week. The good news is that you can exercise your brain to minimise these memory mishaps. We show you how…
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WHAT DID I WALK INTO THE ROOM FOR AGAIN?
Why we forget: You’re more than likely not concentrating fully on the task at hand, so you get distracted easily along the way.
Jog your memory: Visualise what you want or need before you start walking into a room. For instance, if you’re in the kitchen and remember you need to get your swimming kit from the bedroom, think of doing breaststroke. Once you’ve paused to form the vivid association between the room and the reason you’re going there, set off for the room and go straight there. If you find yourself thinking, ‘Why am I in this room?’ try retrace your steps mentally; if that doesn’t work, ask yourself out loud what you wanted before you left, who you were with, or how you were feeling.
WHAT’S MY PIN NUMBER?
Why we forget: According to Prof. Chris Moulin, a cognitive neuropsychologist, there are too many numbers in our lives. And because numbers are simple, unimaginative shapes, we generally don’t find them interesting enough to remember.
Jog your memory: Try ‘chunking’ – divide a long string of numbers into groups of three to help the brain process it, advises Prof. Moulin, and give each group meaning. For instance, 19943945501 is fairly difficult to remember because the digits as a whole are essentially meaningless. So, break them up -1994 is the year South Africa had its first democratic elections, 3945 is the beginning and end of the Second World War, and 501 are famous Levi’s jeans. You can also try visualising your card pin number as a pattern – if you look at your phone keypad, 1379 forms a ‘Z’ shape, so pick that.
CARDHOLDER NAME IT’S ON THE TIP OF MY TONGUE…
Why we forget: It becomes harder to recall basic information – a word, a movie title, a book, an actor’s name – when you feel stressed or are holding too many thoughts in your head at once.
Jog your memory: Say aloud what you think the word or name might be. ‘It begins with an S’ or ‘It’s something to do with fire’. Try not to chase the word, but instead, run through the alphabet in your head asking yourself if the word begins with ‘A’, ‘B’ and so on. Mnemonics is the use of rhymes, sentences or bizarre imagery to help jog your memory. For instance, recalling the fate of Henry VIII’s six wives is made easier with the simple rhyme: ‘Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.’
WHERE HAVE I PUT MY CAR KEYS THIS TIME?
Why we forget: You’re doing something so routine that you’re not even thinking about your actions, says Daniel L. Schacter, author of The Seven Sins of Memory (Houghton Mifflin).
Jog your memory: Having a good memory is often associated with developing good habits, so have a special place where you always keep your keys, handbag, cellphone, etc.
You could also try tell yourself out loud where you’re putting the item; for instance, ‘My keys are in the kitchen.’ With practice, it can become habitual to leave mr the item in the same place.
ESSENTIALS EXTRA OH NO, WHAT’S HER NAME?
Why we forget: It’s easier to remember faces rather than names because visuals are easier to recall.
Jog your memory: Make a conscious effort when you are introduced to someone new. Take a good look at the person, repeat their name to yourself several times, and then use it in conversation. For instance, ‘So, Jane, how do you know the host?’. You could also connect imaginative images to the person’s name. For example, if you meet a woman named Carol at a party, think of her singing Silent Night. You will now have a concrete mental association that is more interesting and meaningful than merely the sound or spelling of a name.
Try these simple brain exercises to boost your memory:
* Switch off the TV: According to a study, people who watch less than seven hours of TV a day in later life have 50% less chance of developing memory problems than those who watch more than seven hours a day.
* Do a workout: According to researchers, mental exercise twice a day boosts brain function. Try the Peak Brain training app (free for iOS/Apple; Android).
* Keep dancing: A study showed that regular dancing helps older people do better at various physical and mental tasks.
* Cook, don’t look: Read a recipe, and try to cook the dish without flicking back to it. This forces you to keep ingredients and steps in your mind, while enacting them.