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Although research has yet to uncover a means of preventing Alzheimer’s, there is evidence that actively engaging your mind to “cement memories” can help preserve them as you age. And the earlier you start working on your memory, the better. Below, we outline some memory improvement tips that may help you organize information, imprint it in your mind, and hopefully recall it more easily. Some of these simple memory improvement tips may help make information easier to retain and recall, while others may help mitigate the impact of memory loss.
1. Make an Effort
To remember something, you have to put in some work. Get motivated to remember by considering how the information will be useful to you. For example, memorizing the names of your medications will enable you to discuss them more easily with your doctor at appointments.
Focus on one memory task at a time. You’ll have an easier time fixing the information in your mind.
3. Get Organized
Make a habit of keeping your valuables and frequently used belongings such as keys, wallet, purse, etc. in one place at home and at work. Find a spot on your desk at work or a dish on the kitchen counter at home, for example, that is your go-to storing spot so you eliminate the frustration of trying to recall where you’ve placed them. Use a calendar, smartphone app, or other device to keep track of appointments and other important dates. Organize your medications into a weekly or monthly pill dispenser to help you remember when to take them.
4. Use Mnemonic Strategies and Other Memory Techniques
Organize information into rhymes, acronyms, or other forms that are easier for your brain to encode and recall. For example, make a rhyme out of a friend’s neighborhood gate code that you have trouble remembering. “1024 opens the door.”
5. Manage Your Memory
Break the information you want to remember into small pieces so that you don’t overload your memory. Also take breaks during the process of remembering to give your brain a rest.
Connect new bits of information with things you already know. For example, if you meet someone new who is named Charles, think “Prince Charles” to help you remember his name the next time you meet.
7. Understand the Information You Are Trying to Remember
If you’re trying to teach yourself how to use your new Apple TV learn the reason for each step in the navigation process. You’ll be more likely to remember how to do something if you know the reason for it. Then practice repeating the steps to cement them in your mind.
8. Use Cues
If you run out of your morning oatmeal, take the empty canister with you in the car to remind you to pick up some more on the way home. Similarly, put your empty medicine bottle by the door to remind yourself to refill your prescription. Paste a “sticky note” on your computer screen to remind you to email your friend about dinner. Use clocks with timers to remind you to turn off the oven.
9. Train, Rehearse, and Practice
If you have trouble concentrating, practice focusing on one subject or task for 10 minutes without letting your mind wander. The next day, increase your concentration time to 12 or 15 minutes, gradually building your ability to focus and ignore distractions. Or, challenge your power of concentration by reading a book with the television on. Play online brain-training games (such as seniorbrains.com) to boost your brain’s processing speed. Memorize your favorite poems, or learn to play a new piece on the piano.
10. Lean on Others
Ask your friends or family to call or email to help you remember important appointments or tasks. For a handy way to remember key memory strategies, see “Helpful Acronym ‘GULP’ Cues Memory Strategies.”
Bonus Memory Improvement Tips: Train Your Brain
Regularly engaging in training exercises that help you practice specific cognitive abilities (e.g., attention or processing speed) may help protect against memory loss better than memory strategies alone. Examples of cognitive exercises you might try:
- Strengthen your powers of attention by opening a newspaper or magazine to a random page and counting the number of words without touching the page. If you lose count, begin again until you finish the page. Strengthen your ability to concentrate by introducing distractions, such as turning on a TV or music.
- Boost information processing speed by looking out a window and trying to observe everything in your view for one minute. Jot down all of the details that you recall seeing on a piece of paper and then compare your notes to the view. Or examine a photograph you have not seen before for the same amount of time. Then turn over the photo and record as many details from it as you can remember. As your processing speed improves, shorten the time you spend examining each new photo.
- Increase your short-term memory by listening to the headline stories in the opening of the news broadcast, then trying to remember them in order during the first commercial. Or if there is a story about a country you’re not familiar with, look up the countries it borders and try to recall those a few minutes later. As your short-term memory improves, try to remember additional details as well like the capitals of those countries.
- Exercise your capacity to recall information by reading a medium-length article on any subject while making an effort to remember as many details as you can. Put the article aside and write or recite as much as you can of its contents. Then check the original article to see how you did.
For more information about improving your memory, purchase Combating Memory Loss at www.UniversityHealthNews.com.