Improve Your Memory in 7 Days



Life & Beauty Weekly: Health

By Elizabeth Hurchalla for Life & Beauty Weekly

You keep a calendar to remember appointments and you jot down grocery items to jog your memory at the supermarket. But when it comes to remembering things like the name of a business associate or where you put your cell phone, unfortunately you’re on your own. And if you’re like most busy moms, your memory probably fails you more than you’d like to admit.

There are, however, a number of simple things that can help you get better at remembering. Check out the brain-exercising tricks, memory-boosting strategies and healthy-lifestyle changes below. Do a different one every day this week to start enhancing your ability to remember just about everything. 

After the first week, try incorporating these strategies into your everyday life and you may find that your memory is as sharp as a, a — what is that thing called again? Oh yeah — a tack. 

Day 1: Take a walk
“Exercise increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain,” says Bob Gray, CSP, a Hall of Fame keynote speaker and workshop presenter on human memory development at MemoryEdge.com. Just three months of low-aerobic exercise can increase blood flow to the memory-related areas of the brain and improve performance on memory-related tests.

Even if your schedule is packed, take a brisk walk with a friend instead of chatting on the phone. Or, walk to the store instead of driving, or go on a bike ride or play tag with your kids. 

Day 2: Break routine
Try what memory experts call “neurobic activities:” doing everyday tasks a little differently than normal.

“Conquering these challenges gives us the confidence and the tools to tackle new problems as they present themselves,” says Dr. Susan Vandermorris, a psychologist in the Neuropsychology and Cognitive Health Program at Baycrest and a postdoctoral fellow at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.“By trying new activities, or doing what we usually do in different ways, we can build the persistence and mental flexibility that are critical to success in many facets of life.” Fortunately, following this advice is as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or driving an alternate route to work.

Day 3: Establish forget-me-not spots
Are you constantly losing your keys, cell phone, sunglasses and other small items? Because you put down and pick up these types of things so often, you likely don’t always pay attention to — and so easily forget — where they end up.

The solution: Establish a firm habit of putting your important items in consistent locations, says Vandermorris. “This reduces the chance that you’ll misplace these items to virtually zero, and frees you up to spend your time thinking about more important things, like what’s for dinner tonight.”

Day 4: Repeat and connect names
“A lot of the time, the ‘forgetting’ that happens when we meet a new person isn’t really forgetting at all,” says Vandermorris. We often don’t give our memory systems the chance to do their job because we don’t adequately pay attention to the new name in the first place.” What’s more, we’re often so preoccupied with our own thoughts — smile, make eye contact — we often don’t pay enough attention to the new name, says Vandermorris.

To remember names, Gray suggests spelling the name in your head, which forces you to hear it. You can also comment on the name if it’s unusual, use it once or twice in your conversation, and use the name when leaving to ensure it stays in your memory.

Day 5: Eat right
In order for our brain to function correctly, it has to absorb nutrition from the foods we eat,” says Gray. “The brain uses approximately 20 percent of our daily caloric intake, so healthy foods are essential for a sharp memory.” Another reason to eat well: A study released from the American Academy of Neurology that showed that being overweight increases the chances of developing certain forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

For the ultimate brain food, eat plenty of dark leafy greens, blueberries, pomegranate and grapes. All are high in antioxidants, which protect brain cells. Also eat cold-water fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel twice a week. They deliver omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, which experts think facilitates communication between brain cells.

Day 6: Rest up
Try to hit the sack an hour earlier than usual or set your alarm a little later if you can. Without enough rest, it’s impossible to maintain attention and focus, which impacts your ability to learn and, in turn, remember.

“Sleep is very important for memory,” says Vandermorris. “REM sleep (the type of sleep that is associated with dreaming) is important for memory consolidation, the neurological processes associated with laying down long-term memories.”

Day 7: Believe you’ll remember
“A positive attitude can significantly improve your ability to learn and remember,” says Vandermorris. “Studies have shown that intervention programs that focus exclusively on fostering healthy attitudes about memory, including highlighting the significant degree to which you are in control of your memory, are as effective in improving memory function as interventions which directly teach strategies for learning and remembering.”

So don’t kick yourself when you forget to pay a bill or call your mother. Instead, congratulate yourself on everything you do remember. Also, instead of immediately throwing up your hands when you can’t recall something, stop, think about it and tell yourself: “I know this.” You may just remember. If you don’t, at least you’ll get in the habit of trusting your memory, which may give your memory a boost tomorrow.

Elizabeth Hurchalla
is a Venice, Calif.-based freelance writer who has contributed to
Cosmopolitan,
InStyle and many other publications.