Brain like a goldfish? Use our tricks to retrain your grey matter in just seven days…
We can all be forgetful at times, and normally, it’s a pretty frustrating experience.
From forgetting where you left the keys last night as you’re rushing out the door this morning, to realising only as you’re cooking dinner that you’ve left behind one of the main ingredients at the supermarket – forgetting something is enough to put anyone in a bad mood.
But are there ways to try and improve your memory, and make every day just a little bit easier!
Top tips for how to improve memory:
How to remember numbers
Why do we forget important numbers that we need to remember? “Because numbers are unimaginative shapes, we don’t find them interesting enough to remember,” says Dr Chris Moulin, Professor of NeuroCognition. “Try “chunking” – dividing a long number into groups of three to help the brain process it.”
The digits 19663945501 are hard to remember, so, break them up – 1966 is the year England won the World Cup, 3945 is the beginning and end of the Second World War and 501 = Levi’s jeans. Or visualise your PIN number as a pattern – if you look at your phone keypad, 1379 forms a Z shape.
Do a mental workout
According to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, mental exercise twice a day really can boost brain function. Try downloading the free app Fit Brain trainer (iOS) – it’s fun, too!
Clench your fist
Balling up your right hand and squeezing it tightly makes it easier to memorise phone numbers or lists. Later, when you want to recall the information (for example, at the supermarket), clench your left fist. Researchers think the movements activate brain regions key to the storing and recall of memories.
Repeat everyone’s name
Find it easier to remember faces over names? That’s because images are easier to recall. When you’re introduced to someone, take a good look at them, repeat their name to yourself several times, then use it in conversation. For example, ‘So, Jane, how do you know the host?’ You can also connect imaginative images to a person’s name. For instance, if you meet a woman called Carol, think of her singing Silent Night. You now have interesting and meaningful mental associations with that person.
How to remember what you walked in the room for
We’ve all been there – walked into a room and forgotten why we want in there in the first place! Why do we do it? If you’re not concentrating fully on the task in hand, you get distracted along the way.
To 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 about 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?’ retrace your steps mentally and, if that doesn’t work, physically ask yourself what you wanted before you left, who you were with or how you were feeling.
Where have I put my keys?
‘You’re doing something so mundane and routine that you’re not even thinking about your actions,’ says Daniel Schacter, author of The Seven Sins Of Memory.
To make sure you never forget again, remember that having a good memory often means developing good habits. Have a special place where you always keep your keys, handbag, mobile phone, etc. Tell yourself out loud where you’re putting the item. For instance, “My keys are in the hallway.” With practice, it can become habitual to leave the item in the same place.
Switch hands when brushing teeth
Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. This stimulates interaction between the two sides of the brain, meaning new neural pathways develop.
It can improve your short- and long-term memory by up to 35%, according to a study carried out at the University of Northumbria. This might be because it improves oxygen flow to the brain. And there’s the added fresh-breath bonus!
A study in the journal PLOS One found high levels of stress can block memory processes, causing us to forget what we’ve learnt. So take time to de-stress.
*Research by My Nametags. **Research carried out by National-lottery.co.uk.