As you get older and life gets more stressful and complicated, you may find your memory slipping. Sometimes it’s in silly ways, like ransacking the house for your glasses when they’re perched on your head the whole time; other times it’s embarrassing, like talking to your neighbor of two years without the slightest clue of what their first name is. Just like any other part of your body, your brain needs exercise to stay in shape, and there are easy ways to improve your memory and concentration to keep you on your toes in everyday situations.
1. Work It Out
Your brain gets energy from a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in your bloodstream. If you’re constantly sedentary, blood flow in your body slows down. That means your brain isn’t getting the nourishment it needs, and your brain gets sluggish, affecting memory, focus, and concentration. Plus, when inactivity leads to obesity, you’re faced with risk factors for a variety of diseases like Alzheimer’s and stroke, which can have catastrophic effects on your brainpower. In other words, find time to exercise. It’s tough and it takes motivation, but it can be as simple as a 10-minute walk around the building during your lunch break.
2. Be a Visual Thinker
As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. We’ve all done this, and that’s because it’s one of the most effective strategies for memorization. When trying to remember directions to someone’s house, you pass a video rental and a deli restaurant, and turn onto Dairyman Road. So, just picture stopping for a movie, a sandwich, and a glass of milk to take to Bob’s house.
3. Wait 8 Seconds
When’s the last time you devoted 8 seconds to remembering someone’s name when you meet them? Can’t recall? Then that’s probably why you forgot their name already. Some say 8 seconds is how long it takes to completely move new information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory bank. When you meet someone, repeat their name out loud, then spend a few more seconds in your mind coming up with creative or visual ways to associate that name with their face or with an object or situation that’s connected with them.
4. Divide and Conquer
There’s a reason why most everyday numbers are in short groupings. If it’s a long number (like a phone number or social security number), notice it’s divided up into small groups. That’s because your mind has an easier time remembering several short sequences over one long sequence. Take the phone number 624-531-9924. You can say “6=2+4” for the first group. Maybe you have 3 kids ages 5, 3, and 1. That takes care of the second group. Maybe you graduated in 1999 and your soccer jersey was #24. Voila! Just remember 6=2+4, kids’ ages, high school.
5. Practice and Test
Sounds silly, but practice everything above and test out your memory to see where you still fall short. If you read a book, try to explain it to a friend after you’re done – if you can’t remember the main character’s name, better work on paying attention a little more. Other ways to practice are of course good ‘ole crossword puzzles, brain teasers, and reading challenging material in general to keep your neurons firing away!