I often catch myself saying, "Don't forget to..." Recently, I am practicing saying, "Remember to..." instead—as in, "Remember to pick up eggs on the way home." The positive reinforcement helps my memory.
Speaking of memory, many of us keep a to-do list, which can be a great help—but what about those times when we want to recall someone's name next time our paths cross?
I recently saw an acquaintance at in Rancho Palos Verdes. It had been quite some time since we had seen each other. She remembered my name, but even though I rarely forget a name, I couldn't remember hers. As we stood in line and chatted, I was hoping her name would come to mind. As luck would have it, I asked her what was new in her life, and she told me she had accepted a new job.
As we were leaving, she handed me her business card. I took advantage of the opportunity to glance down at her card as we were saying good-bye and said, "It was a pleasure to see you again, Cindy."
As I was driving home I told myself that I would remember her name. I recalled a game I used while growing up to remember names. I have always loved music, so I would often tag a person's name with either a catchy pop song, a famous rock star’s name or even an actress or actor. For example—when I meet someone named Jane, I recall the song "Sweet Jane." I won't confuse Jane with June next time I meet her.
It can help to have a visual tag with a person's business card; the logo or seeing the person's name spelled out can help cement a memory.
When I don't have a business card or see the name written out and I'm meeting someone new, I will often ask how she spells her name. Cindy could spell her name a few different ways by using an I or a Y—Cyndi, Cindy or even Cindi. Once I am informed, I can mentally hold the image of her name spelled out in my mind.
The brain's incredible ability to reshape itself holds true when it comes to learning and memory. We can enhance our ability to learn new information and improve our memory. Here are some tips:
- The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain. Even if you’re a visual learner, read what you want to remember out loud. If you can recite it rhythmically, even better.
- Focus on the new information you are hearing or reading for the first time. You can’t remember something if you never learned it, and you can’t learn something if you don’t pay enough attention to it. Some people are easily distracted. If you’re one of those people, I suggest choosing a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
- Relate new information to what you already know. Connect new data to information you already remember, whether it’s new material that builds on previous knowledge or something as simple as an address of someone who lives on a street where you already know someone. For more complex material, focus on understanding basic ideas and practice explaining the ideas to someone else in your own words.
- Review what you've learned the same day you learned it and in intervals thereafter. This helps retain what you've learned.
- Treating your body well can enhance your ability to process and recall information. Just as an athlete relies on sleep and a nutrition-packed diet to perform his or her best, your ability to remember increases when you nurture your brain with a good diet and other healthy habits.
- When you're sleep deprived, your brain can't operate at optimal levels. Creativity, problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills are compromised. Whether you're studying, working, or trying to juggle life's many demands, make sleep a priority.
Whether we're a student studying for final exams, a working professional interested in doing all we can to stay mentally sharp, or a senior looking to preserve and enhance our mind as we age, a good memory helps.