Your memory is like a muscle that can be trained to be fitter and stronger. In this fast-paced world, it’s easy to lose focus and become forgetful, which can be frustrating and annoying.
By the age of 60, more than half of men and women have concerns over their memory. But these temporary lapses are usually not associated with something serious, such as Alzheimer’s disease, but more likely due to normal changes to the brain, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
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By following certain strategies, you can improve your memory by enhancing your ability to focus and stay present.
• Ask questions. When someone is talking to you, look at the person and listen closely. If you missed something that was said, do not hesitate to ask the person to repeat it or speak more slowly.
• Meditate for just a few minutes. Dr. Gary Small, author of 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain, and the behavioral health physician-in-chief at Hackensack Meridian Health, says that even a few minutes of quiet contemplation before a big event or meeting can help you stay focused so that you don’t forget the names of clients which could potentially cost you the whole deal. “Sit quietly in a chair and close your eyes,” he tells Fast Company. “Take deep breathes in and out and try to relax your whole body.”
“Our minds are constantly chattering,” says Small. “What this exercise is doing is training your neurocircuits to focus attention, to relax, to let go; you’re teaching your mind to let go of the mental chatter. That way you have better mental focus and attention.”
• Find quiet spaces. If noisy environments cause distractions, arrange to meet people in their homes or in a quiet location. According to the experts at Harvard Health Publishing, if you must gather in a restaurant or other public place, choose a table near the wall, and try to sit opposite your companions so you can focus on them rather than on other diners.
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• Concentrate for 8 seconds, according to Pocket. These days we’re all about doing things faster. That’s why this advice is invaluable. When you really want to remember something, concentrate on it for at least 8 seconds. Studies have shown that 8 seconds is the minimum amount it takes for information to go from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
• Do one thing at a time. Try to avoid interruptions so you can stay on target with the task at hand. If someone asks you something while you are in the middle of reading or working, ask if that person can wait until you are finished. Let phone calls go to voicemail so you are not interrupted in the middle of a project.
• Get a good night’s sleep. If you are cramming for an exam or important meeting, it’s better to sleep on the information you want to retain rather than pull an all-nighter. Studies have shown that the processes your brain goes through when you are asleep actually help you form memories and remember better the next day.
• Chew gum. If you need to remember a piece of information for around 30 minutes, try chewing gum. Studies have found that people do better on both visual and audio memory tasks if they are chewing gum while they do them, says Pocket.
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• Focus and frame. “One of the most common memory complaints is names and faces,” says Small. “With the focus and frame technique you focus your attention, create a visual image for the face, create a visual image for the name, and frame them together.”
For example, if that new client introduces herself as Lisa and if she has a nice smile you might think of the painting, Mona Lisa, and the smile of Mona Lisa. Or if you meet Mr. Bender, you might visualize him drunk on a bender. If you’re focused when you create this visual linkage your brain will remember it the next time you see the person.
It may sound comical—even simple, but this technique works wonders for memory, says Small. “Use whatever first association comes to mind. These are really basic techniques, and memory masters use them to memorize mountains of information. They’re quite simple, and easy, and fun.”
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