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Cheat Sheet

Improving Your Memory For Dummies

From Improving Your Memory For Dummies by John B. Arden

Enhancing your memory begins with simple techniques to remember names and birthdays. Adopting healthy eating habits, staying low-key in a high-tech world, and practicing some techniques for retaining brain power are all ways to improve your memory.

How to Keep a Vintage Memory Fine Tuned

Our brain’s ability to process information slows down as we get older; it’s just a fact of life. Your long-term memory stays intact, though, and your understanding of what you already know is greater. Some things to help retain your power to learn and recall are:

  • Reduce your stress level.

  • Improve your blood circulation — exercise!

  • Correct any reduction in your hearing or eyesight.

  • Push your temporal lobes into more activity. For example, listen to lectures and discuss them afterward.

  • Keep your occipital lobes humming. Attending photo and art shows is one way. Going on sightseeing trips is another.

  • Share jokes with friends. Join in the kinds of activities that your friends say are fun.

  • Change your routines. Try new routes that cause you to think.

  • Turn off the TV. Use the time to start a new hobby.

  • Go back to school. Attend adult-education classes.

  • Spend time with young people. They can inspire you and keep you quick on your feet.

How to Remember a Name

Most people complain about forgetting names, mostly because they haven’t taken the right steps to remember a name when hearing it for the first time. Follow these steps to improve your memory for names:

  • Pay attention. Make sure that you hear the name clearly. If you don’t, ask him to repeat it.

  • Give the name special meaning. Connect the name with some aspect of his physical appearance or personality by:

    • Exaggerating: Imagining an artist drawing a caricature of the person and highlighting that one physical feature

    • Associating: Linking that one physical feature with some aspect of his personality, such as the way he moves or expresses himself or wears his clothes.

  • Repeat the name. Use it in conversation with him — but don’t overdo it. Repeat the name silently to yourself.

  • Review afterward. Think again about the clever association you’ve made between his name and some aspect of his appearance or personality.

Using the Loci Technique to Remember a Birthday

You probably don’t forget your own birthday, although sometimes you may want to, but you may forget the birthdays of people who expect you to remember. The Loci technique is a method of associating locations with important information to help you remember an important date, like a birthday. For example, suppose the birthday you want to remember is November 4. Using familiar locations, here are the steps:

  1. November: In most temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, deciduous trees lose their leaves by November. Your first loci clue is bare trees on the way to work.

  2. Four: You pass four barns during a stretch of your daily commute. So after you notice the leafless trees, the four barns cue you to remember that the birthday is on November 4.

  3. Birthday present: The crass commercial billboards along your route remind you to buy a gift.

Of course, you may have to change your location cues if you move to the treeless desert or if the four barns are torn down to accommodate 600 new houses.

Nutrition for Your Brain and Memory

The chemistry of your brain and sharpness of your memory are directly affected by what you eat and drink. Adopt these healthy habits to improve your brain’s ability to remember:

  • Eat three balanced meals per day, each meal consisting of three parts:

    • Fruit or vegetable

    • Complex carbohydrate, like whole-wheat bread

    • Protein

  • Stay hydrated:

    • Drink water and juices

    • Moderate your caffeine intake

    • Minimize sodas and sugar drinks

  • Take the following supplements:

    • Vitamins, such as C, E, and the Bs

    • Minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc

    • Herbs, such as Gingko (unless you’re taking blood-thinning medications)

How to Avoid Memory Overload in a High-Speed World

In today’s society, the use of cellphones, pagers, faxes, teleconferencing, computers and hand-held devices is seriously compromising your memory. Practice these things to keep your memory skills keen during a media and tech blitz:

  • Avoid multitasking, like talking on the phone while e-mailing, or watching TV while reading. Divided attention dampens memory. Be selective. Be exclusive.

  • Finish each project before moving on to the next. If that’s impossible, make a clean break as you move back and forth. For example, stand up and stretch.

  • Keep your cellphone and pager turned off when you don’t absolutely need to be in touch.

  • Check e-mail and phone-mail messages a few times a day, not continuously.

  • Watch TV selectively. Don’t watch just to see “what’s on.”

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