Many of us have tendencies to forget other people’s names. Then, as we age, it can become even more frequent. But, the saving factor here is that most of us tend to forget names, and therefore, it becomes less of an embarrassment.
Some people use games to help themselves remember names. For example, they may try to rhyme the person’s name with an object or thought. For many years, I have jokingly claimed that my name-remembering inabilities were inherited from my father. So, in the late 1970s, I took a Dale Carnegie course to learn how to better retain memory. The gist of the lesson was to repeat the person’s name and to associate it with something familiar. My class-exercise partner’s name was Sherry Ballantine, and therefore, I associated her name with Ballantine beer. To this day, I can remember her name, but I’m not sure if I would ever be able to recognize her. So, it goes…
As we age as a population, the issue of memory and focusing on ways to retain memory is an incredibly important area. The more that neuroscience uncovers about how our brains work, the more we are able to better understand how to compensate for our memory issues. For improving our abilities to remember, it may help to focus on the following:
EMOTION: Neurologist Antonio Damasio, Ph.D., (author of Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain) has proven that thought without emotion cannot exist because reason depends on emotion in order to exist. In his work with severely brain damaged patients, Dr. Damasio found that patients with severe damage in the emotional feeling centers of the brain were not able to function on a daily basis, even if their mental capabilities were superior. They were not even capable of making simple decisions, such as whether or not to go to a certain restaurant. They could not decide which restaurant they would prefer to go to because the emotional side of decision-making was missing. The emotional side of making their daily-life decisions was missing. Dr. Damasio found that emotion "marks the value" and helps you decide the daily options that you mentally have. Emotion and cognition are integrated biochemically and neurologically, so that the human is able to interact within his environment.
Neuroscience is showing us that emotionally charged events tend to be remembered better. Speed-reading and memory-improvement expert Jim Kwik states that “information tied to emotion becomes long term memory.” Mr. Kwik believes that when we become more active and in a positive mood with good posture and breathing techniques, we will tend to learn faster and better.
ATTENTION: As they say, if you do not pay attention to something, then you’ll probably not remember it. Sources estimate that it takes at least 8 seconds of concentration on something in order to remember it. But, in these days of chaotic schedules and telecommunications constantly demanding our attention, it becomes difficult to concentrate on one something.
A recent Microsoft study postulates that the average attention span has declined from 12 seconds in 2000 to only 8 seconds, which means many people cannot even concentrate for 8 seconds. The study was based on surveys and EEG scan testing. Much of this stems from the heavy use of smartphones, and not only the glut of content, but also the diversion of this content, making it very difficult to concentrate on just one thing. This is called digital dementia.
Multitasking has become a great asset in work situations, but in reality, when we attempt to concentrate on too many things at once, we can become more forgetful and less productive. So, STOP talking on the phone, putting up groceries, and jotting down notes for the next trip to the store or paper to be written… all at once. Although there may be many people who thrive on multitasking and concentrating in very short bursts, it does not work for everyone. Also, remember that in multitasking, even if you are concentrating on something for at least 8 seconds, not all of your attention is really focused on that one particular task because of the other areas in which you are also involved at the same time. If you feel that you are being overwhelmed by information overload and technology addiction, take a moment in Nature and breathe. Be more mindful and calm.
Try an exercise of being completely present, concentrating on and remembering every single step. Specifically, as you work through the process of coming home from the store and placing each food product in a cabinet or the refrigerator, open up your senses and focus on the details of what you are doing. Now, use the same process for putting away your keys. Chances are that you will remember where you put them. The more you concentrate on being awake and mindful in each activity, the more mindful and awake you will become in your daily routine.
Check out the following 7 tips from the Mayo Clinic for improving your memory.
Please share with us tips that have helped you improve your memory.
(This article was prepared by Maggie Wright, Foundation staff)