For me, one of the most frustrating aspects of getting older has been the realization that my memory isn’t as sharp as it once was. But memory problems aren’t exclusive to older adults—people of all ages can have trouble remembering things!
While it’s easy to feel frustrated when your memory fails you, don’t give up hope just yet, because there are some simple and effective tricks you can use to improve your memory and stop forgetfulness in its tracks!
Today I’ll be sharing 7 memory tricks you can use to better remember just about anything! Start practicing a few of these memory tricks, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how effective they can be. After those, I’ll share a few bonus tips for keeping your mind (and thus your memory) sharp as a tack. :-)
7 Easy Tricks You Can Use To Improve Your Memory
1. Visualize Your Purpose
I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve gone into another room to grab something, only to immediately forget what I went in there to get. There seems to be something about moving into a different space that resets our short-term memory, but you can guard yourself against these memory resets by practicing visualization.
Before you leave the room you’re in, stop for a moment and picture whatever your purpose is in your mind. Imagine yourself picking up that item, or doing that thing you don’t want to forget to do. Having a clear mental image of your purpose will make it much harder to forget once you leave the room.
2. Use Musical Memory
Names, numbers, dates, and other pieces of information are easy to forget, yet we seem to have no trouble remembering songs and nursery rhymes from our childhoods. So what gives?
The musicality of rhymes and songs that makes them easy to remember, and you can use that knowledge to your advantage by making up a song about something you want to remember. Musical memory can also be useful for learning a foreign language—follow along with a foreign music video with the subtitles on, and you might be surprised at how much you’re able to remember!
3. Get To Know Somebody
There are a lot of situations where forgetting something can be annoying, but few are as awkward as forgetting someone’s name. In our defense, remembering any fact about someone you don’t know very well is hard, so the trick is to make memorable connections between the name and the person.
Try looking at the person while repeating their name over and over in your head. Another approach is to introduce that person to someone else, which forces you to repeat their name out loud. And when the conversation with a new person is ending, you can always repeat their name while saying goodbye.
4. Create Reminder Images
When you need to remember something important, try creating a rich mental image of that thing, and the more senses you can involve, the better! For instance, if you needed to remember to submit a proposal by 10 pm, you could commit it to memory by visualizing that stack of documents with a ringing alarm clock on top of them showing that the time is 10 pm.
Picturing the clock, time, and documents, as well as the sound of the alarm ringing, is a rich mental cue that will improve your memory of the deadline and make it much easier to remember.
5. Use Mnemonic Devices
There are several kinds of mnemonic devices that can help improve your memory of things. Acronyms like HOMES can help you remember the names of the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior), and sentences like “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” can help you remember the mathematical order of operations (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction).
Creating memorable mnemonic devices like these can help you remember all sorts of important information! I recently learned that the name Roy G. Biv makes a handy mnemonic device for remembering the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.)
6. Summarize It
There’s a reason why teachers made you write book reports in grade school—because writing a summary of something you’ve read makes it much easier to remember! Summarizing requires you to read something, analyze it, and understand it deeply enough that you’re able to write about it in your own words.
Summarizing can be useful if you’re reading a document or book for work and finding it hard to retain the information. Just pause after each paragraph and jot down a short summary in the margin or in a separate notebook to instantly improve your memory of what you read.
7. Make It Interesting
We’re all better at remembering things that we are interested in. I’m sure you have no trouble remembering the names and faces of the person(s) you had a crush on in grade school, right? ;-) If you need to remember something that just isn’t that interesting to you, you’ll likely have a harder time hanging onto it.
The trick here is to get creative and come up with a way to connect the information you want to remember with something that actually interests you. For instance, my daughter Britta knows the Harry Potter series like the back of her hand, so it would likely be easy for her to remember something if she could connect it to an event or character in Harry Potter.
Bonus Tips For Keeping Your Memory Sharp
- Exercise Regularly: Aerobic exercise and physical activities that require hand-eye coordination are both great for your brain. Anything that gets your blood pumping can help reenergize your brain!
- Sleep Well: Your brain can’t operate at its best when you’re sleepy! Make sure to stick to a regular sleep schedule, and cut back on caffeine if that’s an issue for you.
- Meditate: Mindfulness meditation is the practice of building awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and body. A 2010 study found that just 4 days of practice improved participants’ attention and working memory, even when they had no previous experience with meditation.
- Keep Learning: Any activity that challenges your mind can help keep your memory sharp. Make time for reading, playing chess, or doing puzzles. You could also take a class on something, or learn a new skill!
- Eat Healthy: Your brain needs fuel to work properly, so make sure to give it the best fuel possible! Make sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, limit your saturated fat intake, and get omega-3s from fatty fish.
What methods do you find useful for remembering things?