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You Are Here: Home - Newsletters - "Get Organized" - Article

Is Your Memory Letting You Down?

How easy it is to forget. And the older you get, the easier it is to forget birthdays, appointments, and even those car keys. But is old age the cause of your lack of memory? Can you do something now, regardless of your age, to IMPROVE it? Before you accept the hopelessness of your sieve-like memory, you should understand the factors that CAUSE you to forget in the first place. Knowing that, you can then take steps to remedy the situation.

We live in a society where the demands of life puts us under a great deal of STRESS. Stress is a great memory waster. It's hard to concentrate when a thousand thoughts flood your mind every minute. Anger, nervousness, fear and all negative emotions help you lose CONTROL of your reasoning faculties. We end up reacting rather than act logically.

So the moment you put down those keys, your mind is on the boss chiding you for being tardy for the second time this week, or your mind may be focused on how you're going to pay for that "pay later" plan for the furniture set you bought at Leon's last year. The point is you lose your CONCENTRATION at the moment you need most to remember. There are some things you can do to greatly increase your retentiveness. But as with anything it requires effort. Once you do it on a regular basis, it becomes automatic.

Stress and the "rush-rush" pace of life only help to increase blood pressure and ANXIETY. You simply can't operate with a CLEAR mind under these circumstances. Before panic overwhelms you, take some deep breaths. Count to ten, if you must. Your relaxed attitude will greatly help you find your keys instead of waste more time in a fruitless search from your basement to your attic.

This kind of attitude is learned early in life but carries on into the adult years as an ingrained habit. You can't remember what you never learned or FOCUSED on. Your mind tends to wander, even while you're driving. By forcing yourself to concentrate you are helping yourself to better remember later. Here's a question for you -- do you remember what you had for supper yesterday? Chances are you don't. But you do recall what you had at a fabulous dinner out with your girlfriend or spouse. One is ROUTINE, the other is not. That leads to the next point.

One major reason we don't remember is simply because we don't WANT to. It's easier to forget a dental appointment than a meeting with friends next Saturday night. If something or someone is unpleasant, we forget very quickly. The throbbing pain of an abscessed tooth is likely to help you remember that appointment, even if you'd rather forget. When it comes to meeting appointments or doing things that must get done, you have to imagine it as a PLEASANT activity. And one way to do that is through association.

This method has been around for some time and isn't new. By associating or LINKING one object with another, your ability to remember is greatly enhanced. Creating mental PICTURES is a form of concentration and helps you remember things like appointments or someone's name. Let's say you have to go to the store to pick up a bag of rice and a dozen eggs to bring home after work. You can create links at work that help you remember. Imagine yourself getting into your car after work for the trip home. You open the door to find a great bag of rice on the front seat that immediately pelts you with a dozen eggs. Will you remember to get that rice and eggs? You bet! If your picture is vivid enough and ridiculous enough, you will remember to bring home the groceries. Just imagining yourself getting into your car with a bag of rice and a dozen eggs sitting lamely on the passenger seat does not paint a vivid picture and you're likely to forget that. We remember the RIDICULOUS far more than something routine.

The same holds true for remembering NAMES. Mr. Stoichnaya is not an easy name to remember. How can you remember such a name and how can you place it to the right face? Simply by associating it to something that is more familiar. You can do this by linking the name to familiar SOUNDS or pictures. What word does "stoich" come closest to? If it doesn't conjure up a picture, it should conjure up a sound. "Stoich" sounds closest to words like "stitch", "storage" and "stoic". The last part of the name might bring up an image of "Naya" spring water, or perhaps "nova" or "navel". All you need do is link "stitch" to "naya" in some ridiculous way and you're not likely to forget the name. Think of taking a bottle of spring water and trying to jam it through a sewing machine. The stitches don't hold and you get dowsed with water, almost drowning. To sharpen your prowess, you can associate this ridiculous picture with some prominent FEATURE on Mr. Stoichnaya's face. If he has a retreating hairline, you could imagine seeing several stitches on his scalp, each stitch holding back the bottles of Naya spring water threatening to break out and soak you.

The point is that you put into play your IMAGINATION and concentration skills, two important elements for improving memory. If you keep doing it long enough, eventually it will become second nature and you'll do it without thinking. And everyone will be amazed by your new memory skills.

There are times when you simply did not take the TIME to remember. You can use your senses to help you locate a lost object or a thought that happened to cross your mind. Where was the last place you remember putting your keys? Go there. Certain SIGHTS or SOUNDS might trigger your recall. Close your eyes and think back to the last moment you had the keys in your hand. Who was there with you? Do you remember what you were talking about? If not, what were you thinking at the time? This mental exercise may help you find those missing keys, the TV remote or even help you remember to pick up the baby at the day care if you're anything like Homer Simpson.

Practice concentrating. Practice breathing. Practice associating names with faces and linking familiar objects with unfamiliar ones. A sieve-like memory does not have to come with old age. Unless you have Alzheimer's or severe mental disability, you really have no EXCUSE to forget.


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