Improve your memory and concentration with this unexpected tip

Improve your memory and concentration with this unexpected tip

Improve your memory and concentration with this unexpected tip

The brain is a remarkable organ, with many wonderful properties, including the ability to forget – which might actually be a good thing. “If we were to remember everything we’ve experienced, our brains would be a bunch, clogged with all kinds of useless crap that gets in the way of what we really need,” he says. Charan Ranganathprofessor of psychology and director Laboratory of dynamic memory at the University of California Davis.

In today’s always-on world, people are bombarded with information—email, news, pointless meetings, traffic updates, chatter from family members—far more than anyone can process, Ranganath explains. “Instead, evolution favored quality over quantity,” he says. “We get quality memories for the things we pay attention to, and these are often important things. But if we don’t pay attention to something, we’ll never remember it well.”

These memory problems often appear at the most inopportune moment: when you’re in a hurry and can’t find your keys, when you enter a room and don’t know what you came for, when you’re talking to an acquaintance whose name escapes you, when a friend mentions a good time you had shared, and you don’t remember anything. This kind of forgetting is completely normal, says Ranganath, but it’s frustrating all the same. (Other, more severe conditions can cause memory loss and recall interruptions, such as trauma, Alzheimer’s diseaseand ADHD. Strategies for dealing with these disorders may include therapy and medication, more intensive than the advice given here.)

In general, though, hope is not lost if your recall is a little rusty. Memory is an active process, not a passive one, says a clinical neuropsychologist Michelle Brown. “Which kind of undermines the long-standing myth that brain health is just a product of genetics and that there’s really nothing we can do about it,” she says. Paying a little extra attention and enjoying special events can help you remember life’s moments, big and small.

Start paying your undivided attention to important events and interactions

The responsibilities of modern life mean there are more priorities than ever vying for your attention. How many times have you walked away from a conversation with no idea what was discussed because you were distracted by your phone? “You can get impoverished memories of past events because you’ve never actually been there,” says Ranganath.

Absence is one of the researchers of memory Daniel Schacteris “seven sins of memory”, common memory weaknesses that everyone has. It’s when you don’t pay attention to where you put your keys or you’re in such a bad mood that you miss an important doctor’s appointment. “If we’re engaged in multitasking, for example, we may never encode information about where I just left my keys or my glasses,” says Schacter, a professor of psychology at Harvard University.

Another method to help you pay more attention to the tasks at hand is what Braun calls the PLR ​​technique: pause, connect, and repeat. This can help you remember someone’s name and why you entered the room. If you’re hiding a birthday present for your child but you’re afraid you won’t remember where you put it, take five seconds to stop and focus on where you’re putting the gift instead of just putting it away and looking away and doing something else,” says Braun. . Then look at the environment – this is the “connection” step – and contextualize where you hid the gift with the environment: in your closet, next to the shoe bin. The last step is to practice the process of taking over the present. Look away from hiding and imagine in your mind where the present is.

Use technology to your advantage, agree Ranganath and Schacter: Put meetings on your phone’s calendar (be specific about who you’re meeting, where, and why) and make sure alerts are turned on, set reminders, and take photos of events to refer to later. “Go back to those pictures,” says Ranganath. Don’t just snap a photo and let it float around in your camera roll forever. “Anything you can do to revisit unique moments will give you all sorts of other things back.” (Schacter is not convinced technology is harmful to our memory as some experts suggest. “I don’t think there’s a lot of strong evidence for that,” he says.)

Make even everyday moments unforgettable

Events that occur during heightened emotional states — fear, joy, anxiety, excitement, sadness — are more memorable. That’s why you remember your wedding day and maybe not your tenth date. To remember the mundane things—where you keep the dress shoes you wear once a year, your name, the item you have to pick up at the grocery store—make those things extraordinary, says the five-time American memory champion and memory coach Nelson Dellis. “I made my life more memorable,” he says. After his grandmother died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, Dellis began researching ways to improve his own memory. Two years later, he won his first USA Memory Championship — a competitive event consisting of memory challenges — thanks to memory-boosting exercises.

Dellis attaches vivid images to anything he tries to remember, whether it’s a number or an address. Maybe, if you don’t want to forget to pick up cheese at the grocery store, imagine a giant, incredibly smelly piece of aging. Dellis will sometimes pinch himself or say a unique mantra as he puts the keys away to remind himself of the bizarre thing he did at that moment. Or, let’s say you meet someone named Steve at a party and he’s wearing a t-shirt with monkeys on it. You can imagine him dressed in a full monkey costume. “Anything you can make exaggerated,” says Dellis, “for example, if it smells weird, maybe you can imagine it smells worse, or if it’s something normal-sized, imagine it’s huge.”

Spend time at the end of each day thinking about what you want to remember

Another of Schacter’s seven sins of memory is transience, which refers to forgetting over time. For example, the more time passes after watching a movie, the more details you will forget. But if you study or think about things you want to remember, those memories are more likely to be strengthened, Schacter says. Again, looking at pictures or videos you took of a particularly enjoyable dinner with friends is a way to better remember those events. Or instead of photos, capture the scene in your memory by taking notes.

Dellis recommends spending five minutes before bed recalling what happened that day. Have you seen a beautiful sunset? Did your child have a funny answer to a simple question? Did you eat something delicious? Repeat small but beautiful events that you would like to enjoy. “The more you do it, over time you’ll find that you’ll actually be able to remember more details from your life,” Dellis says.

Be proactive and prevent forgetfulness

It can be difficult to predict what you will forget in the future. But knowing what your memory weaknesses are can help you preserve these important items in your memory. If you sign up for a free trial and know you tend to forget to cancel it before you’re billed for the rest of the year, setting a reminder on your phone to tell you to cancel isn’t so much about technology as it is about knowing blind spots. This is what Schacter calls good metacognition, “good insight into how your memory works,” he says. “Being aware of the fact that your memory may fail in the future, even though it seems clear as day in the moment that you should be able to remember it, but you know that a year from now, looking ahead, you might not.”

Maybe remembering names is one of the weaknesses of your memory—a “sin” that Schacter calls blocking (where the information you want is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t access it). Before going to your child’s wedding or basketball game, try reciting the names of the people who usually attend those events, says Schacter. This exercise shouldn’t be more than a few minutes of refreshment — maybe jump from one Instagram social link to another. “With blocking,” he says, “you really have to get ahead of the curve because once that happens, it’s too late.”

Even if you consider yourself a forgetful person, memory is a skill that can be practiced and strengthened, Dellis says. Before entering memory contests, Dellis had never considered himself to have a remarkable memory. Test yourself, he says, by assigning vivid and unique images to groceries and try shopping without a list. Tell yourself you will remember 10 new names at a social event.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘I’m just a person with a bad memory,'” Dellis says. “When you start to change that narrative and start to realize that our memories are really more amazing than most people think … it’s just a snowball effect that makes your memory even more powerful.”

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