Improve your memory today

Posted on: 21 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Are you increasingly beset by ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ moments? Do you forget names, dates and other vital information?

Are you concerned that your memory is getting worse as you get older?

If your New Year’s resolution is to improve your memory, then this book could be your perfect companion.

Written by Rob Eastaway with GMTV’s celebrity doctor, Dr Hilary Jones, Improve Your Memory Today will help you remember the important things you are worried about forgetting.  

Contrary to popular belief it is not just older people who have problems remembering: memory loss affects people of all ages.  Forgetting is also a natural part of how the brain functions but it can still be a frustrating and distressing experience. Improve Your Memory Today explains how memory works, why it sometimes goes wrong and what practical steps you can take to make it stronger.

1) Put Effort Into Remembering Names

In a survey, forgetting names was the most common memory anxiety.  There are many useful tips for remembering names.  There are some amusing tricks and techniques that can help, but actually the four top tips would be:

  • Repeat a name when you first hear it.
  • Deliberately try to recall the name within the first minute.
  • Write the name down when you get a chance.
  • Before going to a social event, rehearse the names of the people you are expecting to see.

2) Forgetting Tasks

For things like shopping lists, or to do lists, there are fun techniques that really work, including the 'story method' where you link the items in the list into a story. 

To remember you need to buy milk, leeks and toothpaste you invent a silly story, for example in which the milkman is cleaning his teeth when suddenly he notices that one of his bottles has sprung a "leek". 

Silliness is often an aid to memory.  Of course don't ignore the best technique of all - carry a pencil and notepad around with you.

3) Appointments

Apart from the obvious - record things on a calendar that you regularly check, you can help yourself by setting up prompts. 

For example set an alarm on your watch - or a radio alarm on your desk which allows you to press 'snooze'; or send yourself an email that you aren't allowed to open until you've actually been to the appointment.

4) Is My Memory Loss Normal?

Yes, it almost certainly is, and most people's worries about memory are misplaced.  Most people past the age of 30 begin to notice memory lapses.  It doesn't mean you have early-onset Alzheimers. 

Some people who tell their doctor a whole list of things that they've forgotten are actually revealing how good they are at remembering.  If your memory was really lousy, you'd forget what you've forgotten!

5) Birthdays

When you start the year, write up all the key birthdays on the wall diary/ calendar.  For key birthdays that need a bit of planning, put a reminder in the diary a week or more in advance of the big day. 

Most men would testify that it is far, far more important to remember a woman's birthday/ anniversary than a man's.

6) Jokes

If this really matters to you - and it does to some men - the secret of joke-telling is practice.  Rehearse your best jokes before you want to share them, and keep a record of your favourites. 

Structured jokes - such as knock-knock jokes - are much easier to remember than those with a complicated plot.  Though they aren't necessarily as funny...

7) Numbers

There aren't many numbers you have to remember, but PINs are an obvious example.  Use the French method of remembering numbers in pairs, so 3296 is remembered as 32 96. 

A good way to remember numbers is then to think of situations where that number has relevance.  For example, 32 might be the number of a house you once lived in, and 96 was the year England hosted the European football championship.

8) Past Events In Your Life

When you're old, you'll be sorry if you didn't keep a record of your life.  As well as photo albums of family, be creative. 

What about photos of your neighbourhood - the shops in the high street, the cars, and the trees - since these can change so much over the years?

Keep a diary to describe a typical day in detail.  Keep a full answerphone tape, as a reminder of the people who used to phone you and the sorts of things they were phoning about.

9) Learning A New Subject

Learning can get harder as you get older.  Various things help, including keeping away from distractions - don't have the TV on in the background. 

Decide which time of day your brain is most receptive - are you a morning person or an evening person?  And finally, get somebody to test you - being forced to recall information is one of the best ways of embedding a memory long term.

10) Stories & Histories

Some people recount stories easily, but most people struggle.  It's nice to be able to recount stories to your family and friends. 

The tips in number 8 (Past Events) are helpful here - think about diaries.  Also, the more often you recount a story, the more easily you will remember it.  Though watch out, stories to tend to get embellished with time.  Then again, does that really matter?

Drawing on strategies and experiences of real people in their everyday lives, Improve Your Memory Today debunks some popular myths along the way.

With gentle humour and enlightening content, this refreshing memory book is a how-to guide to understanding your memory’s limitations, as well as offering tips on how to train your brain in 2009.

About The Authors

Dr Hilary Jones is one of the UK’s best known GPs. His regular morning slots on GMTV have made him a household name and he is a regular contributor to the News of the World, has a weekly column in Fabulous magazine, and writes for Rosemary Conley’s Diet and Fitness magazine each month. 

Rob Eastaway is a writer and independent lecturer whose previous books include the best-selling Why Do Buses Come In Threes and the recent, How Many Socks Make A Pair?

Improve Your Memory Today by Rob Eastaway with Dr Hilary Jones is published by Icon Books and is available now.

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