Don't you find it troublesome when you can't remember where you parked your car? Or do you get frustrated when you can't remember your password to your computer or ATM machine? Whether it's forgotten names, misplaced keys, missed appointments or simply not being able to recall something you know that you know, experts say we don't have to put up with forgetfulness, and it has nothing to do with age. We can have a great memory well into our 80s and beyond, but only if we're willing to invest some time and energy. “Your memory declines with age only if it's not used. Conversely, if it is used, it will continue to improve throughout your lifetime. But you have to work at it. The advantage of this is a better quality of life in your later years. Research has shown that seniors with a sharp memory and an alert mind are more socially active and participate in a broader range of activities, which in turn helps maintain brain power and memory in the process. Studies suggest that healthy, active seniors are able to learn and remember nearly as much as younger age groups, maybe just not at the same speed.
So remarkable is the human capacity for recall that some people have trained themselves to remember the order of playing cards in ten shuffled decks, 1,000 random digits and 99 new names and faces. These are the mental equivalents of super athletes.
While most of us won't need to memorize the order of ten decks of cards, having a reliable memory is important, not only in our personal lives but professionally. “When you remember customers’ names and important figures and products, you look impressive, save time and make people feel important. " Says Bob Reinhart, a 55-year old memory consultant, who has made a living teaching memorization techniques for the past 20 years. “People don't really know just how much untapped memory power they have between their ears".
There are dozens of mnemonic technique, but it all comes down to using your imagination and association, what Reinhart calls “the pillars of brain function. " Since the brain has difficulty remembering abstract symbols like names and numbers, the key is to make them memorable by attaching lucid images to them.
Kathy Wilbright, a 39-year-old owner of a busy café, learned this simple lesson during a one-day memory course she took at a local college to help her remember customers’ names. She was taught memory techniques and memory training to improve the way she perceives the world and improve her memory. It worked. “For example, there was one gentleman who kept coming in and I could never remember if his name was Gary or Barry, " says Wilbright. “After I took the course, I started picturing a bunch of berries on Barry. I never forgot his name again. "
So even though one of the simplest ways to improve memory may sound obvious, it's important. The most common reason healthy adults forget is they fail to focus. Distraction can cause memory lapses no matter what age you're at.
Working in our favor, say the experts, is the fact that the mind naturally craves to make a connection between things that aren't normally associated. Think of the words ‘giraffe’ and “apple" and your mind automatically finds a way to connect the two. (I quickly imagine a giraffe balancing an apple on its head. Harnessing the natural inclination, then exaggerating the image using your imagination so it's unforgettable, is the key to remembering.
So the next time you need to remember something, try to make a vivid ludicrous association between 2 things. For example, a jersey in a window display is dark red like a ripe, cherry. When you want to remember the color of the garment, you just have to think of a cherry and instantly you recall what the jersey looks like. Your memory can store about 10,000 pictures and you can use this “library" of images to form any number of chains of association. The crazier, the more unreal and absurd these fantasy pictures are, the easier it is for them to be memorized.
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