Improve your memory in 7 days
By Elizabeth Hurchalla
You keep a calendar to remember appointments, and you jot down grocery items to jog your memory at the supermarket. But when it comes to remembering things like the name of a business associate or where you put your cell phone, unfortunately, you're on your own. And if you're like most busy moms, your memory probably fails you more than you'd like to admit.
There are, however, a number of simple things that can help you get better at remembering. Check out the brain-exercising tricks, memory-boosting strategies and healthy lifestyle changes below. Do a different one every day this week to start enhancing your ability to remember just about everything.
After the first week, try incorporating these strategies into your everyday life and you may find that your memory is as sharp as a, a -- what is that thing called again? Oh, yeah: a tack.
Day 1: Take a walk.
"Aerobic exercise is the No. 1 thing you can do to improve memory," says Cynthia R. Green, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and is the founder of the renowned Memory Enhancement Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Numerous studies show that getting your heart rate up benefits brain health and increases attention span."
Even if your schedule is packed, take a brisk walk with a friend instead of chatting on the phone. Or walk to the store instead of driving, or go on a bike ride or play tag with your kids.
Day 2: Break routine.
Try what memory experts call "neurobic activities": doing everyday tasks a little differently than normal. "They are thought to increase your brain's ability to withstand progressive, age-related damage that can cause memory problems, says Green, co-author of Brainpower Game Plan: Sharpen Your Memory, Improve Your Concentration, and Age-Proof Your Memory.
Following this advice is as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or driving an alternative route to work.
Day 3: Establish forget-me-not spots.
Are you constantly losing your keys, cell phone, sunglasses and other small items? Because you put down and pick up these types of things so often, you likely don't always pay attention to -- and so easily forget -- where they end up, says Green.
The solution: "Train yourself to always put something in the same place," she says. Before you put an item down, think: "Is this where it goes?" These forget-me-not spots can be a dish or hook by the door or a pocket in your purse -- whatever makes sense to you.
Day 4: Repeat and connect names.
"Remembering a name is like a pop quiz for your brain," says Green. The first time you hear the name, you have only seconds to file it away, but if you miss your chance -- poof! -- it's gone.
To pass the test, first get the name into your brain by repeating it aloud. ("Nice to meet you, Frank.") Then, to retain the name, make a connection in your mind with something you're familiar with. Think: "That's my cousin's name." Or, "This guy loves hot dogs."
Day 5: Eat right.
"A healthy, well-balanced diet high in whole grains, lean protein and fruits and vegetables, and low in fat and sweets supports good brain health," says Green. It also helps keep your weight in check. Experts aren't sure why, but people with a lot of belly fat are at greater risk for developing memory impairment, says Green.
More specifically, eat plenty of dark leafy greens, blueberries, pomegranates and grapes. All are high in antioxidants, which protect brain cells. Also eat cold-water fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel twice a week. They deliver omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, which experts think facilitates communication between brain cells.
Day 6: Rest up.
Try to hit the sack an hour early or set your alarm a little later if you can.
Numerous studies show that sleep plays an important role in how well we are able to retain information, says Green. Without enough rest, it's impossible to maintain attention and focus, which impacts your ability to learn, and in turn, remember.
Day 7: Believe you'll remember.
"Data shows that believing in your ability to recall things impacts your ability to actually do so," says Green. "It's similar to sports performance. If you think you're the worst basketball player in the world, you won't do well." So don't kick yourself when you forget to pay a bill or call your mother. Instead, congratulate yourself on everything you do remember. Also, instead of immediately throwing up your hands when you can't recall something, stop, think about it and tell yourself, "I know this." You may just remember. If you don't, at least you'll get in the habit of trusting your memory, which may give your memory a boost tomorrow.
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Elizabeth Hurchalla is a freelance writer in Venice, Calif. She has written for Cosmopolitan, InStyle and many other publications.