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If our brains were computers, we’d simply add a chip to upgrade our memory. However, the human brain is more complex than even the most advanced machine. So improving human memory requires slightly more effort.

Memory can be short-term or long-term. In short-term memory, your mind stores information for a few seconds or a few minutes: the time it takes you to dial a phone number you just looked up or to compare the prices of several items in a store. Long-term memory involves the information you make an effort (conscious or unconscious) to retain, because it’s personally meaningful to you (for example, data about family and friends); you need it (such as job procedures or material you’re studying for a test); or it made an emotional impression (a movie that had you riveted, the first time you ever caught a fish, the day your uncle died).

The good news, however, is that everyone can take steps to improve their memory, and with time and practice most people can gain the ability to memorize seemingly impossible amounts of information.

 

STEPS

Exercise your brain:

Regularly “exercising” the brain keeps it growing and spurs the development of new nerve  connections that can help improve memory. By developing new mental skills — especially complex ones such as learning a new language or learning to play a new musical instrument — and challenging your brain with puzzles and games, you can keep your brain active and improve its physiological functioning.

 

Reduce stress:

Although chronic stress does not physically damage the brain, it can make remembering much more difficult. After prolonged stress, the brain will start to become affected and deteriorate.

 

Eat well and eat right:

There are a lot of herbal supplements on the market that claim to improve memory:

• Feed your brain with such supplements as Thiamine, Vitamin E, Niacin and Vitamin B-6.

• Eating 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals also seems to improve mental functioning (including memory) by limiting dips in blood sugar, which may negatively affect the brain.

 

Give yourself time to form a memory:

Memories are very fragile in the short-term, and distractions can make you quickly forget something as simple as a phone number. The key to avoid losing memories before you can even form them is to be able to focus on the thing to be remembered for a while without thinking about other things, so when you’re trying to remember something, avoid distractions and complicated tasks for a few minutes.

 

Repeat things you need to learn:

The more times you hear, see, or think about something, the more surely you’ll remember it, right? It’s a no-brainer. When you want to remember something, be it your new coworker’s name or your best friend’s birthday; repeat it, either out loud or silently. Try writing it down; think about it.

 

Sleep well:

The amount of sleep we get affects the brain’s ability to recall recently learned information. Getting a good night’s sleep — a minimum of seven hours a night — may improve your short-term memory and long-term relational memory, according to recent studies conducted at the Harvard Medical School.

 

TIPS:

• Write in a diary or journal every day without fail. Even small issues should be written down, this is a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything.

• Leave yourself a telephone message reminding yourself of important “to do” tasks.

• Memorize your favorite song or poem until you can say it to yourself without any help. Try to do this often.

 

WARNINGS:

• If you notice a severe or sudden deterioration of memory, talk to your doctor immediately. Sometimes “senior moments” can be precursors to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

• Find out as much as you can about how the program works, and do your own research to determine if it will work for you. Some of these products are simply scams.

• Most are harmless, however, and may be worth a try, but exercise caution: some supplements can have harmful effects, and not all contain what they say they contain.