It probably isn't all that worrisome, advises Dr. Cynthia Green, holds a Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology and serves as director of the Memory Enhancement Program at New York's Mt. Sinai-NYU Medical Center.
If you have a lot on your mind, or if you are under stress, chances are you won't remember everything you'd like to. On CBS "This Morning," Dr. Green lets us in on helpful ways to start remembering, and stop forgetting the things that matter.
People seem to believe that using memory aids, like writing things down or keeping an appointment diary, is cheating. Writing something down is one of the best memory tools that you can practice. No one is going to give you a test on your grocery list. We're so focused on being perfect, we lose our capacity to cut ourselves a break and makes things easier. The idea that we're supposed to have a supermemory is not true. We're not computers.
The simple act of writing things down is very effective when it comes to memory. By writing, you're focusing and your brain processes it in two ways: you remember it and you write it, so that imprints it into your brain.
It's much harder to remember something if you're distracted. Dr. Green says people tell her that they can't remember things they read in the newspaper that morning. Well, that may be because they are doing too many things at once: watching television, talking to their spouse, eating breakfast, and reading the newspaper. It's no wonder that they don't remember the small item in the upper righthand corner of The New York Times on page A28.
If you really want to remember something, focus on just that one thing and leave out the others. The point is, to be aware of how much or how little you're paying attention.
Here are some other things that you can use to enhance your memory:
- Use a memo recorder.
- Call your voicemail and leave yourself a message.
- Practice visualization. If you want to try to remember your grocery list, group the items together, like "dairy" - then you'll be more likely to remember butter and milk than if you just had a simple list of 26 items all randomly written down. You can also visualize the dairy section and imagine milk and butter. That helps train your memory also.
- Consider taking a supplement. There is some scientific research that shows that certain chemical compounds can enhance memory. Estrogen supplements may help sharpen memory as well as vitamin E. There may also be something to the notion that ginkgo bilboa can help you keep your memory sharp.
Finally, there are some things that we remember because we care about them. Some people have an incredible head for baseball statistics or facts about cars or movies. They remember these things because they care about them.
Don't be alarmed because you don't have a head for statistics or you forget people's names. You can teach your memory to remember names or statistics if you practice certain memory habits. Given the speed at which we're asked to process information in today's world, all of us will forget things from time to time.
Indeed, says Dr. Green, there is much overlap between memory wellness and physical wellness. If you're a healthy adult, and you practice good health habits (eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, enjoying alcohol in moderation), chances are your memory will be pretty healthy, too.
If you want to learn more about the program that Dr. Green runs, you can call the Mount Sinai Medical Center at 212-241-3922 or use the physician referral service's number to reach her: 1-888-MD-SINAI (1-888-637-4624).
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