06 November 2007

Upgrade your memory

Are there ways to train your memory? Yes! There are several strategies to improve memory.

Are there ways to train your memory? Yes! There are several strategies to improve memory.

"Hi! How are you? Thank you, you also look very well." if I can only remember your name…you were at that party…or was it you that worked with me at that place…what is your name? "Yes, it is hot today. Do you know they even predict rain for tomorrow?" Play for time…I will remember her name…oh no…she remembers my name.

We learn so many things every day that it is hardly surprising that we sometimes forget. Not knowing somebody’s name, when this person easily remembers yours, is embarrassing. So, are there ways to train your memory? Perhaps a brain gym? Like exercising your golf swing, so that you can go and impress the folk on Saturday with your ultra low handicap. Yes! It is possible to exercise your memory and thus to improve it. Below is a discussion of strategies that will perk up your memory.

First of all, consider the mighty importance of memory. The brain is actually a very special type of muscle. If you don’t use it then you will lose it. It is important to continuously stimulate your organ of thought and that is why the strategies mentioned below are important. Do not be lulled into thinking that “I can cope as it is”. Times have changed and we need to cope with much more information these days. An effective and reliable storage device would certainly give you the edge in the 21st century.

Before you start with training it is prudent to take a moment and contemplate your existing kit. Are you aware of any strengths and weaknesses in your memory? Maybe you have the knack for putting a name to a face but cannot remember numbers such as your PIN number after a good holiday in the bush. Try to use your strengths often and try to compensate for your weaknesses.

You should also spare a thought for your emotions or state of being. Emotional well-being unquestionably assists memory. Depression and anxiety is the woe of good memory. Both affect concentration and will hamper storage of memory. If you cannot focus on information then you will certainly lose it before you can store it. An example is a depressed person in a social conversation. The person will think over many things, usually negative and depressing things, while at the same time trying to follow a conversation. The depressive preoccupation hampers attention and the person will have sketchy recollection of the conversation.

Memory techniques help to improve memory functioning and should be used as the situation calls for it. Some strategies work better in certain situations and with time you will learn when to use which strategy. Training will improve performance, but as in any sport, training requires motivation. To use any of these strategies will require application and dedication.

Too little motivation to do this? Console yourself with the thought that by exercising your mind in this way you combat the effects of ageing and you will certainly expand your knowledge base.

Written by Dr Frans Hugo, MBChB, M.Med Psychiatry and Dr L. Van Wyk, MBChB, M. Med (Psych) from the Panorama Memory Clinic.

For more information visit: Dementia SA: or Alzheimer’s South Africa:


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