I Forgot My Keys Again: Memory and… uh…

The feeling of forgetfulness is not a comfortable one. We will examine causes, management, and an awesome memory technique called the Method of Loci. Your brain needs this one…

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What was I writing about again? Oh yeah, memory. I don’t know about you, but it is not and uncommon occurrence for me to misplace my keys. If I don’t put them in the same one or two places when I get home, I am in trouble. I remember a day when I had every friend’s phone number (home phone of course) memorized. Memorized! How many numbers do you just know off of the top of your head these days. I think I even knew what 3-digit code corresponded with my favorite music videos on The Box back in the ’90s. My grandmother had dementia, so my memory lapses do worry me a little when I think of what they may lead to.

Memory LaneThe NIH and Mayo clinic had some pearls to make me feel better about my brain, and help me navigate these next 40 – 50 years (God willing) without forgetting where I live or my own name. It’s normal to forget things once in awhile. We’ve all forgotten a name, where we put our keys, or if we locked the front door. If you are a senior who forget things more often than others your age, you may have mild cognitive impairment. Forgetting how to use your phone or find your way home may be signs of a more serious problem.

When to ask for help from the NIH:

People who have a sudden loss of memory or become very confused should get medical help right away. Make an appointment to see a doctor if you notice these symptoms:

  • Asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over
  • Becoming lost in familiar places
  • Not being able to follow directions
  • Getting confused about time, people and places
  • Not taking care of yourself—eating poorly, not bathing or being unsafe
  • Having memory or concentration problems that concern you

The Memory Strengthening Solution: The Brain Work-Out Plan

Memory

According to Harvard Health, genes play a role in memory, but so do choices. Proven ways to protect memory include:

  • following a healthy diet
  • exercising regularly
  • not smoking, and
  • keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in check
  • living a mentally active life is important, too. Just as muscles grow stronger with use, mental exercise helps keep mental skills and memory in tone

Are certain kinds of “brain work” more effective than others? Any brain exercise is better than being a mental couch potato. But the activities with the most impact are those that require you to work beyond what is easy and comfortable. Playing endless rounds of solitaire and watching the latest documentary marathon on the History Channel may not be enough. Learning a new language, volunteering, and other activities that strain your brain are better bets.

RubixThen there is the Method of Loci, a technique used by master memorizers to remember extraordinary amounts of information and even compete in memory competitions. There is new evidence that this technique can even be useful for the average Joe and Josephine to remember daily stuff.

To use the Method of Loci, you simply need to visualize a location through which you can take an imaginary walk. I am now going to borrow an excerpt from How Stuff Works: Health to illustrate the technique. Click here for the full article. Here’s how it would work if you wanted to remember the following shopping list:

  • shaving cream
  • peaches
  • hot dogs
  • ketchup
  • ice cream

As you visualize your house, imagine spraying shaving cream all over the front door. Don’t just imagine the word “shaving cream.” Really see it as you depress the nozzle and spray the foam all over the front door. Try to imagine the smell of the shaving cream, as well.

Now open the door, enter the hall, and imagine a giant peach rolling down the steps in the front hall and heading right for you. Now walk into the living room, and visualize a six-foot-tall hot dog in a bun wearing a cowboy hat and lounging by the fireplace. Enter the dining room and picture a bottle of ketchup, dressed in an old-fashioned maid’s uniform, setting the table. Finally, go to the kitchen and picture a gallon of ice cream, melting as it slaves over a hot stove.

After you’ve visually placed all your list items around the house, when you try to remember your shopping list, all you have to do is visualize your front door. You will instantly see the shaving cream; as you enter the hall, the peach will pop into your mind; and so on. The more outrageous and unusual you make your mental images, the easier you’ll find it is to remember them.

Ever since I had babies, my list-making game is so serious. If I don’t write it down, it may not happen. I want to blame my pregnancies and children for my memory loss, but evidence suggests that any loss in brain volume that occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, returns shortly after one gives birth.  My age may be equally causative in my memory loss, maybe even more so than my brood. Now with some basic foundation principles and memory techniques, I can remember what I was about to do as soon as I finished this article… oh yeah, I remember!

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Sources: Mayo Clinic, NIH, Harvard Heatlh, How Stuff Works: Health

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