What’s the name of your daughter’s teacher, and where did you put your keys again? If you’ve ever wished you could do some simple things to sharpen your memory skills, you can. We’ve talked to the experts and compiled the latest thinking on improving the muscles in your brain associated with memory.
1. Talk with your hands.
It may sound strange, but waving your hands and gesturing while trying to learn a concept may help your brain remember something important, says Jeff Brown, PsyD, ABPP, coauthor of The Winner’s Brain. "Gesturing in a meaningful way while you are learning may help you when recalling the concept,” he says. “The idea is that you are storing at least two different types of information about something you'll need to recall later. A good example of this is when kids speak math problems aloud, but also 'work them' in the air.” Tactics to try: When you’ve just learned someone’s name, “write” it down on the palm of your hand with your finger. The act of tracing the letters on your palm (discreetly, of course) can help your brain remember it, says Dr. Brown. Or, “Air-write on an imaginary map of your grocery store or mall as you name aloud the items or stores you need to remember when shopping.”
2. Take a chill pill.
Learning to calm down and not carry as much stress can help your brain in significant ways, says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, PT, a psychologist and physical therapist in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and the author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. “The best tip to improve your memory is: Reduce your stress,” says Dr. Lombardo. “Research shows that when people experience chronic stress, their hippocampus—the part of your brain that is responsible for some memories—literally shrinks in size.” In fact, a 2007 study in the journal Neurology by researchers at Rush University Medical School found that people who are easily distressed and had more negative emotions were more likely to develop