Remembering – A Skill Worth Learning
How many times in your life have you wished you had a better memory?
How much time have you wasted looking for your keys, wallet or eyeglasses?
Have you ever left your house, gotten down the street and begun to
question whether you turned off the coffeepot or locked the door? Do you
avoid saying hello to someone you have met before because you don’t
remember his or her name? Do you tell yourself that you forget because you
are getting older? You may even tell yourself that you are becoming
senile. Don’t give up, there is hope!
In the absence of disease, there is no reason why you cannot remember
whatever you want to remember. A good memory takes concentration and
practice. Remembering is a skill—just as it takes skill to play tennis,
cook, sing, dance, or look your best.
You may lose self-confidence, as you grow older. Your self-assurance may
be affected as you notice changes in your appearance like gray hair and
wrinkles. The fear of aging may be playing tricks on you. Perhaps you
are anxious or even frightened about minor forgetfulness. Ask yourself
if you are distorting the importance of misplacing your car keys,
forgetting someone’s name or where the car is parked. At 20, you didn’t
give it a second thought. At 40, you decided you had too much to think
about. Or you may be saying, “I must be getting senile.” Your memory
follows the curve of your anxiety. The more concerned you feel, the more
you may forget. You may have been forgetful all your life. Or, you may
have relied on someone else to remind you of appointments or of things
Try to pinpoint your frustrations and the precise episodes when
memory fails you. Ask yourself if you were ever good at remembering
names of people, places, words of a song, books, directions,
instructions, appointments, messages, errands, etc. If you were never
good at remembering certain things, then why do you think you should
now? If you always had a good memory, what has changed?
- Are you in a position where it doesn’t matter if you forget?
Do you no longer need to remember certain things that were once
- Are you relaxed?
- Do you concentrate or do you do two things at one time?
- Are you as busy, busier, less busy, than you used to be?
Answers to these questions should reveal the simple truth. Either you
are in control of your memory or you are not. No matter whether you are
in control or not, try the following exercises. I use them to safeguard
my memory—besides the usual lists and calendar that are also helpful.
Pay attention and be alert. Stop, look and listen. Become
involved in the situation you are in as it happens. Example: When you
are introduced to someone new, pay attention and be alert. Look at the
person (eye to eye), listen to the name, say the name out loud and think
about the name. And, if you do forget a name, relax. Just say, “I am
sorry, I am having trouble remembering your name.” Chances are the
person whose name you can’t remember is having trouble with your name.
Give yourself instruction. Tell yourself what you are doing at
the time you are doing it. Example: When you put your car keys down, say
out loud to yourself, “I am putting my car keys on top of the cabinet.”
“I am turning off the iron.” “I am closing the garage door.”
Develop a pattern. Go through the same steps when you engage in
routine activities. Example: When you come home, open the door, turn on
the lights, put the keys on top of the cabinet. Always park on the same
floor of the parking garage on the same side. Don’t take the first place
Chunk numbers. Organize and remember numbers by splitting them
into chunks. Example: Break telephone numbers into three sets instead of
trying to remember seven single numbers – 684-3267 – (1) 684
[six-eighty-four], (2) 32 [thirty-two], (3) 67 [sixty-seven].
Most of all it is important to develop a positive attitude.
Reversal of a negative attitude about your ability to remember can in
itself improve your memory.
Age well . . . Don’t forget . . . Relax, Concentrate, Practice . . .
For more information:
Go to the Senior Health health topic.