5 tips to sharpen memory

1 Repeat

One of the golden rules of learning and memory is repeat, repeat, repeat. That’s why as children we were told to write spelling words several times each. “However, the brain responds to novelty, so repeating something in a different way or at a different time will make the most of the novelty effect and allow you to build stronger memories,” says Dr. Willment. Examples of using repetition include taking notes, repeating a name after you hear it for the first time, and repeating or paraphrasing what someone says to you.

2 Organize

A day planner can help you keep track of appointments and activities, and it can also serve as a journal in which you write anything that you would like to remember. Try jotting down conversations, thoughts, and experiences. “Writing down and organizing information reinforces learning. I also recommend that people review current and previous days in their planner at both breakfast and dinner, which is again another opportunity for repetition,” says Dr. Willment. Keep the day planner in the same spot at home, but take it with you whenever you leave home.

3 Visualize

Learning faces and names is a particularly hard task for most people. In addition to repeating a person’s name, you can also associate the name with an image. For example, link the name Sandy with the image of a beach, and imagine Sandy on the beach. “This strategy uses a technique called enhanced encoding or visualization to strengthen the association you are making between the face and the name. The more detail the better,” says Dr. Willment.

4 Cue

When you are having difficulty recalling a particular word or fact, you can cue yourself (or others around you) by giving related details or “talking around” the word, name, or fact. Other practical ways to cue include using alarms or a kitchen timer to remind you of tasks or appointments, and placing an object associated with a task you must do in a prominent place at home. “For example, if you want to order tickets to a play, leave a newspaper ad for the play near your telephone or computer,” suggests Dr. Willment.

5 Group

When you’re trying to remember a long list of items, it can help to group the items in sets of three to five. You may be familiar with this strategy from learning how to remember phone numbers by dividing them into groups of three or four digits. If you have a list of 15 things on your grocery list, you can group the items by category, such as dairy, produce, canned goods, and frozen foods. “This strategy capitalizes on organization and building associations, and helps to extend the capacity of our short-term memory by chunking information together instead of trying to remember each piece of information independently,” says Dr. Willment.

What if these tricks aren’t helping you? “Keep in mind that forgetting the name of a former acquaintance or making a mistake on your monthly bills is likely normal. What’s not typically normal is forgetting the name of a grandchild and forgetting to pay your bills,” says Dr. Willment. Typical symptoms of dementia include problems with short-term memory, keeping track of belongings, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments, or traveling out of the neighborhood. If you’re concerned about mild symptoms, consider getting a dementia screening. A neuropsychologist, psychiatrist, or neurologist can administer the test.

7 worst morning habits

#1. Hitting the snooze button.

The snooze button always seemed like a cool invention but it works against us. If you are going to sleep late, preplan it. Strike a deal with yourself. Then when morning comes you can enjoy your extra hour or two in bed knowing you’ve planned it. The rest of the time, get up when the alarm sounds. If you can’t, put your wake-up device in a place you have to get up to turn it off.

#2. Flooding yourself with information.

At least wait until you’re upright, with both feet on the floor, before reaching for your phone and facing the flood of whatever’s come into your inbox, news feeds or social media overnight. Feeling overwhelmed is a killer start to your day and technology is the fastest way to get there. Set a regular time and place for delving into devices.

#3. Body or face shaming.

No, no, no! Your inner critic is often at his or her vindictive best in the mornings — when you are, ah, at your worst. Don’t let them send you out the door feeling horrible about yourself. When they start up their chant, say NO firmly, turn the shower spray in their face and focus on the very next thing you have to do to get ready for your day.

#4. Trying on multiple outfits.

We all have days when NOTHING looks right, so we get changed, try on something else, repeat, and — suddenly — we’re standing naked amidst a pile of discarded clothes. Getting dressed can be a nightmare for some, and it’s worse when you’re off your game or lacking confidence. If getting dressed to your satisfaction is difficult for you, lay your clothes out the night before (go with something you’ve felt good in before) so you can go into auto mode in the morning. If this sounds like something you might do for your five-year-old to make life easier to deal with, you’re right — so do it for yourself.

#5. Getting into a fight.

Conflict sets you up badly for the day — it will also ruin the mood of your household. If you can’t function, or speak civilly in the morning, remind yourself this is not the fault of your partner or kids. Tell them you need (insert the time you need here) to come to the surface. Agree that if they leave you alone for this period, you will be able to be present and pleasant (or at least to the best of your morning ability). If you are happily going about your morning and someone tries to pick a fight with you, rule in favour of your own sanity and ignore them.

#6. Filling up on sugar.

In a perfect world, we’d have time for an uber-healthy poached egg on dry, wholemeal toast while browsing lazily through our news feeds and chatting happily to our loved ones. It’s not a perfect world though, is it? Often we scream through the house and eat on the run, with no thought to the quality of fuel we’re pouring into our tank. Sugar won’t fill you up. It will make you jittery, it won’t help your weight or skin and it will increase your risk of a raft of health issues. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat — but don’t let that be a leave pass for buying a big, buttery cheese scone on the way to work. Whatever you do, don’t leave the house with food hanging from your mouth. It’s bad for you. It’s also terribly unattractive.

#7. Letting the day just happen.

You might get away with this one if it’s a weekend and you need a day just to unwind. But on weekdays (or your working days) beware of starting without a plan. If you struggle with your mood or anxiety, especially in the mornings, make sure you lay down a plan for the next day. Just write down five things you want to achieve that day then, when you wake up, just go ahead and do them. Don’t ask yourself how you feel because it will take you down a rabbit hole and — once you’re there — it can be hard to climb back out.