It’s less than 48 hours ’til Christmas and we’re willing to bet your mind is in a million places right now.
Between the gift wrapping, grocery list writing, family wrangling and last minute present shopping (whoops) it can feel as if there’s no way to remember everything and that forgetting something important is not just a possibility, but a certainty.
Us too. And that’s why we spoke to clinical psychologist Samantha Clarke and asked her for her simple strategies for boosting our memory now and long into the new year.
According to Dr Clarke, eating better, getting enough sleep and reducing our alcohol consumption will make a big impact, but there are a number of other ways to make remembering a whole lot easier.
Yes, we know, you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation before. But we’re here to tell you again that it really is helpful (even if it’s a little boring), with Dr Clarke saying it’s a proven boost to memory power.
“Being able to sit and do meditation practices has been shown to improve people’s memory and lots of cognitive functions, such as being able to plan better and organise things.”
“There used to be this big idea that multi-tasking was great. But now it’s been shown that it’s actually really inefficient because it takes longer to get everything done, but it’s also more likely we’re going to forget something because our mind is not in that particular task.”
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Getting your heart pumping and the oxygen to your brain has been shown to be helpful in boosting your memory, says Dr Clarke.
“Try some cardio, such as going for a walk or jog in the morning.”
Create a habit
It’s all very well writing a to-do list, but what about the things you forgot to jot down on the list?
Dr Clarke suggests getting into a habit of when your mind is most clear (after your morning meditation might we suggest) writing the things you need to do that day that you’re at risk of forgetting.
Then, make it a habit of checking that list or mentally checking in with what you need to do at a certain time of the day.
“It’s really about trying to have that routine or habit that helps you get into that habit of asking ‘what do I need to pay attention to?'”
‘Look, Snap, Connect’
Dr Clarke advises people with memory problems to try a simple three-step process – but it’s one that anybody can use to remember better.
“When you’re trying to remember something first ‘look’, really take in what you’re looking at with their five senses.”
“Then ‘snap’ – take a mental snapshot, so you try and remember to store it. And then ‘connect’ the information to other things that are going on for you.”
Dr Clarke explains that the more connections that the moment has, the more likely you are to remember it.
“So, taking an active strategy, instead of a passive approach.”
Are you one of those people who has a place for everything? Good. You’re one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to walking out the door with everything you need. If not, try starting with the basics and getting a key bowl set up by the door and setting aside a place for your handbag to sleep.
“All those strategies can really help,” Dr Clarke says.
Don’t worry about forgetting
With so much to do at this time of year, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Here’s a big reason not stress about forgetting, though: people who worry about forgetting actually forget more.
“One of the best things you can do is not get too caught up worrying about forgetting and instead think ‘what strategies can I use to remember?'”
And if you still feel stressed, just remind yourself (and anyone else you need to) that forgetfulness is a sign of intelligence.
For more of Dr Samantha Clarke’s wellbeing advice, visit Mind Body Resilience.