It’s so frustrating.  You’re always misplacing your keys, your cell phone or your checkbook, and they always end up in the last place you’d expect to find them.  You’d be lost without the address book on your phone, because you can never remember anyone’s number.  You forget where you parked your car.  You walk into a room and forget why you needed to go in there.  You have embarrassing moments where you run into someone you met just a few weeks ago, or even a couple of times, and their name has slipped your mind.  It happens to everybody now and then, but to you it seems like it happens more often than not.

Short-term memory loss can be more than just frustrating and embarrassing, it can be frightening as well.  You may fear that your memory problems are a sign of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, a brain tumor or some other neurological disorder.  The good news is that short-term memory problems are rarely due to any organic dysfunction or disease in the brain.  Many people are simply prone to forgetfulness, and are often described as “scatterbrained” or “absent-minded.”  Others may find their short-term memory affected when under a great deal of stress, or if they’ve been experiencing depression.  Whatever the reason, here are a few tried and true tricks to boost your memory and forget less in your daily life.

Make lists.  There’s a reason why Post-It notes are amongst the greatest inventions of all time.  If you tend to forget certain errands you need to run during the day, write them down and check them off as you go along.  Save yourself an extra trip to the store by using a list when grocery shopping.  If you’re having a meeting with your boss, write down all the points you want to make beforehand.  Lists are an invaluable tool in combating short-term memory issues.

Have a routine.  If you keep misplacing your keys or phone, it’s probably because you leave them in different places around your house.  Pick one set place to keep them, such as in a basket or on a table, then always leave them there when not in use.  Ideally the spot should be near your front door, so you don’t forget anything on your way out in the morning!

Hear the name, say the name.  If you have trouble remembering people’s names, a good trick is to repeat their name after they’re introduced to you, then try to use it again later in a conversation with them.  You could also try associating their name with a physical characteristic, such as “Brian with brown hair,” so that when you see them again it will trigger your memory.

Visualize.  If you find yourself walking into a room and forgetting why you needed to go in there, picture the room, what you need and where it is beforehand.  Say to yourself “I’m going into my bedroom to get that library book on my nightstand.”  Try to avoid stopping on the way or getting distracted.  Taking a mental snapshot can also help in remembering such things as where you parked your car (note landmarks it might be near, such as a tree or sign) or where your hotel room is located (pay attention to how many turns you make to get there, or if it’s close to the elevators or stairwell).

If all else fails, just write it down.  Make great use out of the calendar function on your cell phone, and consider keeping a datebook as a backup (in case you forget where your cell phone is!).  Rather than struggling to remember birthdays and appointments, just enter them on your calendar and you’ll always have a reminder on hand.  Not recommended to keep written down with you at all times: your bank card PIN or Social Security number.  Your Social Security card should be kept in a safe place at home, while your PIN should be associated with a number that has some relevance to you–for example, the last two digits of your parents’ birth years.  If a PIN is assigned to you, find out if you can change it to one that is easier for you to remember.

You can further strengthen your memory by such activities as playing board games and doing crossword or brainteaser puzzles.  You could also try herbal supplements such as ginkgo biloba, or eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or walnuts.  Also make sure you’re getting enough sleep, do your best to avoid too much stress, and if you feel as though you may be depressed, consider seeking help from a therapist.  That being said, if you find that your memory problems are getting worse, or if they’re accompanied by headaches or dizziness, by all means see a doctor right away to rule out any physiological problems.  In all likelihood, though, these tricks should prove useful and you’ll find yourself more organized and less frustrated.  Now, where did I leave my pen…?  

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger

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