Causes of Problems With Memory and Simple Memory Improvement Recommendations

I have lost count how many times I have been interviewed about memory improvement techniques but it is always a pleasure to share what I have learned and taught thousands of others about how to improve memory.

This week I was again interviewed by the BBC about topics relating to our ability to remember and recall information (or not as the case may be).

This short post gives you some pointers on why our memory appears to get worse and what we can do about it.

You can listen to the full interview with Lee Sloane on BBC Radio Wiltshire here.

Here’s Why Many People Think They Have Memory Problems

There are many factors that contribute to an apparent decline in the performance of our memory and most of them are within our control.

Here are just some of the more common ones:

  • Concentration – this is the most common cause of supposed memory “failure” – we come home, absentmindedly put our keys down (whilst thinking of our hectic day) and then blame our memory when we fail to consciously recall where they are.  It isn’t that we have forgotten, it is that we don’t have conscious access to that memory because our conscious mind was not involved in the process.
  • We don’t use our memory as much as we once used to (for example when we were at school when it was tested and stimulated pretty much every day).  So just like a muscle, if you don’t use it and exercise it, your memory will get “flabby”
  • Our physical fitness affects our brains performance (including memory) because the fitter we are, the more aerobically fit we are and therefore the more oxygen gets to our brain.  Starve the brain of oxygen and you die, reduce the amount it gets and it does not work as well as it could.
  • Certain lifestyle choices we make about our diet, alcohol consumption, whether we smoke or not and any exposure to recreational drugs will all impact our memory and in fact all mental performance.
  • Stress is another factor that will have a significant impact on the clarity of mental thought and the performance of your memory – if you have ever been stressed, then you know what it is like to try and wade through “mental treacle” if you think too much in that state.

Now all of the above factors are to a greater or lesser degree under our control by the choices we make.

Stress might be more of a challenge than the others because of the psychological impact it has but if you get the others right (diet, exercise etc) then you are less likely to suffer from stress or at least you will be more resistant (if you are suffering from any form of stress then it is always good advice to seek qualified medical advice)

The 3 Fundamental Levels of Memory Improvement

If you take control of the factors listed above you are more likely to see a reduction in any decline and over time may actually see an improvement but quicker and more significant gains in memory improvement can be made if you take action on these three levels.

1.  Psychological

The biggest challenge I see when it comes to people moaning about how bad their memory is working is that they have developed a belief it is poor and often are quick to tell you just how bad it is.

The constant repetition of statements like “I have a poor memory”, “I always forget peoples names the moment I meet them” and so on sets up a pattern in the brain.

First of all comes the habit of saying those things.then comes the belief that those statements are true.then we develop an identity to support that belief..then we start acting in accordance with the identity we have created.

This downward cycle often begins because of a few cases of “losing” keys (see the concentration point above to understand why it is not necessarily a memory problem).

Fortunately this same cycle can work in our favour too if we inject positive statements at the start about how great our memory is.we start believing it.we develop the identity of someone with a great memory and so we start taking the actions consistent with being someone with a great memory and bingo! our memory improves.

This might sound a little fanciful if you have not encountered this sort of idea before but believe me it works.

2.   Practical

I can remember being interviewed on Sky News a few years ago when the UK introduced the chip and pin cards and was asked about memory techniques to help people remember their pin.

The first answer I gave was to write it down (but obviously not in a way that others would be able to recognise it as a PIN number).

We forget that there are some very practical things we can do to ensure we don’t forget things – writing it down is one of them.  Using our cell phones to store information is another.

Using our PC to remind us of future tasks is also a very easy thing o do.

One of my favourite ways of reminding ourselves to do something in the morning is to move an object in our house so it is out of its usual place (can be something as simple as moving a rug on the floor to a new position).

When you see this thing out of place it will then remind you of when you moved it the night before and whatever prompted you to do that will come back to mind.

3.  Specific Memory Techniques

And then we get on to the vast range of memory techniques that you will find on sites like this one and in books and courses all over the place.

I wont go into detail here but by vividly using your imagination, creating powerful associations and using simple strategies to organise those images, you can remember amazing amounts of facts and “stuff”.

The application of these techniques for improved memory range from the practical (remembering phone numbers) to the downright ridiculous but impressive (being able to memorise and recall pi to thousands of places for example)

The First Thing You Must Do If You Want To Improve Your Memory

So having read this and if you still are interested in improving your memory then there is one thing you must absolutely do right at the very beginning:

You must get absolutely clear on what it is you want to remember better/more of and why that is important to you.

If you are a normal human being you wont have the time or mental abilities to remember absolutely everything in your life and be able to recall it at will.

However you can take practical and effective steps towards a realistic goal if you know exactly what that goal is, can break it down into manageable stages and find the right technique to help you.

But it all starts with getting that clarity (one of my favourite words).

So if you want to improve your memory and you want some guidance on what memory techniques to use, start by defining your outcome.

When you have done that, drop me a comment below so I can see the sorts of things you want to be able to remember.