“Has anyone seen my keys?”
“Why did I come upstairs?”
“I thought you were picking up the kids!”
These statements are but a mere sampling of what happens when my treacherous memory betrays me. Just this past week I mixed up the names of two babies while conducting a baby dedication at church—thank goodness for gracious parents. The joys of socially awkward moments and unproductivity permeate my everyday life because of lapses in recall.
Nevertheless, as a minister, I depend quite a bit on my memory for sermons, counseling appointments, where my children are, and whether or not it’s my turn to make dinner. And while I am not perfect, I do have some tricks that minimize memory messes and help me retain some degree of respectability:
1. Free up space in your mind—and schedule.
When I stop the metaphorical ball, it usually means I am overbooked. If you notice that you are consistently misplacing appointments, there is a good chance you need to simplify your life. Delete some things off your mental hard drive and free up some memory.
2. Get yourself moving.
Now that you have freed up some time, you need to put a little exercise into your routine. An active body helps to foster an active mind. Whether it’s finding a gym close to your workplace or home, or buying a Nintendo Wii to work out in your living room, you need to get yourself moving.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, preferably spread throughout the week.
3. Write stuff down.
Being a writer I naturally put a lot of words to paper, well, digital paper. But even when I am not composing my latest piece on the computer, I have notebooks in which I write. I think on paper, and I have found that I also memorize on paper. In addition to making your thoughts visible and permanent, the act of writing something works to place ideas in your long-term memory and out of your short-term memory.
4. Get out of your head—and just get out.
People with good memories have good social lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, social interactions help reduce depression and stress—two factors that can render a memory powerless. While it may seem counterintuitive when you are busy, do not pass up invitations to meet with friends. Even the Bible says, “It is not good that a man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18, NKJV)
5. Never stop learning.
Next, you need to find things to keep your memory active. Once we finish school it’s tempting to cease educating ourselves. After all, it’s easy to settle into routine and just coast through retirement and beyond. Just as muscles grow weak without use, you can atrophy your memory without working it out.
Find ways to keep learning. Whether it’s taking a class or simply using flashcards (you remember those from school, right?) for important things you want to remember, make a plan to keep your mind working on new things.
Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Life magazine.