I didn’t have a bad memory until I finished going through menopause. I didn’t forget everything (well, maybe a few lunch dates) or put my keys in the freezer (a sure sign of serious memory issues), but I did start forgetting the names of people and places and the titles of movies and books.
Now that I’m in my sixties, its mostly proper nouns that give me trouble. Fortunately I’m not alone, and I’m continually reassured when other women my age confess that they, too, suffer from CRS (Can’t Remember Shit).
Since this problem began, I’ve tried different ways to overcome it. What works best for me is to write important things down in a little notebook. I also ask for business cards, and I am very upfront about asking people for their names—again. Periodically, I seek out new ways to overcome this “disease.” When meeting someone new, I try to associate her name with something familiar: Lesley the Lion (because she has masses of curly hair that looks like a mane), Tiny Tina (who is short and petite), or Happy Heather (who is always smiling). Sometimes this works, although there have been occasions when I forget the names—only to remember the descriptors.
Unusual names, like Roshawn and Rashad, are a bit tricky for me. In cases like that, I try to create a picture. For Roshawn I pictured a row boat at dawn (RowDawn). I’d never tell Rashad that I remember his name by picturing a rash in an odd place. Sometimes I can figure out these picture associations on the fly, but other times the images don’t come to me until I think about it. Hence the notebook.
For movie and book titles—especially when I’m reading on my Kindle and can’t see the cover or the name of the author, I use my notebook to write down the title and the author or director—whatever I feel compelled to remember. Even if I loved the book or movie, it will become buried in my mental file cabinet unless I write a short synopsis or tell a friend about it. I don’t know if it’s a universal truth, but for me, the simple act of writing or talking about something helps me remember it.
Of course, there are experts who offer an array of suggestions. In the article, “How to Improve Your Memory, Instantly,” Gifted-Ed Guru Christopher Taibbi, MAT, provides a crash course in training your brain for amazing recall. His strategies include associating a list of items with a common nursery rhyme. Imagine being able to recall all of the things on your grocery list (in order) without looking at a piece of paper!
Research also shows that certain foods increase memory. Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD says, “a growing body of evidence links foods like those in the Mediterranean diet with better cognitive function, memory, and alertness.” She says foods that may help improve memory include broccoli, cabbage, dark leafy greens, berries, cherries, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish and walnuts.
While memory issues are often associated with getting older, CRS doesn’t have to be a way of life. With a little research, you can find exercises and tricks to help get your memory back on track. (Now where did I put my keys…?)
Jan Fishler, MA, is currently co-authoring a new book, Don’t Stop Now, Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (DontStopNow.us). She is also the author of Searching for Jane, Finding Myself (An Adoption Memoir), and has written several articles about alternative health and PTSD. You can learn more about Jan at www.JanFishler.net.