How to Overcome Short Term Memory Loss

Short-term memory loss can be a natural side effect of aging, or can be caused by disease, injury, stress, or as a side effect of drug use. Though it will take time, patience, and dedication, you can improve your memory. Here are some tips on reclaiming your short term memory.



Easy Treatments

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    Sharpen your mind. Your brain responds to activity and stimulation much like your muscles do—it gets stronger with regular exercise. When you learn how to do new things, your brain forms new neural pathways, helping it to grow and make connections to other pathways.

    • Take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try, learn a new musical instrument, or enroll in a college or night class. This gives you longer-term goals that engage your brain on a regular basis, with measurable outcomes.
    • More immediate activities such as a crossword or sudoku puzzles, or reading up on something you know nothing about stimulate your mind as much as doing new things. These tasks might seem difficult at first, and that’s good––challenging means your brain is being forced to work.
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    Interact with other people. Unlike a hobby, or a crossword puzzle, or even learning new things, relationships stimulate your brain because they’re unpredictable and always challenging, forcing you to stay alert and engaged.

    • Harvard School of Public Health researchers found evidence that elderly people who have an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline than those who are isolated. In fact, they’ve found that not only do socially-connected people have slower memory loss, they also have a slower mortality rate. So get out there and meet people!
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    Use mnemonics. This is a great tool for everybody to master, not just for people who suffer from short-term memory loss. Mnemonics is the technique of attaching a word, phrase, or image to an object. This skill can be very powerful, and the memorization will stick in your brain like super glue.

    • Perhaps you’ve never heard of mnemonics, but ask yourself: “Self, how many days are in September?” Chances are, the first thing that popped into your mind was “30 days hath September.”
    • If you meet a woman named Zoe, rhyme a feature on her face with her name. It doesn’t even have to make sense. “Zoe, eyes aglow-y,” for example.
    • Make yourself laugh with your mnemonic. Make your memory aid a rude limerick, as in “The new boss’s name is Vig Ronson, who’s rumored to have a…,” etc. (Fill in the blanks—–it’s good for your memory!)
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    Laugh easily and often. Laughter engages multiple areas of the brain, and listening to jokes while you try to figure out the punchlines will help boost overall learning and creativity.

    • Psychologist Daniel Goleman writes in his book Emotional Intelligence, that “laughter […] seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely.” It loosens you up, so to speak.
    • So… a 300-pound gorilla walks into a bar, sits wherever he wants, and orders a drink. The bartender gives him the drink, and figuring he’s just a stupid gorilla, says “that’ll be 50 bucks.” The gorilla scratches himself (gorillas do that) then hands the bartender two twenties and a ten dollar note. The bartender, impressed by the gorilla’s math says, “Say, we don’t get many gorillas in here.” The gorilla scratches himself again and says, “For 50 bucks a drink, I’m not surprised.”
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    Try “chunking” information. If you need to memorize something important and you’re finding it difficult to do so, separate the information into smaller groups. The most common example of chunking is phone numbers––instead of trying to remember one 10-digit number, most people find it easier to remember two 3-digit numbers and one 4-digit number, like 123-456-7890. Try this technique with grocery lists, birthdays, names or other things you want to remember.



Intermediate Treatments

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    Eat brain food. Unless you’re a zombie, this means eating foods that will help your brain function well.

    • Foods with omega-3 fatty acids are recognized as very good for your mental acuity.[1] You’ve probably heard a lot about fish being “brain food,” and it’s true! Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, trout, herring, and sardines are all rich in omega-3s, and can even lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Don’t like fish? Many foods are including omega-3 supplements in them, like eggs and organic milk. Natural foods such as soybeans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseed (oil and seeds) all are rich in omega-3s––just be sure to consume every food type fresh to avoid rancidity.
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    • Eat your fruits and vegetables regularly. Foods with antioxidants will protect your brain cells (and the rest of your body) from damage by free radicals. Broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, and chard are all great veggies to munch on, and they taste great. From the fruit aisle, pick up some mangoes, melons, and apricots. When’s dinner?
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    • While you’re enjoying dinner, enjoy a glass of red wine. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown as a factor in improved memory, and it also contains antioxidants and resveratrol, a polyphenol that may help protect the lining of blood vessels and increase levels of good cholesterol.[2]
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    • Green tea also contains free-radical-fighting polyphenols.[3]
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    • Limit your intake of fatty, processed foods or refined sugary treats. They’re fattening, tooth-rotting, trans-fatty, nutritionally deprived foods that do battle in your body rather than support it. If you keep eating these foods, when you get dentures you’ll probably forget where you put them!
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    Exercise. Physical activity can help increase blood flow to your brain, improving function. Do a short series of stretches as soon as you get out of bed in the morning to help your mind wake up. If you have the time, aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise three or four times a week, such as brisk walking, cycling, jogging or dancing.
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    Get plenty of sleep. An adequate amount of shut-eye each night will help your brain perform at its best the next day. Aim for seven to nine uninterrupted hours (the precise amount is dependent on your body’s own personal need, which varies from person to person). Importantly, get out of bed as soon as you feel well-rested, at the same time every day––the routine establishes a healthful, regular pattern. If possible, establish a solid routine in which you go to sleep at the same time every night.
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    Keep a journal. If you struggle to remember what happened during the previous day, start keeping a journal. Jot down important items of information or other things you’d like to remember, even food intake, people whom you said you’d catch up with again and books read. Review as necessary.



Advanced Treatments

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    Consult a doctor. If your memory loss is bad enough that it severely inhibits your everyday life, visit a general practitioner. He or she can evaluate your symptoms and refer you to an appropriate neurologist, immunologist or other specialist to treat your condition. It is important to set your mind at ease about the possibility of underlying medical conditions causing the memory loss, otherwise you risk adding anxiety to your frustration.
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    Set up a daily routine. While a daily routine won’t improve your short term memory, it will help you overcome some of the difficulties you experience as a result of short term memory loss and lessen the frustration. The security of your routine will let you focus on the fun parts of improving your memory, not on stressful parts of losing it.

    • If you regularly misplace your eyeglasses or car keys, try putting them in the same exact place every day, without fail. Create special spots for all items that tend to go missing and make an effort to always put the items in that spot.
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    • If you struggle to remember whether you’ve eaten or taken your medication, stick to designated mealtimes and purchase a days-of-the-week pill container that you stock up every Sunday night. Set alarms on your phone, computer or clock to remind you.
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    • Write down your routine so you won’t forget it. Post it somewhere prominent, like on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator, or enter it into your calendar app with reminders or on a wall calendar in a place you pass often.
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    • Write down every appointment or social engagement as soon as you make it. Program it into the calendar on your phone, or carry a small paper day-planner with you. In fact, doing both is ideal, as the act of writing helps to solidify the memory.
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    Enlist the help of a trusted friend. Explain your problem, and that you’d appreciate occasionally having his or her help attending social engagements. This person can help you remember appointments, directions, your wallet, names and other things that help smooth out your social interactions.

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