We all have our so-called little tricks.
Some use post-it notes.
Others use a string around their finger.
And then there are those of us who write the same thing down on three different lists… only to forget where we left those lists.
It’s embarrassing when you walk out to the parking lot and can’t remember where you parked your car. Or how about when you’re stuck for a word and it stubbornly refuses to form on your lips, or when you forget someone’s name at the moment you’re about to introduce them to someone else?
But there are tricks to remembering. Maybe there’s hope after all.
I recently interviewed two-time memory champion
what’s-his-name – Nelson Dillis. He’s held the title at this sporting event for mental athletes for two years running. Nelson is good skilled that he can memorize the order of a full deck of shuffled cards faster than you can read this blog.
Maybe that’s an exaggeration…but close.
Aside from eating foods (like omega-3-rich fish, nuts and grains and kale, collards and spinach), using certain spices (like turmeric and thyme) and getting a good night’s sleep and plenty of exercise, what else can we hope for to keep our memory sharp?
What are your top 3 secrets to memorization?
1. Paying attention 2. Staying diligent with my daily training 3. Creativity!
Do you believe everyone has the ability to memorize, or do you think it takes a special, in-born “talent?” Or, are some people just “naturals?”
I believe we all have the same potential in our minds. Naturally, some people have better memories for different things here and there, but compared to the degree that a trained mind can memorize, it is nothing. To reach that level, I think anyone can unlock it.
Are there any special foods you eat or supplements you take to help your brain stay sharp?
Yes! I eat a lot of foods with anti-oxidants (like blueberries, for example). I also take daily DHA omega-3 supplements to help my memory be all it can be.
Editorial note: Research finds that DHA is the predominant omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain, especially concentrated in that region responsible for complex thinking skills.
Can you give us some tips to help the average person memorize their grocery list and where they parked their car?
Take whatever it is you want to memorize and turn it into a picture in my mind – not just a regular picture, but also something that evokes some kind of emotional response (usually a humorous one). The more crazy and bizarre the image, the more memorable it becomes. When memorizing where you park your car, for example, look at the floor number or letter once you’ve parked your car and think of something that relates to the letter/number. Say you’re on the 5th floor, a 5 kind of looks like a snake. Imagine a snake jabbing its fangs into your tires. The more involved you make the picture the better. So maybe don’t stop there, imagine you’ve parked your car in a snake’s den. Thousands of snakes swarm your car and as they all attack your tires, the car explodes into a fiery ball. There you go. It’s over the top, but memorable.
To memorize a list, like a grocery list, just link all of your images into one long, interconnected story.
Over the years, a lot of research has shown that we lose our memory as we age…but that not all types of memory are equally affected. But there’s also evidence that older adults can have better brain function in certain areas than younger adults. What’s your take on this?
Yes that’s true to an extent. But, honestly I believe that if you train your brain daily, doing different mental exercises, no matter what age, you can have an amazing memory. At the USA Memory Championships we see competitors of all ages from 11 all the way to 60. Age doesn’t really seem to be an issue when you look at those who train their memories.
Another age-related question: older people are notoriously better at remembering long-ago events than things that happened yesterday. How can people improve their short-term memory as they age?
Isn’t that incredible? I am always fascinated by that! For those getting to those later years, the best thing you can do to improve your short-term memory is to keep your brain active. Ideally, memory exercises are the best. But doing puzzles or learning new tasks are great ways to stimulate the mind. Another great trick is… staying fit. Not really a trick, but it makes sense. If your body stays fit and healthy, so will your mind.
Thank you, Nelson! It’s an interview I’ll remember (knock wood) for a long, long time.