Last time we talked about how our memory can be affected by stress and depression and how there are four main stages to the memory process: attention, encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. Now let’s take a look at things we can do to improve each stage.
- Improving the attention stage: decreasing/eliminating distractions, decreasing mental fatigue by taking breaks, and listen carefully including eye contact and body posture. Before memory difficulties, you may have been able to have the TV going while eating a snack with someone talking to you from the side. Now, improve your attention by turning off the TV, putting down the food, turning towards the person, and make an effort to listen very carefully.
- Improving the encoding phase: In this stage, you want to try simplify incoming information as much as you can and also reducing the amount of incoming information. Also, try and link the information back to something you already know. For example, you can never remember your neighbor’s name Glenda? Let’s say one of your favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz which has the character Glenda the good witch. Now you think of that and it helps you remember her name.
- Improving the consolidation phase: This phase is all about repetition. Repeating things over and over can really help things stick. You can gradually increase the amount of time in between repetitions as you improve.
- Improving the retrieval phase: remembering the context of where you were when you heard the information, mentally retrace your steps, and using first letter prompts. Using first letter prompts can be a helpful study too. Make an acronym of what you want to remember and then remember the acronym and the items fall into place. For example, AECR = attention, encoding, consolidation, and retrieval.