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Hello Brain • Brain Health
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Attention first, then add meaning

Attention first, then add meaning

The trick of memory is to make things meaningful. But for this you need to jump the first hurdle – paying attention. At a bustling party, you join a group and get introduced to three people you’ve never met before. You say a brief hello, half listen to their name and try follow the group’s conversation, as well as think of what you’d like to say. Within a few minutes, you are left alone with one of the guests and you can’t remember their name or much else about them. This is an everyday sort of experience.

However, there are fun ways to move up a grade and become an A student at name recall. One clever technique is to behave as if you are interested in the person’s name first time around; just as we feel happy when we smile, if we act fascinated by a name we become a little fascinated by it. Think of why it is of interest. We can also add rhyming add-ons to the name to pin on more meaning, perhaps Super Susan or Plodding Pete. We can direct our attention better by also repeating the name out loud after hearing it, or asking them to spell the name. Recall the name to yourself after a few minutes; nothing polishes a memory like repeated use.

How does your memory work?

To find out how memories are made watch this film made by our friends at freedemliving.com

Our brains cannot resist sparkly things, unusual colour patterns, odd shapes and sudden movements. It is something advertisers use to their advantage. Take a leaf out of their book to focus your attention; try to add colourful context to something you want to file to memory. It is important not to rush; our brain will need at least 10 seconds to fully soak up even a new name. If you are having trouble remembering something, put your attention into neutral gear and try to create images of that person or location. This is a good strategy because the autobiographical slice of memory is stacked full of imagery which should jig your memory and help you recall that bit of information you’re searching for. And verbalise if you cannot remember, as this can unclog blockages. The more senses you can activate the better your chance of remembering. 

Finally, if you feel you are suffering from absent-mindedness, one useful remedy is to develop a routine in the way you do certain things. So always place your glasses in the one spot beside your bed, or carry out the late-night locking up duties in the same order. Illustration: Attention

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