Boost your memory naturally

Ginkgo, courtesy of A. Vogel

It is a fact that our brains lose function as we get into middle age and some people claim it happens much earlier! Some old people can remember intricate details of their childhood as if it were yesterday, but completely forget who came to see them the day before.

Cognitive memory is the ability to learn and remember information, recall names and faces, remember where misplaced objects are, recite telephone numbers off by heart and maintain high levels of concentration.

It is this kind of memory which starts to let us down but there are many ways of boosting it through diet and other techniques.

Mnemonics for memory

Many efficient people work around their poor memories using lists and mnemonics – devices to help them remember. Typical mnemonics include remembering facts about people and connecting them to their names:

  • The colour of their hair.
  • What type of car they drive.
  • Whether or not you like them.
  • Using sequences or numbers to plant them in the brain.

Stilling the mind with meditation

It’s generally accepted that we use a fraction of our mental potential – say 5 to 10 per cent, so most of us have a vast untapped resource,’ claims Jonathan Hinde, National director of TM, The Maharishi Foundation.

‘Transcendental Meditation is a natural technique which allows the mind to settle down until you experience a state of complete inner silence. It’s a bit like taking a mental bath!’

It’s easy to do and just 20 minutes a day can improve clarity of mind, concentration and focus. ‘Regular practice of TM develops the ability to use these quieter, more intuitive and more comprehensive levels of awareness,’ says Jonathan.

People find that as a cumulative result of practising TM the mind is much clearer.’

Contact: Transcendental Meditation-National Communications Office (TM-NCO) 08705 143733,

London Meditation Centre,

Finding lost years

Few people seek counselling because of poor memory, but clearing out the cobwebs from the mind usually makes them less forgetful.

‘The only thing we ever claim to cure for counselling is confusion,’ according to Philip Hodson, counsellor and Head of Media Relations at the British Association of Counsellors (BAC).

‘Some people come to us saying that they can’t remember any of their childhood and in several sessions they rediscover lost tracts of memory. Removing an emotional block can help people to know better who they are, where they’ve come from, and what has happened in their lives.’

‘Memory like anything else is a matter of practice and habit. Karl Marx used to revise what he knew every year.’

According to Philip,

  • There’s no such thing as a brain – it’s a network of connections brought together when you use it, like electrical impulses firing and connecting a circuit;
  • From about the age of 10 and onwards the connections fade if they are not refreshed.

‘It is natural for memory problems to increase as life goes on. This is due to hormonal interference and the fact that the brain doesn’t record as well. People need to be a bit more yielding and not force it.

‘We all forget something and try to make ourselves remember it, but when we stop thinking about it, it comes back. The unconscious mind retrieves it when the panic of forgetting has gone.

‘Learning to live with your brain is important. For instance, having systems like lists, or a ‘mantra’ you keep repeating like I do when I play cricket to remember my trousers, gloves, bat and so on.’

The British Association of Counsellors, 0870 443 5252,

Clearing the clutter

Carole Gaskell of the Lifecoaching Company claims ‘The key thing is to eliminate the clutter from the mind. It is helpful to consistently spring clean your life, and see a counsellor if there are long-term issues you are holding on to.

She advises:

  • The brain operates more effectively if you have clear foundations – physically and mentally;
  • If you have a lot of emotional baggage – such as not forgiving people, or too much frustration and anger you haven’t found an outlet for it’s hard to have a good memory;‘
  • If you’re surrounded by physical clutter, such as a desk full of papers, it saps your energy and you can’t see the wood for the trees. If you’re not working from a clean slate you’re giving yourself a difficult time.

‘When you’re in a positive place with a lot of love around you it’s easier to function and have a good memory. If you’re operating from a low level of reserves it’s hard to remember things.

‘People who are pragmatic and know what’s important have an ability to stand away from their busy lives and see it from a higher perspective. When people recognise what works, they can start to do something about it.’

The Lifecoaching Company gives free half hour sessions to anyone who calls them on 01628 488990,

Reprogramming helps the memory

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) uses techniques to help people to reprogram their minds by getting in touch with their self-awareness or as NLP practitioner, Tina Boyden explains, ‘How we think and feel about things’.

‘If someone is thinking that they’d like to change the way they are, NLP helps them to develop in the way they want by using a range of techniques.’

Tina explains:

  • Often memory is about the values someone puts on remembering things;
  • Some people think it’s important to remember names and faces, while others don’t;
  • Much of what we do is influenced by our attitudes and beliefs and whether we consider it important.

‘When I wanted to improve my own memory I found people who had good memories and found out how they did it. If you find out what they do, their beliefs and values, you can try them out for yourself.’

Tina Boyden practises in North London, 07710 279526

The International Association of NLP Trainers, (INLPTA), 01329 285353,

The Association for Neuro-Linguistic Programming,

Nutritional aide memoires

Choline: Eggs, liver, fish, caviar, soya beans, peanuts, whole grains, nuts, lentils, wheat germ and brewer’s yeast; transforms into acetyl-choline a neurotransmitter that helps the transmission of nerve cells to and from the brain;

Vitamin B3: Mushrooms, tuna, chicken, pig’s liver, salmon, asparagus, cabbage, lamb, mackerel, turkey, tomatoes, courgettes, cauliflower, peanut butter and whole wheat; together with iron is involved in the formation of dopamine which lays down the maintenance of memory;

CO-Q10: Sardines, mackerel, pork, spinach, soya oil, peanuts, sesame seeds, walnuts; increases oxygen flow to the brain;

Alpha-lipoic acid: Red meat, broccoli, spinach, yeast, heart; is believed to improve memory;

Iron: Red meat, green leafy vegs, pulses, grains and dried fruits; with Vitamin B3 is involved in forming dopamine.

Ginkgo: The tincture or tablets from the leaves of the Ginkgo tree have been proven to improve brain function, and have been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Should not be taken with low-dose aspirin or anticoagulants such as warfarin.

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