Using a paper diary or journal to record and plan events helps to cement them in our memory bank. “Writing is one of the best ways to help us to process and remember things,” says Jennifer Wild, an Oxford University psychologist and author of Be Extraordinary.
“Try to actively remember even small events like having coffee with friends,” says Wild. “Go over in your mind what you said and where you were to crystalise the memory.”
Make plans to go on holiday or out for a meal and then talk about them to friends and family. “Discuss the intricate details such as time and venue, even how much it cost,” Wild says. “Studies have shown that the language used to describe plans can really help you to remember them and even replacing a ‘dry’ word with a ‘juicier’ one in your mind can help.” So when describing a walk to a friend, for example, say it was “brisk and energising” rather than “short”.
As you start to recall recent events, make sure you update them as they pop into your mind. Thinking about weather, environment and what you were wearing helps to encode the memory. “Add new information as you think about them,” Wild says. “If you’re trying to remember something at work, add evidence and facts to polish up the memory.”
Exercise has a profound effect on our ability to remember. The main benefits come within the first 20 minutes when exercise helps our muscles to clear out harmful chemicals that may impair memory. One study in the USA found that people who exercised for a month preceding - and on the day - of taking memory tests performed significantly better than those who had sat around for the month or those who had exercised for the month but not on the day of the tests.