Short-term memory is memory that has limited capacity. It holds information until no longer needed or until you replace it or add it to your long-term memory. Short-term memory issues involve problems remembering anything you've heard or read briefly such as names, letters, numbers or list items. Unless you have a severe medical condition that’s preventing you from remembering information, several methods exist to improve your short-term memory.
Exercise your mind by playing games that make you think such as chess and other tactical board games or math, word or image puzzles such as Sudoku, math equations, cryptograms and crossword puzzles. Play matching games involving cards or shapes or trivia games. If you like TV game shows, play along with trivia game shows.
Associate something you want to remember with a symbol, color, image or familiar location. Or create a joke, rhyme or acronym that helps you remember. For example, the name “ROY G. BIV” is an acronym for the color spectrum: Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo and Violet. To remember a name, associate it with facial or body features that stand out such as a unique eye color, nose shape, glasses, body piercing or tattoo.
Repeat something you want to remember several times to improve your short-term retention of the information. In addition, separate data you want to retain temporarily into five to nine groups or “chunks” of information, as it’s easier for the brain to grasp groups and patterns. For example, if you want to remember the number “38585950,” break it into two groups of four numbers: “3858 5950.”
Lower your consumption of alcohol, or stop drinking products containing alcohol entirely, as alcohol can impair both short-term and long-term memory. Additionally, don’t take recreational drugs. Ask your pharmacist if any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take can hurt your short-term memory. If you find that one of your medications can cause short-term memory issues, consult with your doctor or pharmacist about alternative treatments.
Take a multi-vitamin that includes B-12 if you already have a healthy diet, as vitamin deficiencies can cause memory issues. If you don’t eat a healthy diet, make a lifestyle change to vitamin-rich foods. Additionally, get plenty of sunlight or take a vitamin D supplement, as vitamin D deficiency may cause memory issues or depression that can make it difficult to remember.
Rehydrate your body with water and healthy beverages and eat healthy snacks between meals to give you energy, as fatigue from dehydration or lack of energy can cause memory issues. In addition, perform exercises such as stretching, walking, running, swimming and weight training to increase your energy.
Always try to get a full night’s sleep, as sleep has a recuperative effect on the body and improves energy.
If your memory doesn't improve, see your doctor about the possibility that you might have medical issue affecting your memory such as allergies, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, depression or infection.
Trying to remember too much can result in losing important information held in your short-term memory. Whenever possible, write down reminders or lists instead of trying to memorize them.