Improve Your Memory: Lighten up

What happens when you cannot remember something? If it is a word, the search begins and sometimes you just cannot let it go. Certainly there are times when that key word is essential but even if it is not, it can continue to frustrate you way beyond the original conversation.

When you stress or become anxious about recalling a particular word or where you placed something, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Unfortunately that contributes to your memory challenges. Ways to help disperse the cortisol include meditation, exercise and laughter.

During a major presentation several years ago I lost a key word and was trying to use the strategy I recommend to clients.  I immediately looked for a substitution or a description so that the flow of the message would not be disturbed. It worked and I did not get flustered. My goal was not to call even more attention to my memory “glitch.” Later in the program when I talked about the impact of stress on memory, I used my recall issue as an example. As is often typical, once the pressure is off you can more easily recall the word that went missing in your conversation.

If you have some new habits to draw on when situations like that occur, you will be surprised how you can stop your anxiety from escalating. Not only will it be a step toward improving your chances of recall but lightening up can go a long way to enhancing your health and the quality of your days.


When you run into that memory frustration, stop and choose your reaction. It is a choice to shift your mindset even if it takes a while to recall the word or find the item that was just in your hand one minute ago.

Laugh at yourself when you cannot think of a word. Seek out the company of a person who is easy going and shift the conversation to something other than what you forgot. Think positive thoughts or listen to some music that lifts your spirits. Recall a fun memory or think of the things that you are grateful for. Just smile and toss it off.

Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.  Allen Klein

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About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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