What to Do When You Can’t Remember

What do you do when you can’t remember a word? It’s right on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite recall it no matter how hard you try. This can be a frustrating experience for anyone, particularly if you’re talking to someone important and need to convey important information.

The good news is your brief memory lapse doesn’t mean you have Alzheimer’s disease. Everyone has problems with memory retrieval from time to time. Fortunately, there’s a quick way to repair this problem and retrieve the word or words you’re trying so desperately to bring to mind.

When you can’t remember

When you can’t remember, one of the best ways to overcome this problem is to relax your brain and move your hands. Hand movements in a gesturing motion, when you have a temporary memory block, may actually help you retrieve the word or words you’re blocking.

To be most effective, your gestures with your hands should correspond to the type of word you’re trying to retrieve. For example, if you’re trying to remember the name of a particular kind of bear, you would make movements with your hands similar to those a bear would make with his claws. Something about the physical movement of the hands in this manner may help to unblock the memory pathways that keep you from retrieving your desired word or words.

How gesturing aids memory

Interestingly, a study also showed that people who gesture when explaining something to others remember significantly more than those who keep their hands still. One theory as to why this might work is that gesturing adds a spatial dimension to the memory process in addition to the verbal one. This additional spatial dimension might allow for more of the information to be retained by the brain when explaining or remembering what was said.

Gesturing also helps people organise memory information better, making it easier to retrieve. This is all very useful when you have one of those moments when you can’t remember an important tidbit of information.

So, the next time you have one of those “senior moments” when you can’t remember that all-important word or name, start moving your hands in a relevant gesturing motion and see if the word comes to mind. Try using the power of gesturing when learning a new task or memorising new material. Those simple hand movements that look so irrelevant may be more powerful than you think. Those simple gestures may unlock critical brain pathways that can help you retrieve important information.

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May 4, 2023

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