Marilu Henner Has a Perfect Memory—Here Are Her Tips for Boosting Yours
She was born with a gift, but her strategy for nurturing it can help you.
Actor Marilu Henner's longstanding career in film and television is remarkable—but she has another amazing talent you'll never see on screen. The Taxi star has a near-perfect memory, and can recall even the smallest details from decades past. "I can remember my whole life," Henner told 60 Minutes Australia in 2018. "Some things come up right away, and then some other things kind of come up more slowly—but eventually everything comes up," she explained.
When she doesn't experience instant recall, Henner relies on several strategies to bring lost memories back. "I've had this memory since I was five years old, but I've exercised it through the years," she told the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). "So it's got a very strong nature, but it's also something I nurture—they're equal to me," she said. Read on to learn her tips and maybe you, too, will be able to recall every moment of every day—or at least, the thing you walked into the next room to retrieve.
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Figure out your "primary track."
Henner says when it comes to your memory, it's best to focus on your strengths and build from there. "Every person has one thing they remember better than any other thing in their life," Henner told AARP. "This is what I call their 'primary track.' For some people, it's travel; for others it might be sports, relationships, food, places they've lived, jobs they've had, their children's lives, or even certain television episodes."
The key, she says, is to focus on your strongest memories in fields that are most vivid to your mind's eye, "then start filling in the blanks." She recommends trying to recall rich sensory cues that relate to that initial memory—things you may remember seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, or smelling. "Let's say you took that trip in 1997; what music was popular then? If you have a strong auditory sense, it's amazing how many memories start to come back once you take this ride," she said.
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Solidify your memories as they happen.
Henner says another key part of memory recall is taking note of an event as it's happening. She recommends asking yourself throughout your day, "How can I bake this into my brain and make it a little more vivid?"
To do this, you can "take a mental snapshot" of an event by being mindful of the sensory cues surrounding it. This may mean taking note of sounds, sights, scents, or other rich details that make up a moment as they occur.
Taking pictures throughout the day and reviewing them before bed can also help bank those memories, she says. "At night when you're brushing your teeth, just scroll through your day—just do a little montage of your day and think, 'was there anything worth remembering today?'" she suggested on The Queen Latifah Show in 2014. "Just that second time through is going to make you sear it onto your brain a little bit better."
Remember with a friend.
We tend to think of recalling memories as something we do alone, but Henner is quick to point out that friends and family can be great collaborators in forming and recalling memories.
"It's amazing how much bigger and brighter memories can become when you take the opportunity to spark off of someone else who was present in your past," Henner told AARP. In fact, the Evening Shade star says she and her youngest brother Lorin Henner often work together to recollect lost moments they experienced together. "He had forgotten an entire trip that we had taken together," she said, "and when I started prompting him, he kept saying, 'Oh my gosh! It's like a whole part of my life was missing, and now I have it back.'"
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Maintain a healthy diet.
Finally, Henner contends that a healthy diet and staying adequately hydrated can make all the difference in your cognitive abilities. The good news? While foods like fatty fish, nuts, berries, and leafy greens are all believed to boost memory, there's no one set diet you need to follow for optimal performance. Instead, she says, focus on eating generally well-rounded and nutrient-dense meals. "What's good for your body is good for your brain," explains Henner. "Fruits, vegetables, and legumes—basically any nutrient-rich foods—are all considered memory enhancers."
Taken together, Henner says these tips can lead to a more vibrant and indelible memory. "I know that there are certain things that people could learn to do to take in the information, be able to absorb it, and then be able to retrieve it," Henner told CBS in 2010.
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