Memory tools - using mental pictures

There are different ways that people with memory problems can use pictures in their mind to help them remember things.

Learning new things

Some people can picture things and places in their mind to learn and remember:

  • facts
  • how to do something new
  • how to do routine actions.

For example: How can you remember a PIN so that you can get money from a cash machine? Imagine the numbers making a letter or shape on the number pad.

Remembering someone’s name

You could try making a picture in your mind from something in the person’s name. For example:

  • for Natasha Singh, you could imagine a girl singing
  • for Neil Holly, you could imagine a man kneeling down and waving a piece of holly.

You can have a lot of fun with these kinds of reminders. The more funny or unusual they are, the more likely you are to remember them.

You could link the person’s most prominent feature with your mental picture of them. Glasses, long curly hair, or something they often wear (such as a particular hat or jumper) could be good things to focus on.

You could also try linking the person with other people who have the same name – for example, ‘This person has the same name as my favourite film star, Charlie.’

For help with remembering names and other details of health professionals who visit you, you could use Alzheimer’s Society publication 923, My visitor book.

Living with memory problems

View our page on practical advice for living with memory problems.

Learn more

Jogging your memory

Try the following suggestions to jog your memory in different situations:

Losing something at home

Try picturing yourself when you used it last and visualise where you put it down.

Going into a room and being unable to remember why you went there.

Try to picture where you were when you decided to go to the room. Re-tracing your footsteps mentally (or physically) can help you to recover your train of thought.

Preparing food and being unable to remember the ingredients you need for a particular dish.

Try picturing yourself cooking it and using all the ingredients that you need. Going through the alphabet can help you remember names of different ingredients.

Helpful tips

  • When picturing images in your mind, try to be in the place where you are most likely to have to remember it.
  • Practise using the image. It will help you learn and remember it.
  • Describe or draw your images in a notebook. This will help you to remember them and you will have something to refer to if you forget some of them.
  • Tell someone else the strategies you’re using. If you can’t remember which technique this is or how to use it, they can prompt you.