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updated 6/17/2012 10:49:52 AM ET 2012-06-17T14:49:52

Chomping on gum all day long won't just annoy your cube mate--it'll muck up your memory, too. Researchers at Cardiff University in the U.K. found that people who chewed gum had a harder time memorizing lists of letters and numbers than those who didn't chew.

  1. Men'sHealth
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Why? Researchers believe that the motion involved in chewing impedes your brain's ability to memorize serial lists. Just like tapping your finger or foot may distract you from accomplishing the same task, continual movements like gnawing on gum can also interfere with your short-term memory. Let's test how good your short-term memory is. Memorize the following words: Nun, teddy bear, professor, pencil, banana, friend, soup.

In 10 minutes, see how many of the words you can recall. If you can't get all seven, then follow this expert-approved plan to boost your short-term memory. Use these tricks to memorize that hot girl's digits, directions to a buddy's place, or the names of your new coworkers. (For more great tips, read How to Remember Everything.)

1. Pay Attention
It takes about eight seconds of intense focus to process a piece of information into your memory, says Men's Health Mentalist Marc Salem, author of The Six Keys to Unlock and Empower Your Mind. So make sure you're not texting or checking Facebook when you're being introduced to someone or need to remember something. "If you're easily distracted, pick a quiet place where you won't be interrupted," says Salem.

2. Create a Mental Picture
Your brain is hardwired to remember things visually, says Gary Small, M.D., author of The Memory Bible. So soak in the context of your conversation: The clothes the person is wearing, the characteristics of their face or body, and the atmosphere of your location. "Context gives information more meaning," Small says. All of these clues may help you put together pieces of information later. (Learn 10 more ways to sharpen your mind.)

3. Tell a Story
Using the contextual clues you've gathered, create a story around the info you're trying to remember. Take the words up top: Did you just try to repeat each word to sear it into your memory, or did you link the words with a story? (For example, the professor pointed with his pencil to a picture of a nun drawing a teddy bear who was eating soup with his friend, who had a banana.) The more emotional you can make your story (like linking a stranger's name to a family member's), the more likely you'll remember it, says Small.

Related: 27 Ways to Power Up Your Brain

More Links:
7 Strategies to Avoid Distraction at Work
The Brain Fat Survival Guide
Never Lose Your Keys Again
How to Speed Up Time!

© 2012 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.

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