Memory is not a muscle- you cannot exercise it to improve it. In fact; research has shown that the more stuff you cram in your brain, the more your mind gets cluttered and fails to retrieve important things. But there are ways and techniques that you can use to improve your memory. This article is for students who wish to do well in exams as well as for people who feel their memory is impacted due to age, illness or other problems. Use the following techniques and easy ways to improve memory:
1. Pay attention
Memory consists of 3 aspects- attention, storage and retrieval. Paying attention is vital to create the other two. If you do not notice a car driving by, you will not be able to tell what its make or color was. Therefore, anyone who wishes to improve memory needs to start by paying attention. If you are studying, make sure it is the only thing you do. Do not multitask.
2. Create meaningful associations
When you organize information, you will get better at retrieving it. Thus, if you are reading a book, skim through it first or talk to someone about a matter you are trying to learn and memorize. You must also learn to create meaningful associations. Students can benefit greatly by associating hard-to-remember information using Acronyms, rhymes or pictures. Lists in chronological or alphabetical forms can also help. This technique of memory retention is called Chunking. As an example- HOMES is a fantastic acronym to remember the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
You can also create associations in following ways:
Place a ‘hard-to-miss’ object where it does not belong on the day you have to do a chore or remember some important thing. Each time you notice that object, you will remember to do the thing you are meant to do.
3. Announce your actions
This technique of improving memory works great for people who forget why they entered a room or where they left their keys or glasses. Announce what you are about to do so you and others know about it as well.
Next time you place your keys- say it out loud where you have placed them.
4. Keep things in the same place always
This is a technique for people who are always losing their glasses or keys. Keeping these items in a designated spot after using them can help. This way, you do not have to spend time searching for those items. Staying organized is key to better memory. Reduce the clutter in your environment too. The Japanese believe that the key to better memory is to reduce stress by eliminating clutter in the mind and in the environment.
5. Indulge in brain stimulating exercises
Many exercises stimulate the brain and help you retrieve information easily by keeping it younger. Solve daily crossword puzzles, indulge in a game of chess, play card memory games with friends/kids, read more than one newspaper daily or read a book every day. Play video games that involve strategy. You can also indulge the 5 senses to stimulate the brain the following ways:
- Tongue– Taste new dishes every day
- Sight– See more movies or go out to a different place and mindfully observe things around you.
- Smell– Smell different perfumes
- Touch/skin– Have more sex! Take a warm bath or get a massage.
- Ears-Listen to soothing music.
6. Physical exercise
The brain also needs daily physical activity to stay sharp. When you move your body, you release feel-good endorphins that stimulate the brain, improve blood flow to it and instantly wake up your mind. Daily brain stimulus in the form of walking, running, swimming, cycling, jogging or dancing can do wonders to your memory.
7. Eat right
Foods that improve memory are: fruits and vegetables of varied colors, fatty fish like salmon that are packed with Omega 3 essential fatty acids, whole grains, seeds and nuts like flaxseeds, walnuts etc. Eat these foods daily. Minimize your intake of sugary foods and refined carbs.
8. Take memory boosting supplements
Many experts believe that you can improve your memory by using certain supplements. However, not all are of the available ones are effective. The supplement that shows promise in really benefiting your brain power is Gingko Biloba. Other ‘improve memory supplements’ include: Asian or Panax Ginseng, Vitamin E, amino acid Acetyl-L-carnitine, Huperzine A and DHEA. Please use these supplements with caution since many of them are known to interfere with other drugs or could even lead to some harmful side effects.
9. Drink plenty of water
Our body and brain need water. When we are dehydrated, we experience fatigue, lack of concentration, memory issues and attention problems. So, increase your intake of water to at least 8 glasses per day and even more on hot days.
10. Get adequate sleep
If you sleep less than 8 hours each night, you will experience fatigue and lethargy that will reduce your cognitive function and attention span. Both factors can both affect your memory. So sleep well to relax your brain so that it is fresh the next morning for acquiring new information.
11. Learn something new every day
This is especially a great way to improve memory in the golden years. If your health permits, take up learning a new language, or musical instrument or other hobbies. This will challenge your brain and keep it stimulated.
This is the easiest way to sharpen mind and brain and boost memory. Meditation can give you deep rest with awareness and clear away the clutter of thoughts. Research conducted on Meditation has shown improved attention which can, in turn, improve memory. Practice stress reducing mind body techniques like Yoga and meditation to improve memory in students and seniors.
Here are some easy ways to meditate daily.
13. Treat underlying health issues
Many underlying health problems can impact your memory. Stroke, kidney disease, COPD and thyroid as well hypertension, diabetes or other lifestyle diseases can also all impact memory. Talk to your healthcare provider about managing memory loss as a symptom of the underlying health issue. Many drugs given to manage conditions like anxiety and depression can also cause memory problems. Avoid taking such drugs long term unless specified by your physician.
14. Practical tips for improving memory
Here are some tips to help you improve memory:
- Write things down.
- Students must revise more often. It pays if you revise a topic covered the same day in class to reinforce the key points of a lesson.
- Make rhymes about things you want to remember. Make acronyms.
- Create funny pictures in your brain to remember names of people.
- Students: take breaks between study sessions- you will get a lot more done in two 3-hour sessions rather than one long 8 hour session.
- Avoid multi tasking.
- Stay positive!
Even though your memory is not a muscle, your brain certainly is. So keep it exercised, happy and stimulated and eventually you will improve your memory.