Health - General
By: - at September 13, 2013

Top 15 Ways to Improve Your Memory

Youíre running late to the company dinner thatís been on your mind for weeks now, youíve misplaced your wallet again and your pet is giving you that heart wrenching stare that can only mean that youíve forgotten to feed him, again. If this in any way sounds familiar to you, then donít fret! Take a deep breath and get rid of those dark thoughts of some of the most common early signs of aging. Forgetting things happens, but you can make sure it doesnít happen quite as frequently by trying some of the following suggestions.

increase your memory

On an additional note, even though many of these points seem to be geared toward students, they can be applied by everyone as proven strategies for improving brain function. There is no way of enhancing your memory power without learning or studying, even if your schooldays are long gone.

15)  Broaden Your Horizons
Itís incredibly easy to fall into a pit of intellectual idleness, especially when youíre done with your schooling. It looks like when you have your degree, thereís no need for textbooks or studying anymore. But your brain is very similar to a muscle in that it needs regular training to keep its strength. The exact biological procedure of how your brain creates new pathways is an entire research field in itself is called neuroplasticity. Summed up and put in less scientific terms, your brain is constantly subject to change based on the way it connects informational centers. Think about something that youíve learned a long time ago. You know youíve learned and applied it, but if you never had a reason to recall said information. Therefore, the neural pathways that connect to this piece of information are almost non-existent.

neuroplasticity connecting pathways in the brain

Like the name suggests, your neural pathways need to be frequently used lest they become withered and hard to navigate over time. In addition to creating entirely new pathways and strengthening old pathways, a new piece of information that gets stored into your long-term memory might be relevant to some old information - so a pathway is created to connect them. Challenging yourself to learn new things will create more and more of these interconnected pathways, making it easier for you to remember something new that is possibly associated to something youíve already learned.

14)  Donít Overexert Yourself
The biggest mistake every student makes during their educational career is to ignore all thoughts of studying until their calendar lets them know that there are only three days left before an important test. This carefree behavior results in those cramped, panicked, and stressed study sessions that every student has experienced at least once while in school. Most likely students have experienced it several times, because that is just one of those lessons everybody seems to have a problem learning. However, your brain is not made to process huge amounts of information in such a short amount of time while still retaining it after the test. As stated in the previous point, building neural pathways takes time.

stressed student, stressed out worker

Your brain filters any information you feed it without consulting you, so you don't become overwhelmed by the amount of information you face on a daily basis without even consciously acknowledging it. If you study 10 pages of information and are having a good day, you might still only retain 75 percent of that information. Accordingly, if you study a hundred pages of information, that leaves a far bigger gap than the two and a half pages from before. Just like everything else, your brain needs time to recover and process the information. You canít run a marathon after youíve slaved through hours of training without taking a rest in-between. So when youíre studying or trying to remember larger amounts of information, give yourself regular time-outs in the form of naps or other activities.

13)  Stay Focused
Another bad habit from student days would be multitasking. Even though some may state that multitasking is a sign of genius, it really isnít. To pick up the previous example of studying 10 pages and retaining only seven and a half in content, if you give your brain more information it needs to process, be it music, television, or tonightís dinner, youíre reducing what youíll remember afterwards.

stay focused, woman focused

This is why your teachers insisted that you stop doodling in class... besides feeling disrespected by your lack of attention to their lectures, that is.

12)  Repeat Information
Youíve certainly heard someone say that they could recall or do something in their sleep. This statement is in fact not as exaggerated as it may appear when you first hear it. Various martial arts techniques are based on repeating an action until it becomes a reflex by making use of the concept of muscle memory. Just like your body can remember actions so that it seems like it doesnít even consult your brain before it acts, your brain can remember facts so well that you donít need to consciously think about them. Many athletes make use of muscle memory by training to do the same physical movements over and over again until they can perform these activities under pressure and in the moment with very little mental energy expelled. These activities could be a golf or baseball swing, and even the movements involved in doing workouts like pushups.

muscle memory, repeating bodily information

The best example is when you learned how to count and read. If you recall how long it took you to get through a childrenís book back then and compare it to how you can work through a thick novel today, youíll see how translating the information of single letters into a single word has become second nature to you. That is why people with dyslexia are encouraged to practice their abilities. Itís all based on your neural pathways. The more regular use they experience, the easier it is to go from consciously recalling something to immediately knowing.

11)  Map Your Mind
Take the cue from fictional mastermind Sherlock Holmes and his so-called mind palace. Actually, the writers of the BBC series werenít the first to come up with this technique and neither was the author of the Hannibal book series. The idea behind this memory device is much, much older. Dating back to ancient Rome and Greece, the Method of Loci places information in visualized physical places. Although it isnít as fanciful as shown on TV, sorting everything you know into categories and locations can make your mind feel better organized.

Mind mapping concept

Regular memorization world championships prove that the Method of Loci is immensely effective if practiced correctly. Almost all winners use it in some shape or form. Simply put, the Method of Loci teaches that if you can mentally attach your knowledge to a certain item or place, it is easier to recall the original information. The more details are added to your placement, the easier it is to associate the original information with it.

10)  The Power of Socialization
Studying and learning how to memorize things better donít have to be bleak and lonely tasks and they certainly shouldnít take up your entire life. A lot in life is still mainly learned by talking and associating with other people and a positive side-effect is that you will soon enjoy it. Challenge yourself and others to discuss controversial or difficult topics. That way, youíre forcing yourself to think about what you are saying and what others are telling you, boosting your ability to process information. Social situations are also not as predictable as, say, a book. You can have expectations and prepare some things you would like to say, but itís quite possible that the conversation will develop in an entirely different direction.

power of socialization, business people socializing

It is also wise to see if you have a friend with whom you can banter playfully without worrying about accidentally offending each other. Itís great fun, and you might not have to worry about witty comebacks in the future. Just like jokes, you have to process the information given to understand what is actually being said and practicing this strengthens that ability.

9)  Say It in Your Own Words
Just like repeating information ad nauseam, giving it your own dressing makes memorizing much easier. You are an individual person, so even if your textbook offers you a single rule to remember, you might have trouble with it. But if you grasp what the rule means and put it in your own words, youíll find itís much easier to remember. The essence of this point is that itís no use to remember formulas and laws without understanding how they work and why they are applied.

say it in your own words, understanding

Ideally, you can test how well youíve remembered something by trying to explain it to someone who doesnít understand. By not only describing the information in detail, but also simplifying it, youíre retaining the information in the same simplified manner. When you realize that youíve hit a point where you really donít know how to explain it any further, you also know what you need to freshen up on.

8)  Stop with the Routines
As previously elaborately stated in point 15, being idle is the death of your memory. Routines, due to their comfortable and reflexive nature, are a form of idleness. You donít have to constantly confront yourself with new things to do, even if it is exciting. It can get pretty exhausting, not to mention that youíll be running out of ideas pretty soon. Instead, change little, simple things in your life. If you habitually brush your teeth with your right hand and your right hand only, switch it around. You know itís an effective challenge if your reaction to this suggestion was declaring it difficult. Yes, itís difficult, but not impossible, and itís giving your brain the exact work it needs to thrive.

daily routine

You donít have to start doing everything with your opposing hand though. There are far more creative ways of changing things to offer yourself a small challenge. Take the opportunity to rearrange your furniture. Youíll be surprised how used you are to the old layout when you find yourself blindly heading for a cupboard, only to find it at the other end of the room. Observe yourself throughout a normal day. Observe what things you do out of habit and see what you can change about them. Thinking about this alone is training for your brain.

7)  Know Your Learning Type
This may not be the first time youíve heard of different learning types or styles. You might have also already observed that youíre prone to remember things better depending on how theyíre presented to you. Learning Styles Online categorizes seven different styles to which you could be partial. It doesnít exclude the possibility that you prefer a mix or have a dominant type, while still learning just as effectively with one of your subdominant styles. The styles are firstly categorized into social and solitary. Just like there are extroverts and introverts, some learn better in a social setting when they can discuss the learning material with others, while others prefer being alone with their thoughts. From here, five further categories branch off: visual, auditory, linguistic, physical and logical.

different types of learning concepts

People who prefer a visual style are quicker to learn things presented to them as images or reality. They also tend to be very descriptive in their speech patterns, like theyíre trying to repaint what theyíre explaining from the image their mind presents. Auditory learning types are more musically and sound inclined. People of this type are also often good at learning languages. The verbal learning style is based off speech and writing, focusing mainly on words. Optimally, study strategies for verbal learning types include verbal or written repetition. As the name suggests, physical learning types enjoy learning through experience and touch. Physical types tend to be active and some show speech patterns that include how things are felt. The final learning type, the logical, is well-structured. They prefer systems and reasoning, so they might learn better when they are confronted with a problem and asked to solve it by themselves.

If youíre not sure what your type is based off these descriptions, you can use online tests to help you along. Once youíve found your style, try and adapt to it by memorizing things accordingly.

6)  Remember by Association
With the Internet making information so easily and readily accessible, itís impossible to avoid pages that spout little known facts or pieces of information you donít need, but still remember because they either sound incredibly absurd or funny. The reason why your brain decides to keep this knowledge rather than how to calculate a loan increase of three percent is that thereís more information associated with the former - specifically, emotional information. Youíre likely to remember your own wedding better than the wedding of someone else, simply because youíre more emotionally attached. This works for positive and negative emotions. But before you start studying while base jumping, there are other ways of associating information.

memory by association

Like the aforementioned Method of Loci, there are other so-called mnemonic devices and techniques that make memorization easier. The most children learn their ABCís through a song, and if youíre one of them, you can recall that song till this day. Rhymes, poems, and phrases can also make remembering things easier for you. For example, if you have trouble putting the planets (including poor excommunicated Pluto) in the right order, try using this mnemonic phrase: ďMy Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.Ē The first letter of each word is the same letter as each planet: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Itís pretty much foolproof.

5)  Keep a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet seems to be the answer to everything, but you certainly canít fault it for being such. Food is energy, but it also contains other things ranging from healthy to okay in small amounts, right down to absolutely unhealthy. Even though it would be optimal for you to consult a dietician to arrange a food plan that caters to your bodyís exact needs, there are some general and not-so-general knowledge food facts that work for pretty much everyone. Most importantly, if youíre trying to lose weight as well as enhancing your mental capacities, donít starve yourself. Contrary to popular belief, your body does know what it needs; itís only a question of listening to and understanding its demands. Steering clear completely of fats and oils is also a common mistake.

Keep a Healthy Diet

Even though it sounds like faulty logic to give your body fat when youíre trying to lose it, there are healthy fats and one of them is myelin. In conjunction with increasing your memory, myelin is a fat your brain needs to build and expand neural pathways. Denying your body this will hinder the growth of your mental capacities. Thatís why newer diet trends donít advise you to avoid fatty fish and nuts, as they contain the base ingredient needed to build myelin Ė omega-3 oils. Most importantly, keep yourself hydrated. Avoid drinking too much coffee, as large amounts tend to make you jittery and nervous, making steady concentration near impossible to hold up. The best healthy fluids for your body and mind are unflavored water, unsweetened teas, and, in small amounts, juices without additional sugar.

A fun fact about brain boosting foods: in Germany, university cafeterias and supermarkets sell assorted nut and raisin mixes, calling them "student food," not only because the contents make a wonderful snack to tide over long study sessions, but because nuts contain natural healthy fats like the aforementioned omega-3 oils and more. Thereís a good reason why a walnut looks like a brain, after all.

4)  Regular Exercise
You just canít escape exercise, no matter how much youíd rather sit down and enjoy a nice long evening of watching movies after doing hard work. Besides the obvious health benefits, exercise lowers the risk of memory damaging diseases like diabetes. Additionally, youíre increasing your bodyís blood flow and with it, oxygen transport. As you may know, oxygen is vital to keeping your brain active and fit. If it doesnít receive enough, youíll feel tired and have a hard time concentrating and processing information. Cardio exercises are especially beneficiary to giving your grey matter the oxygen it needs as they initiate deep and heavy breathing.

Regular Exercise

Another positive side-effect exercise can have on your brain is stimulating the production of happiness hormones, making you less susceptible to mental illnesses such as depression, which can kill the motivation to try any of the other suggestions in this list. Your brain might also appreciate the different types of exercises available, like team sports that confront you with a wide variety of different situations you can react to while keeping certain strategies in mind. If youíre really not the sporty type, you could also try yoga. Itís less hectic, but can be just as physically effective as any other sport. The great advantage of yoga is that itís centered on correct breathing and increasing the blood flow to various body parts and organs, including your brain.

3)  Meditate
Itís no use to try and remember something when youíre feeling stressed and have thousands of other things running through your mind. Meditation is meant to bring a semblance of peace and balance to your life and if practiced daily and can make you feel calmer and less prone to stress. There are various meditation techniques, the most effective for improving your memory is the mindfulness meditation. The most important aspect of this technique is the focus on a single thought, image, object, or feeling. It sounds immensely difficult to keep your focus on one thing for a longer period of time, but you can try out different foci to see what suits you best.

meditation for improving memory

One very pleasant variant is focusing on what you can taste. Take a piece of chocolate and focus all your attention on it by taking the time to listen to the sound it makes when you break it into bite size, feel its texture and how it melts between your fingers, smell it and notice how your body reacts to that alone. Donít rush any of these steps to get to the best one. When you finally reach the tasting step, experience all the sensations again just by using your entire oral organ. If you practice the mindfulness meditation regularly, you wonít only appreciate the things you do enjoy more, but will be able to keep focus for longer and longer periods of time.

2)  Time Out
Itís been previously mentioned how your brain already filters the informational uptake. Still, at some point during the day youíll reach your limit and sadly, that rarely is right before you want to sleep. Especially if youíve had a long day, but are still planning on memorizing something, taking a time out in form of a short nap can benefit you greatly. 20 to 30 minute naps can help you regain your focus and increase your performance. If you really canít avoid a long, intense study session despite the previous advice, add some naps to your schedule. You donít even have to necessarily fall asleep to acquire some rest, because youíre taking a break from your topic of studies, youíre giving your brain some time to work with what youíve learned thus far.

Time Out

If youíve been wondering about the little of mention of coffee or any other liquids and foods that contain caffeine so far, itís because caffeine takes roughly 10 to 20 minutes to start working after ingestion, as you can confirm if youíre one of those morning zombies. Coincidentally, that is the optimal length for a rejuvenating nap. You might also be familiar with the slight drowsiness some people have directly after drinking coffee. This is another perfect opportunity to combine it with a nap. When youíre taking your break, drink a cup of coffee and nap for twenty minutes. Youíll wake up not only feeling rejuvenated, but also far more energized.

1)  Stay Healthy Ė Physically and Mentally
The sum of all previous points is simple: be healthy. The state your body is in and what itís capable of reflects on your mental capacity and that works the other way around too. When youíve caught the flu, the last thing your brain could be bothered with is learning the exact value of pi right down to 10 decimal points. Accordingly, when youíre depressed and your mind is occupied with dark thoughts, youíre too distracted to give your full attention to what youíre trying to learn.

Stay Healthy Ė Physically and Mentally

While the topic of this compilation is not meant to address your options when youíre battling illness of any kind, you can take precautions to not easily fall prey to mental or physical illness. Of course, everything is far easier said than done. In the long run, not only your memorization will improve, but your quality of life in general will be better.

Final Memorable Thoughts
You donít have to do each and every one of these suggestions daily. Just like listening to a lecture might not work for your friend but it may work wonders for you, everyone develops their own individual style that suits their current phase in life. Try them all over a certain timeframe and see what youíre comfortable with. Maybe meditation isnít for you because you have trouble sitting still and prefer regularly finding something new to learn and experience. Whatever your choices, pick those which help you reach your full potential without running yourself ragged by placing too high expectations in yourself. We wish you the very best of health, and all of luck while on your quest to improve your memory.





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