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Don't Forget These Tips To Improve Your Memory

Photo by Conor LaRocque

Aging, digital distractions and general apathy can take a big toll on your short-term memory.  Without flexing the muscle that is your brain regularly, you'll be apt to start forgetting PIN numbers, directions (sans Waze) and that lady down the street's name. But, with a little patience and practice, you can strengthen and train that melon to retain a bit more every day.


Body and Mind

Adequate sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet are proven to improve retention of information.

  • Physical exercise sends blood and oxygen to the brain and also produces hormones that can stimulate growth of brain cells. It might also be able to reduce risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s later on.
  • If you struggle with concentration, consider supplementing your workout routine with a period of mindfulness -- a mental exercise focusing on breath and the surrounding environment. Mindfulness reduces stress and improves both memory and concentration.
  • Seek out foods rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries or dark chocolate. Fish are also your friends, as many include the Omega-3 fatty acids that support your cerebral cortex -- the hub for memory, attention and language.
  • All-nighters are bad news bears. In an article from NIH  Sleep Scientist Dr. Matthew Walker describes sleep as helpful in not only preparing the brain to learn new material, but also helping to register new information. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts the hippocampus, a crucial component in developing new memories.


Mnemonic Devices

Your school years likely featured references to Roy G. Biv or All Cows Eat Grass. And sure it's been a few years (or decades) since those days, but these mnemonic devices still ring a bell in the back of your mind. That’s because the associative power of the acronym encodes information, making it easier to recall. You can also associate data with rhymes or tunes, which advertisers often employ through jingles.


The Memory Palace

If you’d like to recall a set of data that’s more expansive than a simple acronym can encompass, consider constructing a Memory Palace. Also known as the Method of Loci, this technique has been around since Ancient Greece and remains a powerful recall tactic. The Memory Palace allows users to ascribe formerly abstract, unrelated information to a recognizable, sensory structure.

You start by imagining a location you know in great detail, such as your house. Then you craft a very specific sequence or route that you will take through the palace room by room. Fill these stops on the route of your palace (likely rooms or furniture) with the items you wish to remember.

A recent study by neuroscientist Dr. Martin Dresler tested a group of men’s retentive capabilities through memory challenges. Then came a training period where participants learned new recall methods. The set that practiced using the Method of Loci improved their results significantly after re-testing.

It’s a pretty involved process that takes some practice to master, but you can read more about it here.


Additional Strategies

  • Try Chunking  -- Chunking involves breaking a string of information down into chunks, like phone numbers. Seeing the information as units instead of one large, abstract whole can make it easier to digest and regurgitate.
  • Write notes down by hand instead of typing them, as the brain becomes more active and more likely to register information when pen is put to paper.
  • If what you’re trying to remember is more conceptual in nature, teach it to someone else. Having an active verbal objective will make your brain work that much harder to repeat and retain the “course material.”

This article was written and appeared on Grooming Lounge and our Founder, Mike Gilman, were quoted a lot, so we borrowed the article. Giving them credit -- hope it's OK.

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