Memory Tips

  • Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Yes, and you can train your brain to improve your memory. How to improve your memory demonstrates how your mind remembers things, as well as some simple steps to increase its memory capacity.

    Memory Tips
    1.      Pay attention.
    2.      Get moving.
    3.      Challenge your brain.
    4.      Eat right.
    5.      Get your Zzz's.
    6.      Take a deep breath.
    7.      Keep a calendar. 

    Whether you're studying for a test, trying to remember the name of a new acquaintance or just conjuring up details of that fun vacation you took five years ago, memory is an integral part of our everyday lives. So it's all the more frustrating not to remember even the simplest bits of information when it counts. No matter what your age, the simple steps listed below can help improve your memory.

    Step 1: Understand Your Memory
    The human mind is infinitely complex, which is why thousands of doctors and researchers devoted to its study have only scratched the surface of how it works. But thanks to decades of that research, and modern technology, scientists have begun to unlock the secret of how our brains store and retrieve information.

    The Making of Memory

    1.     The information your brain takes in at any given time is encoded (or registered) then stored for future retrieval. But just how long it stays put depends on what type of memory the information becomes in one's brain.
    2.     If a memory is categorized as "long-term," it is either declarative or procedural.
    §  Declarative is the type of memory that you learn, store and retrieve with conscious effort.
    §  Procedural refers to the things you unconsciously learn, usually motor skills, through automatic repetition (such as locking your front door or turning off the stove)

    Types of Memory

    1.      Sensory: Remembering what an object looks like after only seeing it briefly is an example of sensory memory. Because one's exposure to the visual or audio object is momentary, you cannot prolong sensory memory with rehearsal.
    2.      Short-term: Recalling information after brief exposure (up to a minute) is an example of short-term memory, and can include some sensory memories. In studying short-term memory capacity, scientists have concluded that humans remember a string of information better when they use "chunking." For example, a phone number with a distinct area code, prefix and suffix is easier to recall than a continuous line of numbers such as 5125557640.
    3.      Long-term: Calling to mind your high-school locker combination or childhood phone number are examples of long-term memory. Long-term memories are stored in a different part of the brain using repetition and can be retained over a lifetime. This information travels from short-term to long-term with the help of the hippocampus.

    Retrieving Facts
    Once all those nuggets of information are consciously or unconsciously stored, retrieving them is another issue altogether. The following steps explain the connection between storage and retrieval as well as how to improve your methods for both.

    Step 2: Focus First

    Focusing your attention as you encounter information you're going to want to retrieve later can help you remember it.

    Paying Attention

    Have you ever attended a social function and been introduced to seven people, but at the end of the night you barely remember one of the new names you learned? This is a function of short-term memory, and its capacity can be increased.

    1.      Many of the facts we forget simply fall through the cracks because we aren't paying enough attention when we learn them. Focused attention is the key to burning things into memory because without it, information can't be transferred from short-term to long-term memory.
    2.      A good memory is often the product of good habits, so the next time you're introduced to someone new, pay attention to his or her name and try repeating it during the conversation.
    3.      The same method can apply to recalling where your car keys are: Make a mental note of where you're setting them down.
    4.      Expert also say you should limit multitasking if you're having trouble recalling what it is you just did, read, typed, etc. If you focus on one task at a time, your retention rate will be much higher.

    File Data Properly

    Equally as important as paying attention to the instructions your teacher just gave you or the name of your uncle's brother's friend who introduced himself is deciding what to do with that information. Proper data storage is crucial to retrieving that memory later on.

    1.      Facts and figures can become a haze of information that runs together if not organized correctly. Experts say that putting memories into categories is essential to retrieving them later.6
    2.      Think of your brain as a file cabinet—if you're studying for a test, divide up your facts before you start to memorize them. If you're meeting a group of people for the first time, try organizing them and their names by association, age, hobbies, etc.

    Be Deliberate
    Not far removed from the goal of paying attention is that of being deliberate and purposeful in your actions. Below are a few expert tricks of the trade for making sure you don't forget where you set your car keys.

    1.      Talk Yourself Through It: If you're worried about whether you remembered to turn the iron off or can't locate the keys to your car, next time say out loud what you're doing: "I am putting my keys on the computer desk," etc.
    2.      Picture This: Before you go down to the basement to find the waffle maker, visualize yourself doing itso don't forget why you're there the second you walk in the door.
    3.      Spread the Word: If you learned about a concept in class or in a book that you don't want to forget,try relaying (or "teaching") it to someone else. Repetition aids in memorization.

    Step 3: Work Out Your Mind and Body

    We all know the numerous benefits of exercise for our bodies, but the payoff doesn't stop there. Working out your mind and body can reap great rewards for your memory.

    Mental Games
    Just like regular exercise keeps your body in shape, regular workouts will boost your brain.

    1.      Learn new skills: Study a language or start a new hobby.
    2.      For more mental challenges, check out these games for the brain.

    Physical Exercise
    Here's how getting off your couch and into your sneakers can boost your brain's memory capacity.

    1.      People with fairly sedentary lifestyles who undertake active workout routines have been shown toimprove their performance on memory tests. Researchers pinpointed greater blood flow to the brain as the catalyst.
    2.      Exercise also increases the amount of blood and oxygen flowing to your brain, which also boosts your memory capacity.

    Step 4: Treat Yourself Right

    Staff meetings, play dates, study sessions, commuting—it's no wonder our memories often get lost in the shuffle. Taking time out to tend to your needs is an ideal way to keep your brain working at its highest capacity.

    Stress is one of memory's greatest foes. Research suggests that simple, daily meditation strengthens the brain's cerebral cortex, the part of your mind that remembers. Meditating doesn't have to be complicated or "weird." Learn more about how to meditate from Mahalo's guide to meditation.

    Food for Thought
    Even the things you eat can play an important part in strengthening your memory. Scientists have found that a chemical found in blueberries, cocoa, tea and grapes may boost your brain's memory-making capacity.WebMD: Tea, Chocolate Chem 
    Researchers have also discovered that supplements such as Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Phosphatidyl Serine and Ginkgo Biloba can help increase the mind's might.AOL Body: Easy Memory Boosters .

    Step 5: Sleep On It

    Believe it or not, one of the most powerful ways to improve memory can be done in your sleep! Sleep is an essential component of your brain's ability to sort and store information you take in while awake.

    Auto-pilot Maintenance
    Consolidation of information is one of sleep's most important jobs. When you sleep, your brain works overtime to divide the information from the day into two categories: keep and discard. Getting a healthy amount of rest is vital to keeping your mind sharp and jumble-free.

    Every Little Bit Helps
    New research suggests that even short stretches of sleep, or "cat naps," can boost your brain's memorization capacity.MSNBC: 6-minute catnap sharpens memory In a study published by the ''Journal of Sleep Research''

    Step 6: Give It a Rest
    Nothing could be easier than sleeping to improve your memory, but there are a few other seemingly effortless ways to do the trick.
    1.      Set frequently used items in the same place every time.Keys are a hard-to-find common culprit. Try setting them, along with your wallet or purse and cell phone or cordless phone, in the same place every time you walk in the door. This way you can save yourself the energy of remembering trivial, everyday details.
    2.      Buy a day planner or pocket-sized calendar. Save your brain the strain of having to recall all your plans for the coming month. Otherwise you could end up getting burned out or forgetting your engagements altogether! Why use up valuable memory space for clutter such as next week's dentist appointment when you can save yourself the trouble? Instead, jot appointments down so you can use your memory for more important things.
    3.      Involve all your senses. Have you ever noticed how potently a memory from years past will come to mind when you smell a certain scent? Because your olfactory sense is such an effective vehicle for memory, some experts suggest utilizing aromatherapy to boost your brain. For instance, try inhaling rosemary when learning important facts, then later smell it again if you have any trouble recalling them.

    You don't have to be a rocket scientist to improve your memory-making and memory-keeping capacity. It can be as simple as taking a deep breath, forming a few new habits, getting a good night's sleep and breaking a sweat now and then.

    Disclaimer: This page is not a professional medical advice. Please see your doctor for verification of the instruction posted in this page.