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Forget Things Easily? Try These 4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Memory

Forget Things Easily? Try These 4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Memory

When it comes to memory loss, we tend to associate it with the elderly and a slow decline as we get older. But new studies are showing that problems with memory are actually prevalent in much younger people. Certain lifestyle factors are major contributors to losing our memory and can hit us as young as our 20s. [1]

Depression, a lower education level, being physically inactive, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking were contributing factors in the amount of memory loss a person can suffer, with depression being the biggest factor in all ages. Of course, our modern lifestyles can lead to increased stress that goes towards memory loss in our younger years but overall mental health is important to ward off those moments of forgetfulness.

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How Can I Sustain Or Improve My Memory?

1. Chunking Technique

Our short term memory is the most noticeable when it comes to memory loss. Most of us are able to hold around four to seven items in our short-term memory – try memorising a long shopping list and you may struggle past the seventh item. A way around this and improving your short-term memory, in the long run, is to create meaning to elicit memory improvement. For example, rearranging the first letter of each item to create a word or several words like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apples, radishes, fennel, ice cream, spaghetti, honey can be remembered as STARFISH.

Studies have shown people can go from remembering seven-digit sequences to eighty-digit sequences from using this technique. [2]

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2. Creativity And Association

Our imaginations are dying to be used so when it comes to memory, being creative with our effort to remember can go a long way. Creativity is driven by memory so activating your creative mind with remembering numbers, items and names can help immensely. So creating stories in a sequence, be it a journey you embark on where you meet people who represent items or numbers, allows you to make unique associations and makes it easier to remember. This is commonly called the story method and can help you remember chronological orders as well as sequences. [3]

For example, a study asked people to remember many groups of three different words such as ‘bike’, ‘dog’ and ‘street’. One group was asked to remember through repetition while another group was asked to form a story with each set of three words such as ‘a dog riding a bike down the street’. Those that created stories were able to recall the word combinations much better than the ones that relied on memory alone.

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3. Visual Cues

Most people remember images better than verbal or written information so associating items with pictures can create mental hooks that improve long and short term memory. Using visual cues causes the brain to focus which is what it needs to remember. Reviewing images you’ve associated with something also causes reinforcement within the brain that is needed for good memory skills.

Visual cues go towards reducing learning time, improves comprehension, enhances retrieval, and increases retention so it’s one of the most effective ways to improve your memory skills. [4]

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For example, if you’re learning a new language, some words may be so unfamiliar that it can be hard to recall them. However, you could find a similar sounding word in your own language and create a visual accordingly. For example, the Spanish word for ‘folder’ is ‘carpeta’ so you could imagine a folder laying on a carpet to help you remember the word.

4. Up Your Vitamin B12 Intake

If you feel your memory fails you sometimes or you’re constantly in a brain fog, then it could be down to a deficiency in vitamin B12. A deficiency can lead to a wide variety of mental disorders from depression to dementia, that’s why it’s important to keep your vitamin B12 intake topped up.

Taking a vitamin B complex supplements will quickly restore depleted levels in the body and making sure you eat foods rich in the vitamins like shellfish, liver, red meat, eggs and cheese will also help keep your memory at an optimum level.

Reference

[1] http://www.medicaldaily.com/memory-loss-young-adults-problem-too-depression-poor-education-and-physical-inactivity-increase-risk
[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mind-reviews-the-ravenous-brain-daniel-bor/
[3] https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTIM_01.htm
[4] http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1986-13677-001

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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