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How to Improve Memory and Recall What You’ve Learned Fast

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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Learning how to improve memory recall is a common concern once we hit a certain age. Friends and family remind us that memory is the first thing to go when we get older, or perhaps hearing and eyesight, which are linked to our ability to learn and engage in personal development.[1]

It’s true that, as we get older, things don’t always work the way they are supposed to, including our long-term memory and short-term memory. We struggle to recall our friend’s birthdays, that new word we read yesterday, or that random trivia fact we used to throw into conversations. However, maybe it’s not because we’re getting older, but rather because the methods we use to learn and improve our memory are bad.

Nevertheless, it’s important to not panic as there are all kinds of strategies and resources available as we learn how to improve memory recall.

Why Is Your Memory Bad?

To understand why the strategies I’ll share are helpful, you need to understand why your memory is bad in the first place. The first most important thing to remember is:

People forget all the time.

Passwords, grocery lists, our phone, car keys, and more—people forget things, and it often has nothing to do with age. That being said, there are particular causes that enhance the frequency of this. Excessive use of the following will further inhibit our memory and learning capabilities:[2]


Lack of Sleep

Quantity and quality of sleep are essential to memory. Most tips offered for retaining and growing memory include getting a good night’s rest, so it’s no surprise a lack of it will harm memory.

Depression and Stress

Depression will normally cause people to lose focus and struggle with concentration. This state of mind eventually turns into a loss of memory. Stress works in a similar fashion as we struggle to concentrate. We’re too tense and our mind is overstimulated.

Nutritional Deficiency

Our brain needs certain nutrients in order to function. Specifically, B1 and B12 are vitamins that impact our memory, and lacking either will cause problems with memory recall.

Alcohol or Drug Use

Excessive use of either substance has been linked to brain damage, which results in memory loss. Smoking also falls in the same category.


A large number of over-the-counter medications can actually cause memory loss. From antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to sleeping pills and pain medications, they can all have side effects that cause you to forget things you once easily remembered.

Learning how to improve memory recall can be as simple as avoiding these causes and considering the following:

These are all great things, but we can always do more. There will still be lapses in memory and other factors.


Thankfully, the tactics I’ll share below will help in mitigating those factors and help you as you learn how to improve memory recall.

How to Improve Memory Recall Fast

How to improve memory quickly is no easy task. In most research revolving around memory, the training process can take months or even years. The upside is that all these techniques are simple and take a few minutes out of your day.

So while the process takes a while, the daily demand is minor and easy to get into a cycle with.

1. Work out Your Brain

Our brain is immensely powerful. Over the span of our lives, our brain develops millions of neural pathways, which give us the ability to process and recall information quickly. The speed with which we can solve problems and execute habitual tasks with no effort is thanks to these pathways.

That being said, if we continue to stick to those comfortable roads, we’re not really growing, are we? While well-worn pathways are helpful, especially when they’re linked to good habits like exercise, grooming, or reading, they’re not challenging.

Do yourself a favor and challenge yourself once in a while. As the saying goes:

“Use it or lose it.”

This refers to muscle strength, but the same can be said for our memory. If we don’t use it, how will we be able to retain it? The more you give your brain a workout, the better you’ll be able to use it in the future.


2. Learn Actively

Another great way to improve memory is to get out there and learn a thing or two, but instead of learning passively by just reading more or taking classes, use your brain as you learn actively. Take some practical steps to support your own learning and memory:

Pay Attention

Even if the topic is familiar or you’ve heard it all before, learning isn’t always about hearing it once and abandoning the subject. Ideas and concepts are worth repeating as this kind of spaced repetition improves retention and memory recall.

Relate Information to What You Already Know

People learn through stories or by example. It’s why some people associate words or items with people’s names sometimes. These strategies help us in learning and retaining information, and the same can be said about the information on any subject.

Rehearse Information You Already Know

Reviewing and studying do help in retaining information and growing. When we have a grasp of the basics, we can expand from there.

3. Work out Your Body

When you’re learning how to improve memory recall, keep in mind that research has shown that working out our bodies also promotes memory growth.[3] Specifically, exercising affects our plasticity. Plasticity is the ability for our brain to change its structure as it develops and grows.

In other words, exercise can open our minds to changes. Exercising can also promote new neuronal connections, which help solidify new habits in the first place.


Best of all, these exercises don’t have to be incredibly strenuous to get the benefit. Aerobic exercises work especially well on the brain. Examples are walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Generally speaking, any exercise that is good for the heart is good for the brain.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep, as I mentioned above, is important, though people have different definitions of proper sleep. Some people struggle to get quality sleep due to insomnia, stress, or a busy schedule.

The vast majority of us need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.[4] Skipping out on a few hours will make a massive difference in our daily function.

If you struggle to get enough sleep, consider the follow techniques:

Have a Sleep Schedule

Train yourself to go to bed at a specific hour every night and to get up at roughly the same time every morning. This habit will eventually condition your brain to make you feel tired at a certain hour and to get up at a specific time, which can help you avoid getting sleep deprived.

Avoid Blue Light an Hour Before Bed

People are glued to their tablets, computers, phones, and TV. This suppresses your brain’s production of melatonin, the brain chemical that makes us sleepy.

Cut Back on the Coffee

Some people love to have a cup of joe in the morning, but some are also highly sensitive to caffeine. So much so that a single cup in the morning can interfere with your sleep at night. If you are having trouble sleeping, see if caffeine is the problem by reducing the amount or avoiding the drink for a week and seeing what happens.

5. Socialize

Another technique when you want to learn how to improve memory recall is being with friends. There are all kinds of studies that highlight the benefits of being around friends, including the cognitive benefits of improving your mood and reducing your stress[5].

Start making friends and spending time together each week. After all, when we get older, we tend to narrow our circle of friends, and that, too, impacts our memory.


6. Eat the Right Foods

Another way to improve memory recall and brain health is by eating the right foods. A healthy diet includes eating fruits and veggies, as well as whole grains. You also want protein, but make sure it is low on fat; examples are fish, beans, or skinless poultry.[6]

On the note of protein, it’s worth noting the types of fish worth eating. Studies showed that eating fish that are high in omega-3s is good for your brain.[7] Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, or halibut are excellent choices.

If you’re not a fan of fish, some alternatives are spinach, broccoli, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts, amongst others.

As I mentioned, alcohol can also impact your memory directly, as well as coffee to an indirect extent. My suggestion is to stick with water, and if you do want a bit of caffeine, consider tea.


7. Don’t Ignore Your Health Problems

Various health problems have an impact on our memory. While it’s obvious that we ought to deal with any health problems, we can find early signs.

Particular health problems that affect our memory include:

  • General heart problems: Cardiovascular diseases include high cholesterol and blood pressure. These have been linked to mild cognitive impairment and even dementia.[8]
  • Diabetes: Studies have also found those experiencing this have a greater cognitive decline than those who don’t.[9]
  • Hormone imbalance: From estrogen to testosterone and thyroid imbalance, hormone imbalance can contribute to memory loss in some fashion.[10]

Bottom Line

From what I’ve listed above, the techniques are quite straight forward. The tricky part is implementing these strategies into our lives. After all, these are habits, and some can take time to build as we learn how to improve memory recall.

Memory loss stems from our neglect of these habits or through other factors. To accept memory loss is to accept other memory loss problems into our lives like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

However, one piece of good news I’ll leave off with is that you don’t need to implement all of these. Adding even one or two of these techniques will change your life!

More to Boost Your Memory


Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com


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