Advertising
Advertising

Published on November 5, 2019

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

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

How to improve memory is a common question that’s brought up once we hit that 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 develop ourselves.[1]

True, as we get older, things don’t always work the way they are supposed to. But maybe we’re looking at this all wrong. Maybe it’s not because we’re getting older, but rather 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 to improve our learning and memory.

Why Is Our Memory Not Good Enough?

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 that stuff and it 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 is to get sleep. So it’s no surprise a lack of it will harm memory.
  • Depression and stress – Depression will normally cause people to lose focus and not pay much attention. This state of mind eventually turns to people losing their 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. Lack of which will cause memory loss.
  • 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.
  • Medication – 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.

How to improve memory can first be as simple as avoiding these causes and considering the following:

Advertising

These are all great things, but we can always do more. The number of causes of memory loss isn’t subject to those causes. There will still be lapses in memory and other factors.

Thankfully, the tactics I’ll share below will help in mitigating those factors.

How to Improve Memory 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 by this point, our brain has developed millions of neural pathways. These pathways give us the ability to process and recall information quickly. The speed in which we can solve problems, 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.

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

Advertising

“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 further you give your brain a workout the more 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. How 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. It takes exactly eight seconds of intense focus for us to fully process a piece of information and keep it to memory. So pay attention.
  • Tie information in with 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. The same can be said about the information on any subject.
  • Rehearse the 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

At the same time, research has shown that working out our bodies also promotes memory growth.[3] Specifically, exercising affects our plasticity. Plasticity is more or less the ability for our brain to change its structure as it develops and grows.

In other words, exercise can open our minds to changes. Not always dramatic changes but changes to our habits and routines as well. Exercising can also promote new neuronal connections which in turn 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 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. Not to mention there are some people who know this but simply can’t get good sleep for whatever reason.

Advertising

First off, 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.

That being said, some of us are in the camp where we can’t get enough sleep. In those cases, consider the follow techniques prior to sleep:

  • 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.
  • Avoid blue light for an hour before going to bed. People are glued to their tablets, computers, phones, and TV. This suppresses our brain’s production of melatonin – the brain drug that makes us sleepy.
  • Cut back on the coffee. Sure some 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 see what happens.

My other article about building a night routine can help you sleep better too: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

5. Socialize and Be with Others

Another way on how to improve memory is being with friends. There are all kinds of studies that highlight the benefits of being around friends;[5] most important is the cognitive benefits including improving your mood and reducing your stress.

Start making friends and spending a lot of time together. 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 on how to improve memory is by having the right foods. I mentioned a diet above, but not the specifics of the diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy diet is 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. Research shows that eating fish that are high in omega-3 is good for your brain.[7] So coldwater fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, or halibut are excellent choices.

Advertising

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

Drinks also play a role as I mentioned, alcohol can 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. Some medications also affect our own memory even if they are designed to treat a particular health problem. 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.

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

But 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

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

5 Tips To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed And Overcome Procrastination How To Make A Vision Board That Works 35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated) 7 Tips for Overcoming Challenges in Life Like a Pro What Should Be Your End Goal In Life Above All Else?

Trending in Smartcut

1 How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life 2 How to Start a Small Business From the Ground Up That Thrives 3 How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 4 How To Make A Vision Board That Works 5 How Smart Goal Setting Helps You Make Lasting Changes

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 24, 2020

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

One of the most crucial aspects of our lives is the ability to learn. We often take this skill for granted since not many of us pause and think about our learning process. In fact, if we did, we would probably uncover that we engage in ineffective learning mechanisms.

Think about it. Has your learning helped you recall things you learned last month? Go back a year and ponder.

A lot of how we learn was tucked away in school. Our exposure to school learning is the basis of how we learn moving forward. However, over the past few decades, learning has evolved into different stages of learning, and that becomes the main issue.

No longer are we looking at examinations of people’s characteristics about understanding and learning. Instead, scholars have created learning processes that use materials that support our interactions with others and our goals.

As a result, we can learn new things more smartly and effectively – which will be covered as we proceed further in understanding the learning process.

The Essential Steps of the Learning Process

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that the key to success is for us to practice 10,000 hours on a specific skill. It’s also worth noting that the skill needs the correct learning direction. If you’re learning how to do something the wrong way, you’ll continue to use it the wrong way.

But before understanding the learning process, we must understand the stages of learning. Written in the 1970s, Noel Burch created a model called the Four Stages of Learning. [1]

From there, we can use the stages of learning as a basis for how to learn effectively.

1. Unconscious Incompetence

Think of a skill that you are good at and that you use every single day.

Now think back to when you first developed that skill. Were you good at it? Probably not.

Advertising

You never heard of the skill or had a desire to learn of it until that point. This is the first stage: You know nothing about it.

2. Conscious Incompetence

Once you have heard of the skill, you begin to delve into it.

Driving a car is a perfect example. Before this stage, you never felt the need to learn how to drive. Nevertheless, once you became of legal age, you had to study to get your license. You likely made several mistakes on the driving test as well as during the written test.

This is the stage where you feel learning is slow, and you’re also aware of your mistakes.

3. Conscious Competence

By this stage, you know pretty much everything you need to know. At the same time, though, you are also aware that you need to focus and concentrate on what you are doing.

This stage can be that you know the rules of the road and can drive well. However, you feel you can’t talk to anyone, play any music, or look away from the road. You feel like you need total silence to focus and concentrate on driving.

At this stage, learning can be even slower than the previous stages. The learning isn’t consistent, nor is it a habit yet.

4. Unconscious Competence

By this stage, you’ve made it. You know everything in and out about the skill. It’s become a habit, and you don’t need to concentrate. You can relax and let your unconscious mind take over.

Exceeding the 4 Stages: Flow/Mastery

While Burch only covered four stages, there is another stage that exceeds it. This is the flow or mastery stage.

You may have heard of something called a flow state. [2] It’s the mental state where someone is performing an activity and is fully immersed in it. They feel energized, focused, and get a sense of joy from doing this activity.

Advertising

Flow or mastery can stem from all kinds of activities like Writing, reading, jogging, biking, figure skating, and more. It’s also characterized as complete absorption in what you’re doing, making you unaware of space and time.

Different Types of Learning Process

Another aspect of the learning process is the types of learning. While every person goes through those stages of learning, how we learn is different.

Having covered four learning styles in 4 Learning Styles to Help You Learn Faster and Smarter, I’m recapping the different types of learning in psychology.

Psychiatrists have narrowed how we learn down to seven learning styles as below:

  • Visual (spatial): Learning through pictures, graphs, charts, etc.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): Learning through sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): Learning through spoken or written words.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): Learning through the body, hands, and a sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): Learning through logic, systems, and reasons.
  • Social (interpersonal): Learning through groups or talking to people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): Learning individually through self-study or individual assignments.

You may be asking why all of this matters and actually how we learn plays a significant role. How we internally represent experiences stems from how we learn. What we learn not only establishes how we recall information but also impacts our own word choice.

It also influences which part of our brain we use for learning. Researchers uncovered this through various experiments.[3]

For example, say you’re driving to a place you’ve never gone before. How you learn will determine which method of learning you’ll use. Some will ask people for directions, while others will pull up Google maps. Some will write the directions out, while some won’t and merely follow street signs.

Knowing how to learn to this depth is vital because once you know what style you use, you can then develop a learning process to be a more effective learner.

How To Become an Effective Learner?

The learning process varies from person to person. Generally speaking, though, consider the following steps and considerations:

1. Improve Your Memory

Learning doesn’t only require that we learn information, but to retain it. If we are to learn something, we will have to learn and relearn. This means recalling and having a sharp memory to keep that information.

Advertising

Improving our memory can range from a variety of things. From memory palaces to practicing other memory improvement tactics.

2. Keep Learning and Practicing New Things

Learning a new skill takes time, but there is nothing wrong with learning a few other things. International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training[4] reported that those who juggled between learning different topics increase their gray matter which is associated with visual memory

3. Learn in Many Ways

While we have our own go-to style, delving into other types and stages of learning can be useful. If you learn by listening to podcasts, why not try rehearsing information verbally or visually?

It will not start great, but by improving your skill to describe what you learned orally, you are further cementing the knowledge in your mind.

Judy Willis MD, M.Ed in her publication on Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success[5] states how the more regions we keep data stored, the more interconnection there is in the collection information that we later process.

4. Teaching What You Learned to Others

It doesn’t have to be in a tutoring situation, but this method is still a reliable way for two people to grow.

Regardless of learning styles, we retain the information we tell others more effectively than if we keep it to ourselves. Was there a random fact you told someone a few months ago? You are more likely to remember that information because you brought it up to someone.

5. Use Relational Learning

Relational learning is relating new information to things you already know.

A typical example of this is remembering someone’s name. You can better recall that person’s name if you associate that name to something or someone familiar.

6. Gaining Practical Experience

Nothing beats learning than trying it for yourself. Sure, seeing information does have its strong points -and most learning styles benefit from exposed information – there is something to be said about getting your “hands dirty.”

Advertising

7. Refer Back to past Info If Need Be

The learning process is not perfect. We’ll forget at certain points. If you ever struggle to remember something, make a point of going back to your notes.

This is key because if we try recalling, we risk ourselves learning or relearning the wrong answer. And again, there is a difference between learning the right way and the wrong way.

8. Test Yourself

While this step may seem odd, there are benefits to testing yourself. Even if you think you know everything about the topic, going back and testing yourself can always help.

Not only does testing improve our recall, but we may realize that we learned a concept or task incorrectly. That knowledge can enhance our effectiveness in the future.

9. Stop Multitasking

While we should be learning new things all the time, we shouldn’t be trying to do several tasks at once. We ought to focus on one activity at a time before moving onto other tasks.

By trying to multitask, we are learning less effectively and are only hindering ourselves. Check out how multitasking is merely another way of distracting ourselves.

Bottom Line

Psychologists define learning as the process of a permanent change in a person’s behavior resulting from experience. The understanding of the learning process is up to us, but do consider the bigger picture. Be aware of what style works best for you, and work to improve it while enhancing other learning styles. The only way we can advance a skill is to learn continuously. Even in the skills you have mastered, there are always new developments.

You can learn more about how you can cultivate lifelong learning and attain an edge in every niche that you get associated with today!

Featured photo credit: Aliis Sinisalu via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gordon Training International: The Four Stages of Competence
[2] Habits for Wellbeing: Flow: the Secret to Happiness: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
[3] Training Industry: How the Brain Learns
[4] International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training
[5] Judy Willis MD, M.Ed: Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success

Read Next