Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 27, 2021

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

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

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.

Advertising

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, 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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

Your Night Routine Guide to Sleeping Better & Waking Up Productive 74 Healthy Habits That Will Drastically Improve Every Aspect of Your Life 7 Tips for Overcoming Challenges in Life Like a Pro How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

Trending in Learning

1 9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective 2 How To Find Motivation To Learn Anything Outside of Comfort Zone 3 How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ 4 How To Apply the Stages Of Learning (With Free Worksheet) 5 10 Best Methods of Learning Smarter and Faster

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on April 15, 2021

9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

You have probably heard of the saying, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”

That old cliché gets thrown around quite a bit in educational circles, but what really goes into inspiring people to become independent, lifelong learners? Read on to learn more about self-regulated learning and how to make it more effective.

Self-Regulated Learning

One theory about teaching people how to learn is through self-regulated learning. In the broadest sense, it’s the idea that individuals should set their own learning goals and work independently and with a sense of agency and autonomy to achieve those goals. It’s the opposite of a teacher handing out a worksheet and students completing it just because the teacher told them to.

Self-regulated learning is constructive and self-directed.[1] Instead of the worksheet example, self-regulated learning involves the students setting their own learning goals, deciding how to best achieve those goals, and then systematically and strategically working toward them. Teaching strategies like the Workshop Model and Portfolios are more aligned with self-regulated learning than a one-size-fits-all worksheet or lecture.

Workshop Model

The workshop model consists of three parts. Class begins with a mini-lesson, then students spend time working independently while the teacher circulates conferencing with students. Finally, the class ends with some kind of summary derived from what students learned through their independent work.

Heavy hitters in the workshop model are Lucy Calkins and Nancie Atwell.[2][3] Their work has been instrumental in spreading best practices so that teachers know how to create truly student-led learning experiences.[4]

Portfolios

Another example of an instruction that’s moving toward self-regulated learning is student portfolios. Students set learning goals and periodically reflect on whether or not they’re achieving those goals. They keep all their reflections and student work in folders and have periodic conferences with their teacher on how they’re pressing toward their goals.[5]

Advertising

The problem though is that the workshop model and portfolios require a different mindset and skillset from teachers. That’s where the theory of self-regulated learning comes in.

3 Elements of Self-Regulated Learning

One approach to self-regulated learning is to break it down into three components: regulation of processing modes, regulation of the learning process, and regulation of self. Dividing self-regulated learning in this way helps teachers know how to best help students work toward their individual goals, and it also gives us a glimpse into how we all can become more self-regulated learners.

1. Regulation of Processing Modes

The first step in self-regulated learning is to give learners a choice in how and why they’re learning in the first place.

In our worksheet example, students are completing the task because the teacher said so, but when we reset why we’re learning in the first place, we’re starting to create a foundation for self-regulated learning.

One educational researcher, Noel Entwistle makes a distinction between three different reasons for learning, and his work makes what we’re all working toward a lot clearer. Students can try to reproduce or memorize information, they can try to get good grades, or they can seek personal understanding or meaning.[6]

The goal of self-regulated learning is to encourage students to move away from the first two learning orientations (following orders and trying to get good grades) and move toward the third, learning for some kind of intrinsic gain—learning to learn.

2. Regulation of Learning Process

The next level of self-regulated learning is when students are in charge of their own learning process. This is also known as metacognition. Studies have shown that when teachers do most of the heavy lifting—deciding what’s working and not working for each student—there’s a reduction in students’ metacognitive skills.[7]

Advertising

When I was teaching middle and high school, we had a saying that if we left the building at the end of the school day more tired than the students, we hadn’t done our job. What that means is that teachers have to find a way to get students to do the heavy lifting of metacognition—thinking about thinking. And students need to accept the challenge and become curious about what’s working and not working about their individualized and (at least, partially) self-generated learning plans.

Boosting metacognition might include learning about how the brain works, what metacognition is all about, and all the different learning styles. Becoming curious about your individual strengths and learning preferences is crucial in beefing up your metacognitive skills.

3. Regulation of Self

Finally, there’s goal setting. If students are going to become truly self-regulated learners, they have to start setting their own goals and then reflecting on their progress toward those goals.

How to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

Now that you’ve learned the important elements of self-regulated learning, here are 9 ways you can make it more effective for you.

1. Change Your Mindset About Learning

The first way to become a self-regulated learner is to change your mindset about why you’re learning in the first place. Instead of doing your schoolwork because the teacher says so or because you want the highest GPA, try to move toward learning to satisfy your curiosity. Learn because you want to learn.

Sometimes, this will be easy, like when you’re learning something on your own that you’ve self-selected. Other times, it’s tougher, like when you have a teacher-selected assignment due.

Before mindlessly completing your assignment, try to find “your in.” Find what’s fascinating about the topic and cling to that as you complete it. Sure, you need to complete it to graduate, but by finding the morsel that’s interesting to you, you’ll be able to start experiencing a more self-regulated kind of learning.

Advertising

2. Explore Different Learning Styles

There are lots of different ways to learn: auditory, visual, spatial, and kinesthetic. Learn what all those styles mean and which ones feel especially effective for you.

3. Learn How Learning Works

Another great way to become a more self-regulated learner is to learn how learning works. Read up on cognitive science and psychology to figure out how we form memories, how we retain information, and how our emotions affect our learning. You have to understand the tools you’ve been given before you can wield those tools most optimally.

4. Get Introspective

Now it’s time to get introspective. Do a learning inventory and reflect on when you’ve been most and least successful in your learning.

What’s your best subject? Why? When did you lose interest in a subject? Why? Ask yourself tough questions about how you learn, so you can move forward more strategically.

5. Find Someone to Tell You Like It Is

It’s also helpful to find someone who can be honest about your learning strengths and weaknesses. Find someone you trust who will be honest about your learning progress. If you lack self-awareness about your learning style and abilities, it’s difficult to be a self-regulated learner, so work with someone else to start becoming more self-aware.

6. Set Some SMART Goals

Now it’s time to set some learning goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They’re a great way to become a self-regulated learner.[8]

Instead of just saying, “I want to get better at Spanish,” you might set a SMART goal by saying “I want to memorize 100 new Spanish vocabulary words by next week.” Next week, you can test yourself and measure whether or not you’ve achieved your goal.

Advertising

It’s difficult to see how we’re progressing and learning when our goal is vague. Setting SMART goals gives you a clear barometer for your learning.

7. Reflect on Your Progress

Goals don’t mean much unless you measure your progress every now and then. Take time to determine whether or not you’ve achieved your SMART learning goals and why or why not you did. Self-reflection is a great way to boost self-awareness, which is a great way to become a self-regulated learner.

8. Find Your Accountability Buddies

Armed with your goals and deadlines, it’s time to find some trustworthy people to help keep you accountable. Now, your learning progress is your responsibility when you’re a self-regulated learner, but it doesn’t hurt to have some friends who know what your goals are. You can turn to this trustworthy group to discuss your learning progress and keep you motivated.

9. Say It Loud and Proud

There’s a phenomenon where we’re more likely to attain our goals when we’ve made them public.[9] Announcing our goals helps hold our feet to the fire. So, figure out a way to make your learning goals known. This might mean telling your accountability buddies, your teacher, or maybe even a social media group.

Just know that you’re more likely to succeed when you’re not the only one who knows what your goals are.

Final Thoughts

Self-regulated learning is learning for learning’s sake. So, change your entire attitude about why you’re learning in the first place. Choose what you want to know more about or start with what interests you most when assigned a topic or project.

Then, set SMART goals and periodically reflect on your progress. Self-awareness is a skill that can be practiced and improved. Make learning your job and your responsibility, and you’ll be well on your way toward becoming a self-regulated learner.

You’ll never need to blame your learning struggles on someone or something else. Instead, you’ll have the self-awareness and abilities to be able to take your learning into your own hands and find a way forward no matter your current situation and limitations.

Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next