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Last Updated on March 12, 2020

10 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Long Term Memory

10 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Long Term Memory

Wouldn’t it make sense to invent a device that could help you improve your long-term memory?

Unfortunately, it may not be realistic now. Despite several innovations, R&D and technologies that have made living simpler, it would be appealing to believe a device like a chip, no matter the price, would help you improve your long term memory.

Instead of wasting time looking for that device, why not familiarize yourself with these scientific ways to improve your long term memory?

Where Is Long Term Memory and Why Is It Important?

The hippocampus is the passage through which information passes from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. The hippocampus ( ‘hippokampos’ in Greek) is a part of the cortex so named as it takes the shape of a bent tail of a seahorse.

Every information that is decoded in different sensory regions of the cortex links up in the hippocampus, which later redirects them to their origins. It could also be described as an information-sorting center where new information is juxtaposed with the initially recorded ones.

Any time you relive an event, recall new information or repeat those using mnemonic techniques, you are directing them repeatedly through the hippocampus. The hippocampus is capable of strengthening the connections among all the new constituents until there is no need to reinforce them. By then, the cortex would have developed the ability to associate these elements independently to form what is known as ‘memory.’

Nevertheless, the cortex and the hippocampus are not the only components that facilitate long-term memory and its different capabilities in the brain.

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Long-term memories are not default. While long-term memory possesses a boundless duration and capacity, the memories could be delicate and prone to change, distraction, and misinformation. Elizabeth Loftus, a Memory expert, did a great job on this by showing how false memories can be easily be triggered. She made 25 percent of her respondents to accept a false memory that they were once missing in a shopping mall as a kid.[1]

Why is long-term memory prone to inaccuracies? Most times, people retain the visual aspects of an event but forget the details. What the brain does is to curate details that are reasonable to fill in this gap. In other cases, old information can hinder the formation of new ones, which makes it tedious to remember the actual event. This is why, sometimes, it is better to unlearn before learning further information.

So, how do you improve your long term memory?

Here, you will learn 10 scientific ways to improve your long term memory.

1. Be Very Focused

Forgetfulness is a by-product of distraction or lack of concentration. It takes focus to learn anything. In a world where we presently things that could easily take our attention off what we are learning, focusing is not going to be an easy-pie, but it is nevertheless crucial.

In case you keep losing your umbrella, to develop your cognitive ability, begin to note every time you set it down consciously. If you researched a topic before a presentation, invest additional time to digest the juicy aspects so they can stick.

2. Practice to Be Perfect

When you were in kindergarten, did you recite the ‘A, B, C..? If you did and you still remember them now, it means you will need to process and practice any information to have it installed in your long term memory.

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It does not matter what you wish to learn- football, piano, or remembering your friend’s birthday. You can only remember by rehearsing over the information we already have repeatedly. You are repeating when you sing a song over and over again, when you sit in front of the piano and run some keys, or when you play an object on your way home even when there is no ball.

Any information that you process and practice will be logged into your long term memory as exercise strengthens the neural pathways located in your brain.

3. Reminisce and Recall Details Every Now and Then

Scientists were able to discover the exact cells where some specific memories are stored using a mouse brain as the specimen. Before this research, the notion was that the short-term memory was formed in the hippocampus while the long term memory is formed later. However, the new mouse research indicated that both forms of memories are formed simultaneously.

Although the formation of the long-term memory happens in the prefrontal cortex and starts with what is called silent engrams though not yet accessible immediately, it matures within a few weeks. You can strengthen this process by reminiscing the event or recalling the details through practice.[2]

4. Practice Journaling

This has been proven to be another means of solidifying information and facts in long-term memory. You can relive daily events or exciting events and milestones in your career, business or relationship by writing and drawing them in your journal.

Sketch it, write it, read it, draw it, and share it. The variety of experiences helps us to recall that moment in the future.

Take a look at this article and learn how to start journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

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5. Schedule Time to Sleep

The physical functioning of memory storage hinges on sleep. Quality sleep optimizes the neural process in the brain. A 2016 report in Nature Communications indicated that when the subjects under study went without retiring to bed, the neural processes in their brains became noisier.

Heightened activities have been found to hinder the formation and consolidation of long-term memories. You will become less productive the next day when you skimp on a night of good sleep.[3]

6. Exercise Regularly

Any activity that activates your muscles and keeps your heart working will impact your brainpower positively. There is empirical evidence that exercise enhances the chemical that empowers the brain to grasp concepts and learn. A recent study has discovered that aerobic exercise is capable of increasing the size of the hippocampus. This increase enhances your memory in totality.[4]

Another research also pinpointed the significance of moving while learning. Those who walked while studying foreign language vocabulary recalled what was learned better compared to those who were stationary.[5]

7. Guard Your Mental Wellbeing

Anxiety, stress, and depression have been found to cause memory problems. They can affect your focus while learning.

There’s no way you can learn when you are depressed, anxious or stressed. It does not matter if forgetfulness is an outcome of a mental ailment or a contributing factor; you must go for medical treatment if you discover you have anxiety or depression.

You can try these 6 Mental Exercises For Busy People To Calm the Hectic Mind.

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8. Use Smart Devices Wisely

Smart gadgets can be an exciting way to enhance our memory. You can utilize reminders, sticky notes, and alarms to free up space in your mental faculty.

If you are always thinking of not forgetting to rehearse for a music presentation, then you are not maximizing your brainpower. You could leave that for your reminder or alarm to handle.

Also, taking pictures of events or information is a great way to retain information in long term memory. Nevertheless, there is a need to take precautions here as a study recently discovered that subjects who focused so much on the visual aspects failed to recall the actual information that was shared.[6]

9. Quiz Yourself

An examination is proof of learning. The best means of checking if you have learned is to quiz yourself.

Evaluation helps you to test your knowledge to discover the aspects you need to dwell on. It also helps you to recall what you have learned.

10. Mind Your Medications

Some drugs like tranquilizers, antidepressants, and blood pressure drugs have been found to cause forgetfulness by Harvard Health Blog.[7] If the drugs you are taking is making you sedated or confused, quickly consult your primary care doctor. You will be surprised to be prescribed some better alternatives to those medications.

Not only that, a study published in 2015 discovered evidence that continuous usage of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl can obstruct the functioning of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that is linked to dementia. Aside from that, most of those drugs contain bladder-control drugs and antidepressants. You can consider drinking a lot of water instead of taking drugs.

Bottom Line

Long-term memory performs a crucial role in our lives. It helps us construct a firm foundation of memory and information that enables us to live a productive life. While it can be compared to files on a computer, studies have shown that long-term memory is not only enduring but prone to error if you don’t improve it.

More Tips for Improving Memory

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on November 2, 2020

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

I get my best ideas when I’m not trying—when I’m zoning out in the shower or taking my dog for a walk. Suddenly, something I’ve been racking my brain to figure out seems to just come to me. It may seem like magic, but it’s actually just my unconscious mind coming through for the win.

What Is Conscious Thought?

Let’s start by explaining what the unconscious mind is not. I want you to think about what your dream house would look like if money were no object. Then, think about where you were the first time you can remember feeling joy.

That voice in your head that was talking you through those two tasks is your conscious mind. Simply put, any thought process that you are aware of (conscious of) is part of your conscious mind. I’m using my conscious mind as I sit here and write this article.

One of the major brain centers for conscious thought is in your prefrontal cortex. This is on the outside of your brain behind your forehead. Some of the downsides of conscious thought are that it’s energetically taxing and finite. What I mean is, your conscious mind can only think one thing at a time, and it burns through a lot of glucose to do so.

Try to figure out the square root of 2400 while creating a grocery list. You can skip back and forth between those two tasks, but your conscious mind can’t wrestle with both simultaneously.

Also, think of a time when you were utilizing your conscious mind for an extended period. Maybe you were in classes all day or busy with a tough work task late into the night. You were probably exhausted after such intensive and extended conscious thought.

What Is the Unconscious Mind?

That’s why the unconscious mind is such a valuable resource. It isn’t energy taxing, and it is virtually limitless. Your unconscious mind could be trying to figure out thousands of problems right now.

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The downside is that you aren’t conscious of any of it until you are—until your unconscious thoughts make it into your consciousness.

That’s why it behooves us to figure out how to create the right environment for our unconscious minds to flourish.

System 1 and System 2 Thinking

Daniel Kahneman’s seminal book Thinking, Fast and Slow gives us another way to think about the difference between the unconscious and conscious minds. Kahneman describes two different modes of thought called System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is quick, emotional, and intuitive, while System 2 is slow, methodical, and logical. System 1 works in tandem with System 2.

For example, if you see someone looking at you, your System 1 might assume they are upset with you. Then, your System 2 takes over to process information and discern what might actually be going on at that moment.

Kahneman warns us that System 1 and System 2 are metaphors for how the mind works.[1] It would be an oversimplification to try to explain specific regions where System 1 and System 2 thinking takes place. However, System 1 and 2 is a powerful way of thinking about different modes of thinking. Kahneman calls System 1 automatic thinking and System 2 effortful.

The idea of focus is key here. In a famous experiment, participants were told to watch a video and count how many times people in the video passed a ball to each other. This required their System 2 thinking. However, the intense focus required for this experiment caused most people to miss the fact that while the people in the video were passing the ball, a person in a gorilla suit slowly made his way through the shot.

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How to Make Your Unconscious Mind Work For You

Focusing too intensely can cause us to miss details and solutions better suited to our unconscious mind. That’s why we sometimes have to stop and chill out, instead of forcing solutions.

Here are five ways to make your unconscious mind work for you.

1. Manage Stress

Your unconscious mind is not a big fan of you being stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Managing stress is important if you want to be able to come up with those effortless “aha!” ideas.

Imagine that you’re under a strict work deadline. Your anxiety is compounded by the fact that you’re worried about losing your job and that your entire family relies on your income. This is an incredible amount of pressure that makes it tough for your unconscious mind to break through with that effortless creativity.

Think back to the video where the person in the gorilla suit sneaks through all the people passing the ball around. Most people are so focused on the task at hand that they don’t see the most interesting part of the video. Stress and pressure can lead to a kind of tunnel vision that works the same way. Our attention becomes so narrowly focused that we aren’t able to zoom out and connect the dots between broader patterns and ideas.

That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to manage stress. I recently spoke with humor engineer Drew Tarvin who explained the 4 R’s of managing stress.[2]

First, try to reduce stress by eliminating stressors from your life. This might mean finding a less stressful job or leaving earlier for work.

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Next, reframe the stresses that you can’t eliminate. Reframing isn’t pretending that your stress doesn’t exist; it’s trying to think differently and change your perspective about stressors that do exist. This might mean looking at the bright side or trying to see the bigger picture. If I don’t want to quit my stressful job, I can try to reframe by thinking more about the money I make or the times I feel fulfilled at work.

The third step is to relieve stress. This means finding ways to relax throughout the day. You might try meditating or watching funny cat videos on YouTube to clear your head and relieve your stress.

Finally, refresh. Find ways to take more extensive breaks where you completely de-stress. Pre-COVID, this might have meant taking a vacation to a beach somewhere. But now, you’ll have to get more creative as you find ways to put your phone down, forget about work, and come back completely refreshed.

2. Take Breaks

Part of stress management is taking breaks. But taking breaks is also an important part of tapping into your unconscious mind.

When I’m trying to figure out how to structure an article or put together ideas for a larger project, I schedule in time to completely put the project down. This allows my unconscious mind the freedom to come up with some truly novel solutions, and unlike conscious thought, it feels effortless.

This is that experience of the light bulb suddenly going on while you’re showering or driving to work. When you aren’t focused on anything in particular, your unconscious mind has the quiet it needs to bubble up to become conscious thought.

So, take breaks. One strategy is what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which is when you stop to take a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of work. This allows you to recharge. Plus, by systematically easing your intense focus, you are giving your unconscious mind opportunities to come up with some truly novel ideas.

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3. Get Creative

The unconscious mind is great at effortlessly seeing patterns and finding interesting solutions, but for this to happen, it needs some inspiration. That means creating and consuming as much creativity as you can.

Pick up an artistic or creative hobby. Paint, write, build, or dance. It’s also helpful to consume creativity. Go to museums, read poetry, and walk in nature. Taking in creativity with your conscious mind will give your unconscious mind all the inspiration it needs to be able to do its thing.

4. Don’t Force It

The most crucial takeaway about the unconscious mind is that you can’t force it. You can struggle and strain all you want when you’re using your conscious mind, but the unconscious mind can only bubble to the surface when you aren’t trying so hard.

Think back to that phenomenon of having an aha moment while you’re showering or walking your dog. The unconscious mind is better able to break through when you aren’t focused so intensely on whatever it is you’re trying to solve.

So, relax and give yourself some time and space. That’s when your unconscious mind is most likely to breakthrough.

5. Play

Finally, don’t forget about the power of play. Play is inherently fun, and a playful mode of thinking allows your unconscious mind more of a chance to innovate. If you turn your task into a game, you’ll be more relaxed, have more fun, and collaborate better with your colleagues. That means you’ll be more likely to riff and get to a more creative “unconscious mind” solution.

You can also add play throughout your day to tap into this freer, less constrained kind of thinking. Turn your commute into a game, play hide and seek with your children, or join a local bowling league. This will help you get reacquainted with your childlike sense of joy, wonder, and curiosity—all key ingredients to nurturing and fostering your unconscious mind.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with and utilizing your unconscious mind is very different from doing so with your conscious mind. Tapping your unconscious mind is a technique that, when done right, can help you get what you want by untapping your potential.

Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com

Reference

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