Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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)

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps 13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them 6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

Trending in Brain

1 Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts 2 What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good) 3 What is Cognitive Dissonance (And How to Dodge it) 4 How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements) 5 How Not to Let Cognitive Bias Control Us When Dealing with COVID-19

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Read Next