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12 Simple Ways To Improve Your Memory

12 Simple Ways To Improve Your Memory

We all have our days of forgetfulness, but sometimes a bad memory can become frustrating, especially when key dates and important notices are forgotten.

Instead of just playing memory-promoting video games, there are also plenty of other everyday non-intrusive things that can be done to help improve that memory of yours.

Here are 12 simple ways to improve your memory:

1. Look At Nature

Whilst walking through nature may be more beneficial, there are also benefits to be had in just looking at images of nature. The process allows for your mind to de-clutter, which then helps with memory storage and processing, allowing for improved memory recall.

2. Exercise

Whilst we spend time focusing on our ab crunches, we rarely think about the benefits we are receiving on a cognitive level when it comes to exercise.

Studies have found that running increases levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports the health of current and existing neurons, whilst also helping with the creation of new cells.

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Weight lifting has been shown to increase levels of a protein known as insulin-like growth factor, which also promotes cell division and growth. It is also thought to help fragile new-born neurons survive their early stages.

Now you’ve got a double reason to hit the gym tomorrow!

3. Sleep

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) consists of four stages that help, in part, with the active state your body goes through during sleep:

  • Stage 1 – Your eyes are closed but you can be easily awoken.
  • Stage 2 – Light sleep that is accompanied by positive and negative waves, which represent muscle tone and muscle relaxation periods.
  • Stage 3 and 4 – Deep sleep stages, also known as deep-wave, or delta sleep.

The whole REM cycle is designed to regenerate tissue and strengthen the immune system. However, on a cognitive level the process is vital for the storage of information in the long-term memory.

A key factor with REM sleep is that it also places a bias on the information that caused more stress or has been repeated several times throughout the day. A key example would be the practice of a sport. If a move is repeated over and over again, a little of it goes into muscle memory during the event. The majority of the muscle memory is completed during REM sleep.

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4. Chew Gum

Whilst chewing gum doesn’t directly improve your memory, it does help your ability to focus and ultimately retain extra information.

Chewing gum has been known to boost mental alertness by 10% within individuals, which could be incredibly beneficial during a study session or lecture.

5. Music

What exercise does to our body, music does to our brains. Music “tones” the brain for auditory fitness. Music training tends to give you the ability to assess the relevance and predictability of an auditory signal, and this also includes speech. Because of this musicians have the ability to remember more auditory content.

6. Visualize

This is actually one of the secret methods that many of the World Champions of Memory use when attempting to memorize a deck of shuffled cards.

By simply associating key information with a memorable feature, person, action or color, you can begin to use memory recall for the memorable item, which then leads to the visualization of what it is you’re trying to remember.

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7. Doodle

This should be considered in much the same way as chewing gum: whilst it doesn’t directly influence memory or storage, it does help to make your mind stop wandering away from the primary task.

Even though an experiment that was conducted didn’t have any final, conclusive evidence, it did show that doodlers have 30% improved memory recall.

8. Drink Green Tea

Due to its key ingredient, an organic molecule called EGCG (an anti-oxidant that helps to combat age-related, degenerative illnesses), green tea has become a recommended beverage that people should consume multiple times a day.

For the full benefits of the anti-aging anti-oxidants, matcha tea, which is the full green tea leaf ground into a powder, contains 137 times more anti-oxidants than regular green tea and should also be considered as part of a daily diet.

9. Seek Help

The biggest strain on our cognitive functions are life stresses, including anxiety and anger. Both of these can cause the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory to degenerate. Another key problem that originates from these stresses is depression, which can sometimes be misdiagnosed since one of its symptoms is also an inability to concentrate.

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If you can find the source of your problems now and work to resolve them, you’ll be saving your cognitive functions long-term, as years down the track these stresses can have profound effects.

10. Stand Up

Ensure that you’re getting up and moving around throughout the day, especially whilst at work. Our bodies need oxygen to circulate through them to deliver our energy; however, when you’re in a seated position your body goes into a resting period. Our brain will go into momentary lapses of concentration after prolonged periods of sitting down.

11. Study Sessions

Rather than going into a marathon library session, it has been shown that by regularly studying in small chunks that include rest, people were able to remember more and also had improved memory recall.

Because the sessions are short and regular you then have the time to store and process the information during break periods. Long sessions with no rest don’t allow for proper memory process.

12. Learn Before Bedtime

The day has its distractions, and it tends to make learning and concentration an incredibly difficult task. However, if you fit in a study session or learning session right before bedtime, you’re unlikely to become distracted by everyday occurrences.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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