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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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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