We all deal with memory loss to some degree: some forget where they put their car keys, others forget why they went out shopping, while others even forget their names. In case you are not under a severe hangover or a student-with-sudden-memory-loss-due-to-exams, you need to identify the cause of your memory loss and combat it with proper, effective methods.
If you are found healthy and doing well, but still have problems recalling things, here are 14 effective and easy ways to improve memory and boost your academic/professional productivity.
As the computer uses binary code to store data and retrieve it in a user-friendly way, the human brain is recording data in a certain pattern, bringing it back later in a specific form. Mnemonics use exactly this feature and help you store information in a specific code, allowing you to recall it in a friendly form. Sounds complicated, right? Well, it is not. When you use a mnemonic you will use a simple rhyme or abbreviation to remember information. To do that you will use already known images, data, smells and other things to link new data to the old. For example, HOMES can stand for the names of the Great Lakes and it is easy to remember, so you would find it easier to remember Huron Ontario Michigan Erie Superior in this form, rather than individual lake names. A mnemonic can be anything, not only a word, so feel free to use your imagination and work your way up to master this memory improvement technique.
Learn something new
Memory is like a car: if you don’t use it, you lose it. To improve memory and help your brain stay focused all the time, learn something new as frequently as possible. There is no recipe for a long life, but all people who lived more than the average had this one thing in common (among others, like a healthy diet): they used their mind all the time. Learn a new dance, a new language, a new game – anything appealing to you and it will help you improve your memory and acquire new skills in the process, as well as friends. And being social is very important as you are about to find out later in this article.
Get enough sleep
As keeping your mind active improves the pattern making function in your brain and keeps the neurons busy, sleep stores all the memories. As you fall asleep, the brain switches from the acquiring state to the storing state: during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleeping phase you classify all the events from that day and link them to other memories and knowledge you already have.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, studied the process of brain loss in elders and found memory impairment is linked to poor sleep. At the same time, another study proved naps help children boost their learning power. Connecting the two results you have one major conclusion: you need to get enough sleep to boost your memory, no matter what age you are. This means you need eight hours of sleep as an adult, but depending on each individual, you may need a couple of more (or less) sleep hours. The best way to remember the information you need to learn is to review it just before you go to bed, as this will sediment all the data.
Focus on fitness (and other exercises)
A study conducted by Dr. David Jacobs at the University of Minnesota, concluded people who follow a regular cardio exercise routine in their young age have better memory in their middle ages, namely after the age of 45. This study is nothing new, as practicians all over the world already noted exercises like swimming, cardio fitness, running and other related exercises help people beat memory impairment in the long term. To improve your memory and keep your mind focused as you age, exercise your body, as well as your mind. You should pick cardio over other type of exercises, as increasing your heart rate increases blood flow towards the brain.
Watch your diet
The term “brain food” is not new: there are foods which improve your memory and keep your mind alert. A new study conducted at the University Hospital of Basel, Switzerland, showed green tea is one of these super-foods. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, ocean fish and olive oil were studied and proved to be effective memory enhancers, so eat those regularly. Other foods to include in your diet on a regular basis: eggs, tomatoes, red wine (use with caution), capers, blueberries and turmeric. Previous lesser known studies revealed that vanilla, rosemary and sage are also great aids when you are looking to improve memory. Vanilla is used in aromatherapy for memory enhancement. Chewing gum is another proven way to improve memory, as multiple studies revealed it increases your heart rate and releases certain scents, both of which trigger memories.
Meditation and better breathing
Meditation is very popular these days, promoted as a wonder-cure, but there are real benefits you can enjoy. First, meditation can speed up your heart rate, thus, bringing more blood to the brain, which also brings more oxygen, making it function at top rates. Second, it helps you relax and focus on you for an hour, which has amazing long-term benefits for brain power, as well as overall health. Most meditation techniques and exercises include deep breathing which is another way to improve memory and relieve stress. By practicing it a couple of minutes a day, you will have better posture, a positive mood and you will feel more energetic. Plus, they are both FREE!
A walk in the great outdoors is very helpful when you look to improve memory and enhance your cognitive power. Researchers from the University of Michigan tested this theory on subjects who were asked to take a walk in nature, then remember a list of items. Another group was asked to walk in the city, then asked the same question. Those who enjoyed the walk in the garden had a better memory of the list by a staggering 20%. But researchers didn’t stop here: they put people to test again, this time showing them pictures with natural scenery and urban landscapes. Guess what: the results were the same! Next time you forget something, open your computer and watch green forest landscapes and your memory will come back.
Play, play, play
Computer games are great, but they hardly improve your cognitive functions. Logical and strategy games however, can help you improve memory and focus, while you also socialize and have a great time. The best picks in terms of memory games are chess, Sudoku and related games. The Gray cells in your brain will thank you for those gaming hours.
Use neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)
The concept of NLP is rather new, but it is very effective, as it can teach you how to overcome your limits. The basic logic behind NLP is that human limits are drawn by each individual, so they can be beaten by auto-suggestion. Spending time alone, asking yourself what is the cause of your memory loss and figuring put what you really, really want, may help you relieve memory loss and improve your brain power. This works pretty much the same way as a placebo. A study even showed people who were told repetitively that aging alters their memory actually scored lower than their counterparts, who were told there was no link between memory loss and the aging process. Meditation is a great prelude to NLP and they both work great with a better diet, aromatherapy and exercising.
Use your sense of smell
Perfumes are great not only because they smell good, but also because they help you remember things. Aromatherapy is one of the most accessible ways to improve memory. And there are many studies which proved it is highly effective: Saint Louis University School of Medicine from Missouri is the place where researchers tested the effectiveness of rosemary and peppermint. They used substances with the same antioxidants concentration on mice and found out rosemary increased the focus power and had positive effects for preventing memory loss due to aging. Peppermint had the same benefits, so next time you need to learn math, stock up on peppermint gum.
Press those buttons
Acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, with excellent results in almost any field, so there is no surprise it works in improving memory. Each part of your body is crossed by nerves and energy channels. You can stimulate those points with the help of a very thin needle or by pressing them with your fingers. To stimulate your memory and bring back important information press your temples gently, but firmly with your fingers for a couple of seconds. This will relieve stress and help you remember where you put your car keys.
A study conducted at the University of Helsinki proved what many students already knew very well: humans have a powerful visual memory. Matching certain images with new information can help you access that information by seeing the image again. In other words, one can use a particular image to recall past events and data. This is why you get tears in the corner of your eye when you see your old skaters or view old photos.
One of the biggest lies in the history of human kind, in terms of productivity is multitasking. Despite the fact that all companies look for this skill in future employees, it actually cuts down a lot on the actual number and quality of things one can accomplish during a given time. To improve your memory and become productive stop doing more things at a time and start focusing on one thing on a time. Start your day with the most important task, then have a small break. Resume your work and at noon deal with the emails, leaving the simplest tasks for the last working hours. If you have meetings, schedule them at the first hour of the day, as waiting is a great memory stealer.
Socializing is great for your brain as well as overall mood. Never underestimate the power of a good talk, even if it isn’t very interesting. A simple gossip session can improve memory, as it stimulates multiple parts in the brain. To have great memory, you need to keep your synapses – the connection paths between the neurons – active and talking does exactly this. Moreover, you can pair other activities in this list with this last gem, to reap even more benefits from them.