9 Techniques to Improve Memory & Remember Things

A good memory can play a crucial role in every-day life and lacking one can result in bad things. Whether you are prepping for an important exam, trying to keep track of a series of meetings or you simply can never find your car keys, anyone can benefit from improving their memory.

Here are 9 memory-boosting strategies to increase your potential throughout your professional and personal life

1. Exercise Your Brain

  • Just like our body, our brain needs exercise too. Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists have found that doing puzzles, playing games, reading books and learning new skills can significantly reduce the risk of age-related mental decline.
  • Sudoku in particular was found to activate the brain’s associative memory.
  • In addition to the puzzles regularly available in magazines and newspapers, there are a wide range of websites dedicated to ‘brain-training’ games for all ages and skill levels.
  • Now that brain exercises are more portable and widely-accessible than ever, now is the perfect time to start exploring ways to keep your mind active on a regular basis.

2. Exercise your body

  • The link between mental work-outs and improved memory is fairly easy to understand. But studies also show that engaging in a regular physical exercise helps aging adults improve their memory as well as their physical fitness.
  • Researchers at the Centre for BrainHealth at the University of Texas conducted a study, comparing the brain-flow of adults aged 57-75. Participants who were randomly selected to participate in an exercise regime for a twelve-week period were assessed and compared to the control group of sedentary adults.
  • Researchers found that the participants who exercised improved their memory performance and demonstrated increased blood-flow to the hippocampus, a key regain of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Consider Your Diet

  • An increasing amount of evidence is indicating that omega-3 fats are particularly beneficial to our brains. These fatty acids are found in chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, tuna, salmon, soya beans, kidney beans, broccoli and spinach.
  • Studies also indicated that a diet high in good fats can decrease risks of dementia. Eating too many saturated fats on the other hand, can increase your risk of cognitive impairment later in life.
  • Drinking green tea is also a good way to get a strong dose of anti-oxidants. These anti-oxidants can protect your brain cells from damage and enhance mental alertness throughout your later years.
  • Together, these first three tips really confirm the old saying ‘healthy body, healthy mind.’

4. Manage Stress

  • Stress, anxiety and depression are leading causes of memory problems among adults. While temporary stress makes it more difficult to focus in the short term, prolonged stress can have more serious long-term damages on the brain.
  • Although almost everyone experiences some level of stress throughout their life, taking simple steps to reduce your stress levels can boost your brain’s potential and decrease the risk of deterioration.
  • By staying socially active and taking up a hobbies that you regularly enjoy, you will have a stronger support network and will be statistically less vulnerable to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Meditating for just fifteen minutes each day is widely-belived to improve overall mental wellbeing. While meditation has a spiritual element for some, anyone can benefit from meditation regardless of their beliefs. There are some fantastic blogs on exploring meditation and mindfulness from a secular perspective.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed, try calling a friend, going for a walk or enjoy a quiet shower.
  • It is also worthwhile to see a doctor and develop a plan to help reduce your stress levels. This will not only enhance your enjoyment of life, but will also increase your likelihood of maintaining a healthy memory.

5. Drink in Moderation

  • The relationship between alcohol and memory is complicated. While an overwhelming amount of research and literature demonstrates the damaging impacts of prolonged excessive alcohol consumption, more recent studies have suggested that moderate amounts of alcohol may suppress neuroinflammation, thus reducing risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A review of 143 studies dating back as far as 1977 found that moderate drinkers had a lower risk of dementia when compared to non-drinkers. However, heavy alcohol consumption on a day-to-day basis was linked to increased risk of memory loss.
  • Although a majority of these studies did not differentiate between different types of alcohol, those which did suggest that small amounts of wine may be more beneficial than beer or spirits. However, researchers have warned that there was not enough evidence to draw this conclusion.
  • Professor Christy Tangney from Rush University agreed that light-to-moderate drinking seems to have benefits to cognitive performance. “Social drinking can be a very positive thing as long as it is not excessive,” she said. However, she emphasises that non-drinkers should not begin drinking for this reason.
  • The negative impacts of alcohol are widely documented, and many researchers are reluctant to make a recommendation about moderate alcohol consumption. Many people who abstains from alcohol  do so for religious reasons, or because they have a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction.
  • While non-drinkers would be best focusing on other ways to improve their memory, those who do drink would benefit from adjusting their habits and drinking moderate amounts in positive, social situations

6. Get Enough Sleep 

  • Although skipping sleep to study for an exam might sound time efficient, sleep deprivation is likely to have a negative impact on your performance.
  • Studies dating back to the 1920s have indicated that memory retention is improved after a sufficient amount of sleep. However, it wasn’t until 2005 that researchers were able to explain this by recording changes in the brain.
  • Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre found that a time spent asleep plays a major role in preserving new memories, which are initially quite vulnerable.
  • The twelve college-aged participants were taught a series of skilled finger movements, before being subject to a twelve-hour period of wake or sleep. When tested on their ability to recall the movements, while an MRI was used to measure their brain activity. Results revealed that some areas of the brain, such as the cerebellum, were distinctly more active during the time spent sleeping. This means that learning new skills, such as a language, sport or musical instrument, will more quickly become automatic for those who get a healthy amount of sleep.

7. Try Changing your surroundings 

  •  If you need to remember something specific in the near future, changing something in your environment is a great method.
  • Tying a piece of string around your finger is a widely-known example. But there are other ways of employing this principal that might be more effective and more comfortable than having string tied to your finger all day.
  • For example, if you need to remind yourself to call a family member to wish them a happy birthday when you arrive home from work, try rearranging some of your furniture. When you return to your house, seeing things out of their usual place will jog your memory as you try to recall why.

8. Use mnemonic Technique

  • There are numerous techniques for remembering long lists of numbers words, tasks or street addresses.
  • The term mnemonic, or memoria technical, dates back to ancient Greece. But if you think back to your school days, you are bound to recall examples of mneomonics.
  • One of the most common ways to remember lists is by creating an acronym or an acrostic. When learning the names of the planets in our solar system, many children from English-speaking backgrounds recited  ‘MVery Easy Memory Jingle Seems Useful Naming Planets’.   Here, the first letter of each word in the sentence is also the first letter of a planet name.
  • While some people are better at retaining information when the sentence is logical and relevant, others find the device more effective when the phrase is more ridiculous.
  • Most Volcanoes Erupt Marmalade-Jam Sandwiches Under Normal Pressure’ is another popular variation of the above mnemonic.  
  • While there are widely-used jingles, it is also possible to create your own first-letter mnemonic based on the same principal.
  • Mental images are another highly effective device for remembering. In fact, a majority of people have used this mnemonic without realising it. Being conscious of its effectiveness can help you get into the habit of using mental images more regularly in order to harness the full potential of your memory.
  • Associate a funny or absurd visual picture with the thing that you are trying to remember. This can be a word, name or number.
  • For example, if you are trying to remember that the French word for braed is spelt ‘p-a-i-n’, you might visualise a bread-role screaming with pain.
  • One of the best ways to remember long numbers is by chunking. This is a crucial technique used for phone numbers in radio advertisements. Without noticing, we retain the phone number of businesses by hearing catchy jingles.
  • But this can also be used for phone numbers, passwords or ID numbers. For example, 15582229 might be become ‘one, double five, eight, triple two, nine.’
  • The most important part about chunking is to experiment and figure out what kinds of patterns work for you.
  • If you are stuck for ways to create an association, there are a range of online mnemonic generators which create associations for whatever words you type into the system. While these may not be perfect, they are great for gaining ideas about how to best use mnemonics to your advantage.

9. Concentrate and Practice

  • Studies have found that eight seconds is the time taken to convert short-term memory into long-term memory. Although that may not seem like a long time, most people rushing about in their day-to-day life do not take eight seconds to stop and imprint something into their memory.
  • Your brain exercises and mnemonic techniques are likely to show some results in the near future. But to improve your memory in the long-term, it is important to concentrate on the specific details you want to remember and spend at least fifteen minutes each day repeating these things in your mind.
  • Dedicate the most time to the memory activities you struggle most with. If you have trouble remembering numbers, focus on number-based puzzles and try to perfect the chunking method.
  • Test yourself using flash-cards, or ask a friend or family member to assess you. If it is a task, or the spelling of a place you want to remember, find some scrap paper and write it down multiple times. The old method of wrote-learning is tedious. But if you occasionally combine elements of this process with more contemporary ways of learning, you will maximise your results. The best thing about these tips is that you can start trying them out at any time.
  • Go through your electronic contact list and see how many numbers you can remember off by heart.
  • Buy some puzzles from your local news agency. Or, try to remember your next shopping list off by heart after a week of physical exercise and good sleep.
  • If you start working on your memory using every-day situations, you will have improved your learning capacity by the time you have an important exam or vital that you can’t afford to forget.