7 Hacks To Improve Your Memory That Are All Backed By Science
When I was a kid, I could read something once and remember the facts immediately. I was able to recall things with such ease, and my memory was like a freakin' trap. These days, it's different: Not only does it feel as though my focus has gotten a little weaker as the years have gone on, my memory is simply not, as they say, what it used to be. This means, my friends, I am all about finding simple hacks to improve my memory, and lucky for you, I am more than down to share them with all of you.
If you've also noticed your ability to remember things slowly slipping away over the years, don't get too upset, because it's not really within your control. Michael Yass, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, told Lifehacker that the reason your memory gets weaker as you get older is because "the pathways leading to the hippocampus" begin to degrade over time. The hippocampus is the part of the brain where your memories are stored, so basically, your head just get worse and worse at being able to process and store the information up there.
So, what can be done, if anything, to make sure we keep those pathways strong? Well, it certainly can't hurt to try some of these science-tested hacks. You might just find yourself spending a little less time looking for your keys, or trying to remember your neighbor's name.
1. Plant Little Environmental Hints
Thought association is real, friends, and research shows that if you keep things around that jog your memory to do something in the future, it will help you to actually do it. For example, a 2016 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that environmental cues can double your ability to remember to perform future actions.
Need to remember to call grandma every Sunday? Keep a photo of her on your nightstand. Have to water the plants? Keep the watering can on the windowsill.
2. Get Your Move On
In case you need another awesome reason to exercise on the reg, the results of a 2013 study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience showed that even short-term aerobic exercise can be enough to counter cognitive declines, such as your memory, and the speed with which you process new information.
So, go ahead and do those jumping jacks, take a new workout class, or go for a brisk walk in the morning, because your memory will actually remember to thank you.
3. Actually Practice Remembering Something
It's called "active rehearsal." According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, if you spend as little as 40 seconds actively trying to go over an event that happened (like a movie you just saw, for example), it can significantly improve your ability to remember it long-term.
Whether you're trying to remember specific dates on those slides in your art history class, or the details of what happened at your last work meeting, all you need to do is take less than a minute of your time after the fact to go through — and, in a sense, rehearse — what happened, and you're well on your way to keeping it all in there!
4. Play Some Brain Games
Apparently, there is such a thing as "memory athletes," who compete to learn things really, really fast, like the layout of an entire deck of cards after looking at it once. Uh, seriously?
Well, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Neuron, pretty much anyone can vastly improve their ability to remember things, simply by training their brain with certain games and exercises. Yes, even you could become a memory athlete, if you really wanted to.
It's all about learning and practicing methods of mnemonic device, which just means any technique that helps you remember things. CNN reports that one such mnemonic device, called the "memory palace," involves picturing familiar places, like your house or your elementary school, and filling them, or associating each room, with the objects you need to remember. On top of that, to strengthen your ability to recall what you need to, you can make personal mnemonic devices for each thing you need to remember.
Say you need to remember the order of the zodiac, for example. In your mind's eye, picture a hat full of corn to represent Capricorn, and envision that object in the entry-way of the mental blueprint you've made of your house, to help structure the order of things. Make sense?
5. Get More Sleep
Yes, please. According to The National Sleep Foundation, sleep actually allows for changes in the brain that solidify memories, strengthen connections between your brain cells, and make it easier to transfer information between brain regions.
So, have you had your nap today?
6. Go Easy On The Booze
Dr. Joseph Garbely, vice president of medical services, and medical director at Caron Treatment Centers, tells Elite Daily that one way to improve and take care of your memory is to reduce how much alcohol you drink, or to abstain from it completely, as alcohol can impair your ability to develop new memories.
"Research shows that it can also significantly damage important executive functioning areas of the brain, which include working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control," Dr. Garbely tells Elite Daily.
So, if you find yourself going hard every weekend, you might want to take a step back, for your brain's sake.
7. Eat ALL The Memory-Boosting Snacks
Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, a board-certified psychiatrist at Doctor On Demand, tells Elite Daily that she recommends filling your diet with memory-enhancing foods, like those that contain B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids. Some other memory-friendly foods, Dr. Benders-Hadi explains, include leafy greens, fish oil, and dark chocolate.
And that sounds like the most delicious way to remember things, if you ask me.