Whether it is during your work or studies, memory retention is essential for success. While to-do lists can facilitate a better workflow, nothing beats the usefulness of your own memory. Memorizing facts, dates, names, etc. improves your ability to connect dots and improves your performance overall. Knowing that you forgot things can make you more frustrated and less productive. Here are ways to improve memory:
Divide Information Up
Rather than trying to remember information in one block, it may be more interesting to break the information down into smaller pieces. For example, it is easier to remember telephone numbers in blocks of 4 (omitting the first two digits) than the whole number.
Similarly, remembering a whole shopping list may be more difficult than remembering product categories (dairy, fruit and vegetables, meat, etc.). So get into the habit of structuring and organizing what you want to remember. Group similar concepts and terms together, or make a plan to summarise your information in a way that makes sense to you.
This takes advantage of our impanel limit for short-term memory (7±2 items), so you will gain retention and speed of recall.
2. Eat Healthily
A healthy diet is fundamental to keeping our organisms in perfect condition. For our brain to function correctly, it is important not to have a nutrient deficiency. Because what we eat influences our brains.
Improve memory. But how?: Base your diet on fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Cereals, bread, and pasta should be whole-grain products. Limit consumption of highly processed foods, sugar, and salt. Chocolate is associated with improved memory. Remember to consume as pure as possible (85% cocoa).
3. Chew Gum
It might seem counterintuitive that what is mostly considered a sweet treat would actually have positive impacts on your cognitive ability. Chewing sugar-free gum is not merely helpful for memory retention; it is also associated with higher focus and productivity overall. Chewing sugar-free gum increases saliva flow which helps to wash away bacteria, viruses, and toxins in the mouth, nasopharynx, and upper gastrointestinal tract. Contrary to many uppers used in the workplace, such as coffee, chewing gum instead keeps working people level-headed and comes without the downsides of restless legs or nervous jaw clenching.
Several epidemiological studies have shown a clear link between physical activity and memory performance. It is generally believed that the hormones produced during exercise, such as noradrenaline, play a role in the attention process. However, it is most effective to wait a few hours after studying before putting on your trainers.
Physical activity oxygenates the brain and reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease that leads to memory loss. They also excel in stress hormones. The sport also plays an important role in neuron plasticity by stimulating the creation of new neuronal connections.
5. Get Enough Rest
Good sleep habits increase your concentration and can help encode information into memory. You have probably already noticed how much harder it is to remember anything when you are tired.
A good night’s sleep will make you more alert and focused, which will improve your short-term memory capabilities. In fact, research shows that good quality sleep helps to consolidate learning and reduce the likelihood of forgetting, especially if you review information quickly before going to sleep.
Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but in general, 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night will allow your brain and body to rest and recharge properly. You can also take a 20-30 minute nap if you feel you are struggling to remember.
6. Avoid Routine
There is nothing worse for your memory than putting your brain on autopilot. In order not to become soft, try to change your routes, your places of departure, and your morning or evening “rituals” regularly. Also, avoid passive activities. If you watch TV, try to choose a program that will make you think or that you can discuss with your loved ones. Or use the opportunity to memorize a phrase or two.
7. Give your Brain Time
The brain can only absorb and process a limited amount of information or stimuli. Above all, it needs time for this process. Especially nowadays, the brain is constantly exposed to stimuli, which makes it difficult to process and absorb information.
If you learn something intensively, be it a new programming language or pure memorization, you should give the brain the opportunity afterward to process what you have learned and to transport it into long-term memory.
So you should try not to expose the brain to any or only a few further stimuli after learning. Even a simple computer game after learning can make it harder for information to be absorbed into long-term memory. After a learning marathon, it is best to go to bed, sleep, and give the brain the time it needs. You will notice the difference.
About 65% of the population has a visual memory. Associating words with a picture helps us to remember them better. Cicero already used this method in ancient times. Cicero’s method, also known as the Place Method, relies on the power of images as a medium and memorized spatial relationships to retain information.
Draw on your experience of places, sensations, and actions. It is rather effective to associate the element or fact to be remembered with something that surprised or excited you or that you already know. Try it and see!
Bill Wirtz is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.