Finding a healthy balance in life has never been an easy feat; however, during this turbulent time many are discovering creative solutions to proper nutrition, physical activity, and sleep. Just like stretching for flexibility and weight training for strength, there are also ways to keep your brain in shape. Memory plays an essential role in life, helping us to learn and adapt to the world around us. We use memory in every moment, whether it be for remembering friend’s birthdays, re-creating a recipe, or countless other aspects of our work and personal life.
Information that we take in is processed in three different stages: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The encoding process includes converting information into a construct (or formulation of new memories) that can be stored in the brain. Then the information is stored as either a long-term or short-term memory. Finally, information is available to be retrieved from storage.
There are a number of ways we can facilitate this process and enhance our ability to recall information. In this piece, we will offer at-home strategies for boosting brain health, as well as specific techniques for memorizing short-term and long-term memories and information. Whether you’re a student who wants to ace a test or an employee who wants to memorize facts and figures for a presentation, brain health is important for life success. Keep reading below for tips to promote brain health.
- Eat Right: Consuming a balanced diet that includes healthy fats and natural sugar (glucose)—and limits saturated fat, refined sugar, and alcohol—may be best for promoting long-term memory function.
- Schedule Sleep: We all know sleep is important, however in terms of brain health, it plays a vital role in the consolidation of memories. Also, a lack of sleep can impair an individual’s ability to concentrate. You can improve sleep by exercising regularly, engaging in mindfulness and meditative practices, limiting alcohol, and implementing relaxation routines before bed.
- Exercise Regularly: Exercise is one of the best things you can do to protect your memory. Regular aerobic exercise (cardio) appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.
For science-backed tips to boost your memory try these techniques from the University of St. Augustine while you’re stuck at home. Before you know it you will be training your brain to take on large amounts of information and processing it like a breeze. Utilize some of your free time to flex your brain with these 8 science-backed techniques for retaining information and improving recall.
8 Techniques to Boost Your Memory While At Home
- Use Visual Cues
Visual aids such as concept maps, graphs, and photos can be beneficial for learning and memorizing information. This method can be especially helpful to people who are visual learners, meaning individuals who better understand the information that they see. Visual aids and cues can be a great way to refrain from using cue cards and make a presentation more interactive for the audience and the speaker.
- Use Mnemonics Devices
Mnemonic devices, such as acronyms and rhymes, are a good way to memorize information long-term. Examples of this are spelling out “M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i” in a rhyme or stating the fact “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” via song. Creative rhymes are a great mnemonic device for remembering information and can help settle pre-testing or presentation jitters.
- Write it down
Because it takes longer to write by hand, researchers have found that writing down information is more effective than typing for learning concepts. When writing by hand, you are naturally forced to be more selective with what you write and focus only on the most important information. In fact, the less you write the more you remember. One study showed that the more words students wrote down word by word lectures the worse they performed on tests.
- Say it Out Loud
Similar to mnemonic device techniques, saying information out loud helps with memory performance. One study determined that when speaking and hearing ourselves talk helped get information into long-term memory storage. This can also be key for practicing public speaking skills for anyone making a presentation. Incorporating movements with information can help you remember cues.
- Quiz Yourself for Recollection
Testing yourself forces you to pull information from your memory. Flashcards or online quiz programs are a great way to self-test while not relying on another person to proctor. Studies show that testing practice can greatly enhance and gauge your recollection compared to rereading previously studied materials.
- Outline Your Material
School professors were on to something when they assigned study guides before tests. The act of outlining information helps you categorize study materials based on most important concepts. An ideal organization strategy is the chunking method, which is the process of breaking down large amounts of information into smaller, logical units that are easy to understand. For example, when learning a new language, breaking vocabulary down by category (household, entertainment, animals) you are able to associate concepts with their category.
- Associate Terms
Associating terms with ideas or images that you already understand helps you make connections and improve your memory of them. You can create mental images and connect concepts with sounds, smells, and tastes experienced previously. For example, if you meet a woman named Sandy, you can envision a woman standing on a beach. You can hear the ocean and feel the gritty sand under your toes.
- Practice, Practice, Practice
At the end of the day, practice can be what cements information to memory and secures a successful presentation. But don’t practice all at one time. Studies suggest that spaced repetition of information recollection—spacing out learning over a longer period of time—is a more effective way to memorize information than trying to “cram” a lot of information into your brain over a short period of time.
In short, while this time is stressful and anxiety-inducing, the extra time on your hands may give you a chance to try out some new memory-boosting techniques. Brain health is important and utilizing the above strategies to prolong and cultivate memory will help you live a full and healthy life.
James Doubek, “Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away,” NPR, https://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/474525392/attention-students-put-your-laptops-away
Heidi Godman, “Regular Exercise Changes the Brain To Improve Memory,” Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110
Sean H. K. Kang, “Spaced Repetition Promotes Efficient and Effective Learning: Policy Implications for Instruction,” Instructional Strategies, 2016, Vol. 3(1) 12–19: https://www.dartmouth.edu/~cogedlab/pubs/Kang(2016,PIBBS).pdf
Jeffrey D. Karpicke, et al, “The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning,” Science, 319, 966 (2008): http://learninglab.psych.purdue.edu/downloads/2008_Karpicke_Roediger_Science.pdf