7 Proven Strategies to Boost Your Memory
Using the research to guide your learning.
Posted October 21, 2020 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
Do you wish that you had a better memory?
Would you like to remember the names of people you meet?
How would your life change if you could remember more?
Many people believe that your memory can't improve—that some people just have better memories than others. Fortunately, over the past few decades, scientists have learned more about how the brain works and how to improve your memory.
In this post, I am going to share seven memory-boosting strategies based on the latest research so that you can improve your memory.
1. Write it out—by hand. It is interesting how our education system has changed with the introduction of the computer. Often, students take notes on their computers rather than the "old-fashioned" handwriting. Many students even find it challenging to write by hand. Moreover, people in the workplace mainly use a computer to record notes from meetings and conversations.
However, many research studies have shown that handwriting any material by hand strengthens memory and improves recall. Scientists hypothesize that handwriting incorporates multiple areas of the brain responsible for motor skills, vision, and comprehension.
Thus, you can improve your learning, memory, and retention of information by handwriting information such as lecture material, meeting notes, and any important reading material.
2. Review. Reviewing the information that you are learning is essential. This repetition helps transfer the information from your short-term memory to long-term memory. Studies have shown that the amount of time you spend thinking and engaging with the information increases your memory and understanding.
However, repetition alone is not enough for optimal memory. Thus, incorporating several of the other strategies below will help you remember more.
3. Test Yourself. Reading information over and over again may trick you into thinking that you know the information. However, many studies have shown that subjects who only read the material predicted they would remember more information than they did.
To accurately assess your memory and to enhance recall, testing is important. Test yourself with practice questions, flashcards, quizzes, writing out what you recall, quizzing a friend or colleague, writing out what you remember from a specific section. This process of remembering strengthens the memory in your brain.
4. Focus. Focus is the essential first step for encoding the information into the brain. If there is interference with this step, the information cannot be recalled. Many of us try to multitask while we are trying to learn new information, a lecture, or a meeting. Multitasking interferes with memory. Thus, you can enhance your memory and recall by removing distractions and focusing on only one thing at a time.
5. Space it out. We know from the research that our brains require time to transfer and process material we are trying to learn. Spacing out your learning over many days is more effective than cramming the material in one sitting. For example, actively reviewing information for 10 minutes a day for six days could be significantly more effective than learning the material in a space of time.
6. Exercise. Scientists used to think that the number of neurons that we are born with is the most that we will ever have. However, new research shows that regular cardio exercise greatly enhances the number of neurons in the memory centers. Exercise has also been shown to diminish anxiety and stress which interfere with memory. Thus, if you want to improve your memory, make sure to make exercise a regular part of your life.
7. Create mnemonics. Mnemonics are any technique that supports remembering information. An example is the acronym H.O.M.E.S where each letter stands for one of the Great Lakes starting with Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Or, when meeting a new person, you might think of someone you know with a similar name. Mnemonics are especially memorable when they are funny or rhyme such as the grammar device, "I before E except after C...".
These are some of the most effective strategies for improving your memory. Try a couple of these strategies now for any information that you would like to remember. The research shows that we can improve our memories, but just like any new skill, it takes practice. I wish you success.
Oakley, Barbara and Sejnowski. (2020). Learning about Learning on Coursera Platform. Retrieved from https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn.