If you find yourself getting a little forgetful, these science-backed hacks can show you how to improve your memory in some simple and surprising ways.
We all have those moments when our memory lets us down. We walk into a room and can’t remember what on earth we went in there for. Or we realize we have missed an important appointment or anniversary. Luckily, we can learn how to improve memory.
1. How to improve memory using your environment.
Our memories are linked to the environment in which we first heard the information. This means we are more likely to remember the information when we are in that environment. The environment triggers the memory. So if you are struggling to remember something, try to visualize the environment in which you first encountered the information.
2. How to improve memory using the senses
Other senses can also trigger memories. Most of us have experienced a situation where a certain aroma triggered a memory from the past, perhaps the smell of your grandfather’s tobacco, your mother’s perfume or the scent of jasmine in your childhood garden.
We can use this to our advantage by perhaps sniffing a certain scent when revising or trying to remember something and then sniffing that same scent when we want to remember the information.
Caffeine can also work in this context. If we drink some coffee to stimulate our minds when trying to remember something, we will remember it more easily if the brain is also stimulated with caffeine at the time we want to remember it.
3. How to use emotion to improve memory
Our brains tend to remember things with an emotional element more readily than simple facts. This is why we remember highly emotive experiences from the past such as moments of great joy, grief, excitement or fear. So, it can help to add an emotional aspect to something you are trying to remember.
For example, feeling excited about a party might help us remember to pick up the outfit we ordered for the occasion. Or imagining someone’s joy at receiving our card might remind us to actually post it.
3. Learn something new before bed
Our short-term memory can only remember a few things at a time. As new information comes in, things are pushed out of short-term memory before they can be stored as long-term memories.
For this reason, it can be helpful to try to remember things before bed. When we are asleep, there will be no new information coming into our brains to push the information we want to remember out. Our brains will have a chance to encode the new information in our long-term memories before it disappears into the ether.
4. How to improve memory by talking aloud
This is a very simple method for helping us to remember important things such as what we need from the store or to pick up our dry cleaning on the way home from work.
Saying it aloud uses more areas of the brain improving the likelihood of the information sticking in our minds. If you are in a public place, you can mouth the words to save embarrassment.
5. How to improve memory by breaking things down
This technique is particularly useful if you are trying to remember numbers. Instead of trying to remember a long string of numbers, break it down into sets of four or two.
In addition, if you try to link the numbers to something memorable, such as a house number or birthday, it helps them stick in your mind.
6. How cues can help improve memory
We can create cues to help us to remember the things we have to do every day. This technique is called implementation intention. To practice it, simply state your intention to do a certain thing at a certain time and link the intention with something you already do on a regular basis. For example, you can say to yourself, I will take my medication while I wait for my coffee to brew.
You can use this technique for any new habit you want to make simply by linking it to an existing habit such as brushing your teeth, walking upstairs or locking up before bed.
7. Use imagery to improve memory
Our last memory aid uses imagery to help us remember things. In a similar way to some of the other techniques, it uses various regions of the brain so can be more effective than simply trying to remember facts. With this technique, you associate an image with whatever you are trying to remember.
For example, if you are trying to remember the name Tom, you may imagine his face as a big red tomato. The more bizarre the image you use, the better this technique works.
In addition to the above tips on how to improve memory, there are other practical ways to keep the brain healthy which will facilitate good memory. It is particularly important to eat well and exercise regularly to improve overall brain function. It is also vital to get enough sleep.
We’d love to hear what techniques you use to help you remember things. Please share your tips with us in the comments.