Let’s do a little test.
Read the following set of numbers: 6, 5, 2, 9, 6, 4, 3, 5, 9, 3.
Now close your eyes and see how many you can recall in the right order.
How did you do? The average person may remember around six or seven, with the exceptional few getting them all. Yet sadly there are a lot of us who stumble after only two or three.
One recent study demonstrated our lack of memory power by giving 500 people 2 minutes to draw their representation of a bicycle. Judging by the results, you’d think the participants were primary school children. But again sadly no, a lot of people just have bad memories (although some people just cant’t draw).
I used to be one of the those people. Things like names, bicycles, dates, appointment times, and deadlines would never quite manage to sink into my memory but instead bounce off my eardrums and back into thin air.
Thus my notepad, laptop, and smart phone functioned as my memory bank. I’d often get lost in a sea of sticky notes when simply trying to find out what time a dentist appointment or school class was.
This is likely familiar to a lot of you. Growing up in the digital age, we don’t need to rely on our memories as much as we used to. We have search engines to help us recall facts, Facebook to remind us of birthdays and events, GPS systems to give us directions, and many other apps and devices to outsource our memories to.
Even recalling personal memories like the name of your favorite high school teacher or where you left your keys will soon be able to be retrieved with memory search engines.
There’s no doubt all these things are of huge benefit to those who suffer from memory impairments, but for the majority of us they do more harm than good.
Outsourcing out memory using external devices can be the difference between having a rich life—learning from and reminiscing on past experiences, experiencing deep and loyal relationships, having high levels of productivity and satisfaction—and a mediocre life—not gaining the full respect of others, forgetting your partner’s birthday or your anniversary, and chugging along at a slow and steady rate of performance.
The chances are that because you’re here, you already know this and therefore want to take a more concerted effort to improving your memory and not having to rely on external devices. So engage your brain and allow these six top memory boosting tips to be absorbed into the depths of your hippocampus.
Learn a New Skill
A study published in the journal Psychological Science by neuroscientist Dr. Denise Park showed that keeping your brain active by learning new skills, for example digital photography, can bring significant improvement in memory. Dr. Park’s research also found that not all activities are equal, with the greatest improvements coming from taking on the most challenging skills. Find an intellectually demanding activity you’ll enjoy learning, whether it’s learning to paint, dance salsa, or in particular play an instrument, and watch as your memory grows.
Use The Memory Palace
A technique used by the world’s greatest memory athletes, The Memory Palace is considered to be one of the strongest ways to remember something. It uses four fundamental principles of recall—imagination, association, absurdity, and location—to securely cement new information into your brain. The technique essentially works by visualising a journey through a place you are familiar with, e.g. your home, school, or office. Along the way you associate the words, phrases, or numbers you want to remember with specific locations and events for example, a humongous frog in a suit at the breakfast table could represent the word ‘business’.
Mix Up Your Routine
Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to either use it or lose it. Therefore going through the same routines day in and day out, encountering the same stimuli and problems, causes your brain to stagnate, switching to autopilot and failing to make new neural connections. More connections equals more ways to process information, and therefore an overall stronger brain. And a stronger brain means a far greater chance of memories sticking around. Make an effort to challenge you brain by breaking free from well-worn trails, seeking new sources of stimulation, and carving new mental pathways.
Break A Sweat
Exercise seems to have benefits for just about everything. But one place where it doesn’t get its due credit is in bolstering memory. For example, in a study by neuroscientist Art Kramer at the University of Illinois it was found that just 45 minutes of exercise three days a week can increase the volume of the brain. One of the ways it does this is by boosting production of certain proteins in the brain. In a Harvard Medical School study, one such protein called FND5 was found to be present in higher quantities in the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory) in a group of mice who took part in regular exercise.
Have Healthy Relationships
It turns out healthy relationships are not only great for emotional health, but also our brain health. In fact, some researchers believe interacting with others may be the best kind of brain exercise. For example in another study from the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline. This doesn’t mean all introverts have terrible memories, but rather volunteering, joining a club, seeing or speaking to friends more often, or even having a pet, can do its bit for safeguarding those precious memories.
Joseph Pennington is a writer, mindfulness teacher, and the founder of Bebot, the world’s first AI mindfulness coach. You can try out the Bebot Alexa app here and sign up to make sure you hear the latest from Joseph and your new mindful robot friend.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.