How Can We “Get Better” at Memory?
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Your memory is one of the most powerful cognitive tools you possess; no matter what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, you are depending it. Our long-term memories help us to define who we are, while our short-term and working memories help us to navigate and manage everyday tasks. Whether you’re in a business meeting, studying for an upcoming exam, or even just placing a book back where it belongs on your shelf, you are using your ability to recall and process information. If you want to know how to “get better” at memory, you’re not alone, and learning how to improve one’s memory is a surprisingly straightforward process. Like any activity or process, the key lies in training and practice.
Learning About the Memory
Memory is a complicated and fascinating subject that is uniquely attuned to every individual. We all have different capacities both for remembering things and acting on those memories; that’s part of the reason it's possible for two students to attend the same lecture in the same class and walk away with different impressions of the material. You may have heard about different “styles” of learning – visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic – though it’s worth remembering that a person who identifies as a “visual” learner is not incapable of learning in other ways, nor is visual learning even necessarily what is best for them.1 Everyone does, however, have their own preferences for how they like to take in information, and one of the first steps in learning how to “get better” at memory is experimenting and trying to figure out what works best for you.2
Your brain has a remarkable capacity to respond to and accept new ideas, environments, and situations. This is referred to as its neuroplasticity, the brain’s “ability to recognize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.”3 The area of the brain largely responsible for regulating your memory is called the hippocampus.4 Like any part of your body, your memory and its associated organs are at their best when they are being used, which is why, like building muscle, the best ways to improve one’s memory involve exercising it. Consider, for example, taking the time to record, take notes in, or review minutes from a recent meeting or lecture to keep the material fresh in your mind. Taking the time to meaningfully engage with material always makes it easier to remember.
Tips and Tricks: How to Get Better at Memory Tasks
Cognitive stimulation is just as useful for training your memory as physical exercise is for training muscles.5 A memory “workout” can mean engaging with a cognitive training program like Lumosity, or it can be something as straightforward as playing an occasional game of Solitaire. You could also deliberately take the time to challenge your memory in the same way you might challenge your body. This could mean trying to perform math equations in your head, or writing down a to-do list and trying to recall the items on it after an hour has passed. Keep up with any regular exercises you engage in, and you will see the results – you’ll remember your old scores and realize how much you’ve improved!
Other things you can do to get better at memory-related tasks include taking care of yourself physically and mentally. Research into the memories of mice, for example, reveals that those who exercise regularly experience improved memory function, suggesting that physically fit people probably can see similar results.6 Taking a walk, jog, or even just making some time to do some jumping jacks can have a remarkable effect on improving one’s memory power. More recent studies also indicate that mindfulness can play a powerful role in maintaining neuroplasticity in this way; in 2019, a team of researchers found that “even brief periods of mindfulness can help people improve important areas of learning with relatively little investment before the learning process begins.” Even a little meditation can go a long way towards improving verbal learning and memory.7
In this way, eSmartr can help with memory retention as well; our sleeves are designed to stimulate nerves in the forearm that signal the brain to be more open to accepting and storing new information. Not only does this make learning easier, it also makes meditation and mindfulness practices easier, enhancing the process of getting better at memory and related tasks. Learn more about how this incredible technology works here!
There are no shortcuts and no quick fixes; if you want to know how to “get better” at memory, it’s something you will need to work at to see results. Aids like the eSmartr Sleeve and Lumosity can help to speed things up, but the bottom line is that the more work you put into your brain power, the more brain power you’ll have. Start with mindfulness, cognitive training, and physical health; these are great places to begin seeing improvements that can help launch you forwards into enhanced learning.
6. Marlatt, M.W., Potter, M.C., Lucassen, P.J. and van Praag, H. (2012), Running throughout middle‐age improves memory function, hippocampal neurogenesis, and BDNF levels in female C57BL/6J mice. Devel Neurobio, 72: 943-952. doi:10.1002/dneu.22009
7. Lueke, A., & Lueke, N. (2019). Mindfulness improves verbal learning and memory through enhanced encoding. Memory & Cognition, 47(8), 1531-1545. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.sheridanc.on.ca/10.3758/s13421-019-00947-z