I’m sure we have all wished for an elephant’s memory at some point; it would come in handy when looking for lost car keys, recalling what to buy at the shops or remembering an acquaintance’s name.
Well you don’t have to have one to recollect this kind of information, here are a couple of tips to help you to improve your mental performance and memory.
Exercise your body and mind
Did you know that exercising can actually improve your memory? Exercising is one of the best memory aids as it can enhance your ability to process and recall information. It does this by increasing oxygen and blood flow to your brain and reducing the risk of memory loss disorders, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Exercising your brain releases a chemical called norepinephrine which helps to retrieve contextual and spatial memories. Mayo Clinic suggests that you start by doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week (e.g. brisk walking) or 75 minutes of aerobic exercise a week (e.g. jogging). The more regular exercise you do, the better your cognitive performance will be.
Get your beauty sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is not only for the beautiful, as it can help you to better your memory recall and consolidation. Different parts of your brain form different types of memories, for example the limbic system will bring up a memory associated with a smell. When you’re in a deep sleep which is 8 hours or more, your brain reorganizes and assembles these memories while transferring them from short term to long term memory.
However if you lose half a night’s sleep, or only sleep 3 to 4 hours, it can actually erode your memory. So if you’re looking to improve your long term memory, getting up to 8 hours of sleep is a must.
Challenge your Brain
What if I told you that improving your memory was as easy as playing Sudoku? Don’t think so? By the time you’re an adult your brain has created millions of neural pathways, which help you to resolve familiar problems, quickly process information and to perform familiar tasks. If you stick to these paths, your brain isn’t receiving any new stimulation to keep developing and growing.
Doing puzzles (e.g. Sudoku and crosswords), breaking routine (e.g. taking a new route to work) and learning something new (e.g. learning to play an instrument or a new language) are mentally challenging activities which create new pathways in your brain. These tasks develop new cells in the hippocampus (which has a role in memory consolidation) that build cognitive stores for creating new memories and protecting against memory loss.
Mnemonic devices have been used since the days of the ancient Greeks and are to this day one of the best methods to memorize information. It is as a memory technique that helps your brain recall and encode important information by organizing and giving meaning to a sentence, word or image. Simply put, it’s a short cut that helps to improve your ability to remember something.
There are many different devices that you can chose from, such as an acronym, method of loci (e.g. associating a word with a familiar place), chunking (e.g. breaking down large pieces of information), visual imagery (e.g. relating images to words) or a rhyme.
Now that you know how to improve your memory you can now use these devices to help you find those car keys that are always missing.
Dana da Silva
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