A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain.
A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain.

10 tips for developing your memory

By Avisha Naicker Time of article published Nov 11, 2020

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Whether you’re in matric studying for final exams, or a working professional and part-time student doing all you can to stay mentally sharp – there’s lots you can do to improve your memory and mental stamina.

There are two kinds of memory — short-term and long-term. Short-term memory is the kind of memory our brain uses to store small pieces of information needed right away, like someone’s name when you meet for the first time.

Long-term memory is for things you don’t need to remember this instant. For example, when you’re studying for a test or exam, that’s long-term memory at work. A memorable moment in your life, events with family or friends, and other similar kinds of situations also get stored in long-term memory

According to lifestyle sites, Healthy Living and Very Well Minds, these are the top tips for improving your memory.

1. Focus

Pay attention to the task at hand. This is important, because your brain needs time to encode the information properly. If it never makes it into your memory, you won’t be able to recall it later.

2. Give your brain a workout

Memory, like muscular strength, operates on the principle of “use it or lose it”. The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information. But not all activities are equal. The best brain exercises are those that break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways.

Research shows that the key to this is taking on and learning a new skill. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s learning to play ping pong or doing crossword puzzles – as long as you haven’t mastered the skill before, your brain will have something new to learn and will boost its memory retention and recall capacity in the process.

3. Smell, touch, taste, hear and see it

The more senses you involve when you encode a memory, the stronger that memory will be and the easier it will be to recall later. Need to remember someone’s name you met for the first time? It may help to look them in the eye as you repeat their name and offer a handshake. By doing so, you’ve engaged four out of your five senses.

4. Repeat it

One reason people who want to memorise something repeat it over and over again is because repetition (what psychologists sometimes refer to as “over learning”) seems to work for most people. It helps not to cram, though. Instead, repeat the information spaced out over a longer period of time.

5. Organise it

Our brains like information to be organised. That’s why books have chapters, and outlines are recommended as a studying method in school. By carefully organising what it is you have to memorise, you’re helping your brain better encode the information in the first place.

6. Regular exercise

It’s well known that regular exercise helps maintain brain function. New research finds that brain activity increases and memory improves immediately after even a short, single bout of exercise.

And the more exertion you put into that exercise, the greater the improvements.

7. Avoid cramming

Studying materials over a number of sessions gives you the time you need to adequately process information. Research has continuously shown that students who study regularly remember the material far better than those who do all of their studying in one marathon session.

8. Utilise mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices are a technique often used by students to aid in recall. A mnemonic is simply a way to remember information. For example, you might associate a term you need to remember with a common item that you are very familiar with. The best mnemonics are those that utilise positive imagery, humour, or novelty.

9. Get sufficient sleep

There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount you need to function at your best. Memory, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills are all compromised when you sleep for a lesser time than you should.

10. Have a laugh

You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine, and that holds true for the brain and the memory, as well as the body. Unlike emotional responses, which are limited to specific areas of the brain, laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain.

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