Why is it that you can perfectly remember the lyrics of Backstreet Boys’ ‘I Want It That Way’, but can’t recall the title of the new TV show you started watching, and wanted to recommend to your colleague?
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we find strategies to better ‘remember’ things that matter.
Our brains store information about things that stand out, things we can relate to and can be easily integrated into our existing knowledge base, or things that we use repeatedly over time, according to a June 2018 report in US-based news website NBC. Some forgetting is a natural process, but there are several strategies we can use, and lifestyle changes we can make, to help retain information for longer.
Here are a few ways to improve your memory:
1. Sleep well
Just like how you can program your computer to back up data when it’s resting, our brains use the time in which we sleep, to consolidate and store memories. According to an April 2013 study in the US-based journal Physiological Reviews, over a century of research has established the fact that sleep benefits memory retention. Not getting enough sleep, or a high enough quality of it, can compromise this process. The US-based National Sleep Foundation advises getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night for optimal brain function.
2. Exercise regularly
It comes up all the time – exercise is truly vital for how well the body functions. It’s not just important for your heart, mood, muscles, and mind, it’s also vital for memory retention. A UK-based study published in February 2015 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, followed a group of middle-aged women with early signs of memory loss for six months, as they started a programme of regular aerobic exercise. The study found that the exercise actually helped increase the size of their hippocampus – the region of the brain associated with memory storage – and improved their verbal memory and learning scores during tests.
3. Re-learn the information later
Known as the ‘spacing effect’ in psychology, the more you re-learn or remind yourself of information again and again, over a space of time, the better you will retain it. The repetition, predictably, helps the data linger in your mind for longer.
4. Test yourself
Tests or examinations may be considered to be a way of discovering what you know or don’t know. But they have a more vital role – they can help you practice retrieving information you’ve learned, and give you insight into the connections that have been established in your brain.
5. Put the information in your ‘memory palace’
If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, the term may sound familiar. But this approach dates back to ancient Latin scholars, and is also called the ‘Method of Loci’. The idea is – if you want to remember something, such as a shopping list, you can visualise those items in different rooms of your house or other physical place you know really well. The method has been found to be more effective for remembering things, than straightforward repetition and memorisation.
What do you think of these strategies? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at email@example.com.