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9 Simple Tips to Train Your Brain and Improve Your Memory

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improve your memory

Whether you’re a student trying to memorise your courses more efficiently or a professional seeking self-development and mental sharpness, there are many ways you can boost your performance.

Just like you work out your body to be fit and strong and maintain a balanced lifestyle to stay healthy and beautiful, you can train your brain to keep it sharp and use various tricks to improve your memory.

Here are 10 tips to help you improve your memory:

1. Meditate

Meditation has been proven to not only help your focus, concentration and creativity, but also improve your memory and learning capacity. People who meditate regularly show an increased thickness of the cerebral cortex, as well as more synaptic connections between neurons, both of which being linked to better memory and mental sharpness.

“Meditation is painful in the beginning but it bestows immortal Bliss and supreme joy in the end.” – Swami Sivananda

2. Practice memorising new information

Think of it as a warm-up for your mind. Choose something new every day, no matter how insignificant; a quote, a new word, a phone number, an historic fact, the lyrics of a song, etc. – and try to memorise it. Quiz yourself every couple of hours and see how well you manage to remember it. It may seem like a pointless exercise and a waste of time, but you won’t believe how effective it can be in the long run.

 

3. Do something new repeatedly

When you do something different repeatedly, your brain rewires itself and creates new pathways to help you do it faster and better each time. And it doesn’t even have to be a life changing thing. You can start with a really small step that you wouldn’t usually do,  and your brain will still build those precious neural connections that are so valuable for your mind.

 

4. Learn a new skill

One that really means something to you. Engaging in meaningful activities has been proven to stimulate the neurological system, improving memory function, relieving stress and reversing mental decline. The key here, again, is that the skill or activity must be something important to you, something that stimulates you and requires your undivided attention.

 

5. Play or listen to music

Whether you’re playing or listening to it, studies have shown that music can expand your potential to memorise new information and your mental acuity. Mastering a musical instrument can actually change the anatomy of your brain and rewire your brain cells. When you are just listening to music, the effect is not as pronounced, but it still is there.

 

6. Link to as many senses as you can

Link the information you want to memorize to sounds, smells, colours, textures and even tastes. Even if you’re a visual learner, you should also speak out loud what you want to remember, as well as write down or rewrite the data. The more senses your brain can rely on, the easier it will be for you to imprint the new information into your memory.

 

7. Socialize as much as possible

Research suggests that interacting with new people regularly helps your brain stay agile and challenges your memory. Interestingly enough, it seems it may not even matter whether these interactions are “real” or virtual. Whatever the medium, socializing involves many behaviours that require your control, memory and attention, thus “oiling” your brain and improving your cognitive skills.

“Many think of memory as rote learning, a linear stuffing of the brain with facts, where understanding is irrelevant. When you teach it properly, with imagination and association, understanding becomes a part of it.” – Tony Buzan

8. Use mnemonics

Mnemonics are tools and clues to help you retain information, words or concepts, by organizing them into a format that’s easier to remember. Think about using rhymes, acronyms, visualisation, or even building a memory palace.

 

9. Train your body, not only your brain

Physical exercise strengthens neural connections, stimulates nerve cells and encourages the brain to function at its optimum capacity. What’s more, when you work out, your nerve cells release a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is known to boost cognitive functions, including memory.

Remember some of these tips and actually put them into practice, and you’ll see how easily you’ll be able to memorise anything.

What kind of things do you do to improve your memory? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Stacey Marone is a contributor for Scholar Advisor, helping students handle schoolwork successfully and always happy to come to their assistance. She has vast experience in academic writing and is a skilled and patient researcher, ensuring the work delivered is flawless every time.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Shilpi

    Jan 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    A very useful article! Thanks a lot!

  2. Zak Davis

    Aug 17, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Hi Stacey! really useful tips 🙂 I personally like tip#4 as it will bring you a sense of fulfillment if you learned something new, or try something you never thought you would learn.

  3. Wilber Stadtler

    Aug 4, 2016 at 6:35 am

    All this simply means is that you should flex your cognitive muscles, whether it is opening up a conversation with someone during your morning commute, or forming a Meetup group with others who share similar interests.

  4. shanique

    Jul 29, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Hello Stacy wonderful article I can identify with about three of them but what’s really helping is my morning workouts, it does wonders for my day.

  5. Jack

    Jul 19, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    There is definately a lot to find out about this subject.
    I like all of the points you have made.

  6. Tim Denning

    Jul 17, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Stacey thanks for this article. My memory is really good sometimes and other times it’s not great. I am definitely going to try out your tips and number 9 was not one I had heard of. You’ve inspired me so thank you so much. Take care.

  7. Silvia Turonova

    Jul 16, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    Great article Stacey. Very useful points. I will definitely try it out. Thanks

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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