Brain Boost: Top 5 Memory Hacks

Hacks

In need of some hacks to improve your memory? Here are 5 top ones on how to boost your capacity to memorise. This is a handy know-how for any student. Just saying.

Apples, hiking boots, marbles, sterling silver, coffee, credit card, slush puppy, Netflix.

Now look away and try to repeat all the random words you just read (without looking at them again).

Not so easy, right? That’s because there’s a limit to how much information the average person can store short-term.

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Mind Matters

Many studies throughout the past century have delved into this question and shown some interesting results.

Some findings include:

  • It seems that, in general, people can recall about 7 chunks of information at one given time (Miller study from 1956). So, for example, instead of trying to remember “apples,” “hiking,” and “boots” as 3 separate items, you’d remember “apples” and “hiking boots” as two chunks. We do this with phone numbers all the time. For example, “082” – we’d recall “082” as the start of the number as opposed to “0” then “8” then “2” all separately.
  • It’s easier to recall numbers than letters (Jacobs study from back in 1887).
  • Our average, attention span is 20 minutes (or rather, used to be).

Because of our distracted lifestyles and dependence on technology, researchers believe that our attention span is now almost half of what it used to be. Ain’t that troubling?  Think about it… how long are you really able to focus on a given task without checking your phone, or going to the fridge, or just looking over at your pet to see whazzup.

How Can I Train my Brain?

Just as our muscles can be trained to reach a higher level of performance, so can our brain and mind. There are various hacks and mind games we can play in order to enhance our ability to memorise information.

For those of you who are studying and need to absorb a big amount of information, it’s useful to apply some memory nuggets, especially during exam times.

There are plenty of memory hacks out there and it’s worth surfing the net on this topic. For now, I’ve selected 5 awesome tips anyone can apply to their daily routine.

Top 5 Memory Hacks

  1. Memory Encoding

When I worked as a waitress and (for some horrifying reason) couldn’t find my notepad, the only way I’d remember any order by the time I got to the computer was by ferociously mumbling it to myself over and over again as I strode through to the restaurant… “sparkling water, sparkling water, sparkling water.”

This tactic is a type of memory encoding known as acoustic encoding. According to Humandmemory.net, it is

“the processing and encoding of sound, words and other auditory input for storage and later retrieval.”

Perhaps the most famous example of this memory encoding using vocal rehearsing is our beloved Dori. Remember how she managed to recall Nemo’s address? Yip, by vocally encoding it into her memory – repeating it to herself a gazillion times. Even I remember it was something “Sherman” simply because it had been vocally repeated so many times throughout the movie.

 2.  Figure Out Your Study Style

When you study, the ideal outcome is, of course, for you to build up long-term memory. You know, so you can talk about what you have studied even after you walk out of the exam hall. It’s important that you understand how you study best because this will automatically influence to what extent you will remember what you study. Much of it depends on the priority of the information you’re studying has in your life. How much will you need this information in the future? More importantly, to what degree does it interest and make sense to you? It’s been proven that the more you understand a specific topic and the more it carries meaning for you, the more likely you are to absorb the information and memorise it, long-term. So, in order for you to best absorb information, you have to understand what type of learner you are!

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3) Doodle

The act of writing down – by hand – is extremely useful for the absorption of information. We already know that taking notes by hand helps in the process of memorising and internalising the content. It seems that imagery does so even more – hence the popularity of mind maps.

For some tasks, researchers have found substantial benefits of doodling (rough drawings or scribbled sketches), where the activity functions as a brain tool rather than a distraction (as many people believe). In a Reader’s Digest article, Sue Shellenbarger writes,

“Recent research in neuroscience, psychology, and design shows that doodling can help people stay focused, grasp new concepts and retain information.”

In a personal example, I use doodles to help me prepare for some of my dance classes. A simple, rough doodle sketch (that only I can identify) of a specific movement or stretch position is all I need to remember which move I want to teach. It’s more practical than writing down an entire sentence describing the move, and I recall it much faster.

In an article for Mental Floss, Dana Schwartz refers to a series of studies published in ‘The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology’. She writes how the researchers affirmed,

“We argue that the mechanism driving the effect is that engaging in drawing promotes the seamless integration of many types of memory codes (elaboration, visual imagery, motor action, and picture memory) into one cohesive memory trace, and it is this that facilitates later retrieval of the studied words.”

4) Memory & Mind Game Apps

Memory and focus are trainable. Just like chess players gain focus by playing and practicing regularly, you can participate in mind and memory games to strengthen your own abilities.

Since we’re in the smartphone era and spend hours a day looking at the rectangle screens, why not play some memory and mind game apps while we’re at it. There is quite a selection of cool apps out there already (Lumosity seems to be one of the most popular), many of which get used in treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s, famous for how it deteriorates memory.

Check out this article on Alzheimers.net for a few suggestions on memory apps!

5) Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

It’s science. Our capacity to memorise things shrivels up when we’re sleep-deprived and sluggish. To boost our brain, we want to give it oxygen flow, nutritious food, and enough regenerative sleep. There is a lot of interesting information on the Internet about what benefits a healthy lifestyle (specifically getting in enough exercise, practicing healthy eating habits, and getting sufficient rest) can bring to your ability to focus and memorise better.

Sites like the Magnetic Memory Method offer plenty of insight on these aspects as well as other memory tips. One of the site’s writers Anthony Metivier points out,

“It’s well known that exercise leads to increased blood flow to the brain, which has several cognitive benefits, such as alertness, better concentration, more positive mood and so on.  Exercising also improves memory by releasing cathepsin B.  It’s a protein which triggers the growth of neurons and forms new connections in the hippocampus, a section of the brain playing a vital role in memory.”

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So the next time you’re in need of a little memory booster, try out these 5 hacks and see if they are any use to you. You might be surprised how something, like adding in a daily memory game, changing up your diet, or exploring a new study style, could fire up that brain of yours.

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