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It is possible to boost your memory

It is possible to boost your memory
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You probably know someone who seems to never forget a thing: names, events, things that happened years ago can be recalled in seconds. How do these people do it? Mnemonic tricks can help boost your memory, but more importantly, good lifestyle habits as well as strategies for processing new information can improve how your memory works. It’s not just about rote memorisation – it’s about how info ‘sticks’ in the brain to use later on.

“Memorising ‘stuff’ should not be the goal,” says Dr Jennifer Zientz, a specialist in neurology. “Using what you remember – combining memories with other knowledge to form new ideas and to make choices – is a more healthy way to use your brain, and will enhance your life more than worrying about your ability to remember ‘stuff.’”

Establish routines

Establish routines
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In order to free up your brain to remember new and important information, don’t waste energy trying to recall where you put your keys: it really is easier to find things if you always put them in the same place. “Having a routine can be very helpful for memory,” Zientz says. “Routines help us attain efficiency so we don’t have to expend a lot of brain power on predictable elements of our day. Efficiency in everyday activities frees up time and brain power for more meaningful things in our lives.”

Don’t miss these health reasons your short-term memory is getting worse.

Use your senses

Use your senses
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If you have to put something in an unfamiliar place, say what you are doing out loud, “I am putting my sunglasses on the table by the door.” Or when you meet someone new, repeat their name out loud. “Most of us learn better when we can take information in through more than one sense because it puts the information in a greater context,” says Zientz. By letting your ears register the information, research shows you enhance your focus on it, increasing your chances of remembering it later. Giving your brain new experiences will keep it healthier.

Check out these weird brain exercises that help you get smarter.

Don’t multitask

Don’t multitask
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It’s no surprise we can’t remember things when our attention is divided. “Today, we have access to an unprecedented amount of information,” says Dr Sandra Bond Chapman. “It may seem counter-intuitive to slow down, but research has shown that the more people consume at once the shallower their thinking becomes. By taking in less information, you are better able to get meaning, develop knowledge, and actually build brain networks.” Filtering out these distractions improves the focus that leads to better memory, Zientz says. “The first thing we all have to do is put our cell phones away and stop multitasking,” she says.

Meditate

Meditate
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One way to boost your memory is to start meditating. Chapman says the first step to enhancing brain function is to ‘prime your brain’ by quieting it – and research has found meditation helps you avoid distracting, anxious and stressful thoughts, which improves focus. One study showed students who took a mindfulness class and meditated for ten minutes a day did better on the GRE (graduate recording examinations) than students who didn’t. Research has also shown that meditation may actually change the structure of your brain by thickening areas associated with attention.

Teach yourself to meditate and beat stress. Read on to find out more.

Organise info

Organise info
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Free up your working memory by using external aids to organise information. Set up reminders of what you need to do each day on your phone calendar. Better yet, studies have shown the simple act of writing things down can reinforce information in your memory. So keep adhesive notes in every room and leave handwritten reminders where you’ll see them, and write a list before you go to the store so you don’t forget anything. Jot down these notes when they’re fresh in your mind – planning ahead helps your working memory actually perform current tasks instead of thinking about what needs to be done later.

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Go out in nature

Go out in nature
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This simple activity can boost your memory by 20 per cent. Similar to meditating, walking in nature may calm anxious and distracting thoughts that mess with memory, as well as give the brain a break from multitasking to improve its performance later on. In one study, participants who took a walk in nature did better on memory tasks than those who walked in an urban setting. “Nature – even getting a mere glimpse of it – helps the brain calm itself and reset,” Chapman says.

Not so keen on walking? Check out these easy ways to make walking more fun.

Sleep on it

Sleep on it
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Research indicates people who get seven hours of sleep have better memories than those who get less than five or more than nine. This may be just the right amount for their brain to go through the chemical changes needed to integrate new skills or facts into long-term memory. “Sleep strengthens connections between brain cells and different brain regions, and moves information into areas of the brain that are more efficient for storing it,” says sleep expert, Dr Richard Shane. “Dreaming sorts and organises information, makes connections, and even solves problems. All of this strengthens memories and improves recall.”

Take a nap

Take a nap
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It’s not just night-time sleep that helps solidify memory: research has shown a short daytime snooze can improve recall as well. “In one study, people were given pairs of unrelated words to remember, and after, one group took a nap and the other watched videos,” Shane says. “The group that took a nap had a five-fold improvement in associative memory – the ability to remember a link between items that are unrelated – compared with the group that watched videos.”

Which is better: coffee or a nap? Find out here.

Exercise daily

Exercise daily
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The physical and the mental are deeply connected, so exercise keeps your brain sharp by avoiding memory suckers like high blood pressure and diabetes. “Movement improves circulation, bringing blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which can help to ensure it is functioning at its peak,” says fitness and nutrition expert, Erin Palinski-Wade. “Studies have found an improvement in learning, memory and concentration directly after aerobic exercise, so taking small movement breaks throughout your workday can be beneficial to your body and your mind.”

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