Recharge Your Mind

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How To Make Your Memory Sharper

Photo Credit: Suviko

Keeping our mind and memory sharp are critical not only to our everyday tasks, but also to our mental health. We all know the agony and frustration we go through when we misplace our keys or fail to recall the name of a very familiar person.

It is true that some people are born with a sharper memory, however, it does not mean that others cannot improve on their ability to remember things. Sometimes very simple and basic techniques can make a real difference in the way your memory works.

Following are some of the ways that can help enhance your memory and reduce the chances of forgetting stuff:

1. Write what you read

One of the simplest yet most effective tip, is to write stuff down. When you are writing something, you are repeating it in your mind multiple times. By the time you have finished writing a sentence, you have repeated it at least 2-3 times in your mind and there is a good chance it has moved from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. This also works really well because when we are writing something, we tend to play around with the words a little bit; this requires more attention than just hearing or reading and makes us more focused.

2. Association:

Our mind tries to remember things by sub-consciously associating it with things we already know. We can enhance this process by making conscious or active associations. A very common example of this is remembering birthdays. If a new person we just met shares his/her birthday with somebody we’ve known for a long time, we would always think of both the people when we think of either one of them.

Another example is that you met a guy name ‘Fred’; you immediately realized that your cousin who lives in Florida is also ‘Fred’. Now chances are that if you ever try to remember your new friend’s name, your mind would link it to your cousin and Florida and allow you to get to ‘Fred’.

I have a close friend with the phone number (xxx) – 2164572 and even though I always remember that his phone number has a 2,1,6,7,4 and a 5, I am never able to remember the order of these digits. One day I finally figured that each set of digits in his phone number sums up to 9 and now all i have to remember is the number 9 when i think of calling him. As soon as I do that, the correct order comes to my mind.

3. MNEMONICS / Acronyms:

Suppose you are back in your high-school trig class again and you have to remember this set of formulae:

Sine = Opposite ÷ Hypotenuse
Cosine = Adjacent ÷ Hypotenuse
Tangent = Opposite ÷ Adjacent

It will take you a few minutes to memorize these. But if I tell you to just remember the sentence “Silly Old Hitler Couldn’t Advance His Troops Over Africa”, it would become much easier to remember.

These MNEMONICS are commonly used in Mathematics for memorization, however, they can be used in our daily life just as easily. Suppose you have to get 4 items from the grocery store, Milk, Apples, Rice and Soda; you can easily increase your chances of remembering these by repeating RAMS or MARS to yourself a few times. Then even if you forget the individual items, you would still remember the number of items and their starting alphabet.

4. Reverse Thinking:

Every night just before I go to sleep, I try to think about the major events of the day. But instead of starting with the morning, I start with the last thing I did and go back in time till I get to the beginning of the day. I have felt this to be a really good exercise because it is somewhat different than our regular mode of thinking and it allows us to use our mind in a slightly different and more challenging manner.

It comes in very handy if you have misplaced something few minutes ago and you are trying to think where you put it.

5. Foods that help:

There are certain foods which are known to make your brain sharper and healthier:

Blueberries: Blueberries are known to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The anti-oxidants in them help your brain function correctly and according to some people also increase your learning ability and motor skills.

Almonds: A handful of almonds daily have a lot of nutrients like B-Vitamin, Magnesium and certain protiens that power many brain processes. These are my personal favorite as I always used them during the exam weeks. One of the suggested methods is to put them in a bowl of water overnight, and eat them the next morning after peeling their skins off.

Green Tea: Besides reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, green tea is known to boost dopamine levels and lower the chances of cognitive impairment.

Other foods like salmon, sardines, oats and walnuts also help a lot in reducing brain inflammation and protecting it from harmful radicals. The stronger your mind would be, the easier it would be to remember things.

Conclusion:

These are just some of the things we can do to improve our memory. None of them requires a lot of time or effort to implement. If we gradually embed them in our daily routines, we will see a significant difference in our memory.

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6 Responses

  1. Abhijeet says:

    Excellent tips.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hey Tesheen!

    really awesome post. great collection of tips and summaries. i went through a phase where i was researching memory like crazy and a summary like this would have been really helpful.

    not sure if i agree that some people are born with sharper memories as much as they’re exposed to things at a young age that develop that kind of thinking. like plays with toys involving mathematical type thinking and so they have a propensity to be good at maths type thing. seems like there’s no difference but the nurture versus nature argument provides a lot of space – the space given by the fact that people with sharp memories developed them – and they can be developed at any time.

    your first tip is amazing. prolly one of the most beneficial habits i have – and study techniques – is to write down everything. helps the memory re-lay the pathways and they get stronger, and so your memory gets sharper.

    your mnemonic suggestions were also amazing. i used to play around with them loads (even hookt up “mega memory” course which is really just a good summary of the kind of stuff here and elsewhere online)… and although they really really helped, i’m inclined to say that it’s more that you invest in them and spend a lot of time using them and all that time that you use to apply, you’re again cementing the memory pathways. same thing though and it really works.

    one thing i think you really left out though – probably the one thing most responsible for my being able to study like a do for exams (very little and remember it all really well – and not always, only recently since i’ve overhauled various aspects of my life) is the idea of deciding to remember it. believing that your memory is perfect already. might be delusional but at the moment when you’re about to remember something, you think to yourself, “of course i’m going to remember this”. a proactive abundance mindset. versus, “oh i hope i remember this”.

    inspiring stuff
    gave it a stumble

    talk to you soon
    alex – unleash reality

  3. Great article! I have trouble with my memory sometimes and I have read that walnuts have something in them that is helpful to memory. Also I believe getting enough sleep is critical to long term memory consolidation. Thanks for sharing this information.

  4. Tehseen says:

    @Alex: Great thoughts. I totally agree with your last point and I think it is also related to being focused. If we are consciously trying to remember something then our mind would automatically have more focus and a greater chance to remember things.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to this :)

    @Stephen: Thanks for the encouragement.
    I think walnuts are great for your brain. Besides the Omega-3 in them, somebody once told me that the inside of a walnut even looks like a brain, so it is surely supposed to help :)

  5. Robin says:

    1)Make work more enjoyable
    Doing something you hate that doesn’t really tax you is not healthy for your brain in the long run. Plus, if you don’t feel useful or appreciated, it can seriously damage your general health and your memory.
    Now, I know that leaving work because you don’t like your job is probably not an option in the current economic climate but you can take steps to get more from work.
    When I was a doctor doing research there was one department that always clashed with mine and made work miserable.
    So I went to my boss with a list of ways we could improve things – and you could do the same. Your boss will be pleased you’ve taken the initiative and, hopefully, you’ll then get more from
    your job.

    (2)Take ginseng
    The herb ginseng has been found to seriously improve memory – especially for women in their late-50s. Ginseng has also been found to boost brain function in both sexes following a stroke. You can find it at your local pharmacy or health food store.

    (3)Try something new
    I’m always encouraging people to try something different, such as learning a new language, as it gets the mind working hard.
    Our brain is wired to respond to new things – meeting new people, doing activities you haven’t tried before, taking trips to strange places or just talking about a different subject all stimulate the frontal lobes – the ones most susceptible to ageing.
    Even simple tricks like using the other hand to apply eyeliner or taking a different route to work can have beneficial effects.

    (4)Have fun pottering about
    Older people often feel guilty about pottering without serious intent but it’s great for your brain.
    Weeding in the garden is good, while many men enjoy tinkering with an old engine in the garage.
    Both activities require thought and problem-solving skills such as “which plant should I pull up?” or “what tool should I use?” – and, crucially, they both involve being on your feet, which has been found to make you live longer.

    (5)Be more active
    Exercise can have a huge impact on boosting your memory, whatever your age. The good news is it doesn’t have to be anything too extreme – it’s doing the job as
    long as it increases your heart rate. Try a brisk walk, cycle or swim three or four times a week for 45 minutes at a time.

    (6)Make time to sleep easy
    Have you ever tried to take a test or do the crossword after a sleepless night? It becomes 10 times harder, so it’s no surprise that a good night’s sleep significantly improves brain functions such as memory and attention. It’s worth going to bed early at least twice a week.

    (7)Have a power nap
    I know a quick nap can really boost your mental faculties. I often have a doze in the back of the car between meetings. You don’t need a lot of time – in fact, the shorter the better or you can wake up groggy. Sometimes I don’t sleep but go into what I call my “twilight zone”, where I think of nothing and zone out for two or three minutes. It’s enough to refresh me.

    (8)Enjoy a cuppa
    I’m a tea addict and drink a minimum of six cups a day. I have to drink at least a pint to really get going in the morning. When you drink green tea, or even ordinary builders’ tea, antioxidant levels in your blood soar, revving up your brain. Studies show that tea can help prevent age-related memory loss and keep dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, at bay.

    (9)Put more fish on the menu
    Fish is an amazing brain booster. It’s been found that healthy middle-aged people who regularly eat oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna or mackerel have a much lower risk of memory loss and stroke.
    Brains of people who eat fish also show far less ageing – probably because the omega-3 fats in oily fish have a protective effect. Eat two portions a week for maximum benefits. However, if you really don’t like the taste, a daily dose of good old-fashioned cod liver oil will do the trick.

    (10)Exercise the old grey matter
    Puzzles such as sudoku can help keep the brain active but activities where you have to interact with other people are even better – for example, playing cards with a friend.
    I think electronic brain-training games are a waste of money – I bought one and found
    it far too easy.
    Using a mobile or BlackBerry to text is much better, as you have to think on your toes. I used to text with one thumb until I noticed that teenagers used both thumbs, so I became determined to learn this way. It took me two weeks and was hard going – but I got there and my text speed is now twice as fast. I think everyone over 50 should text at least once a day to ward off dementia.

  6. Theresa says:

    thanks a lot…

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