No matter what shape your memory is in, research shows there are easy ways to make it perform better.
These 5 techniques are simple, and studies show they’re effective.
Quick Memory Boost
Research at the University of Surrey in England shows that if you are trying to remember details of something you’ve seen, simply close your eyes, and it’s more likely you will.
The study was performed in a quest for ways to help eyewitnesses to crimes remember more accurate details. But the technique – keeping your eyes closed while calling to mind what you saw – can be applied to any circumstance where you’re trying to remember something.
The investigation involved 178 people who watched a film of a crime and then were asked to recall what they’d seen. The folks who closed their eyes as they called to mind what they had witnessed remembered more details than did those who tried with their eyes open.
The researchers also found that people who felt they had rapport with the person who questioned them about what they could remember also did better on the memory tests. To me, that suggests we remember things better if we are in a friendly and relaxing setting.1
Trying to Think More Clearly? Stand Up!
Another way to improve your mental strength, according to researchers at Texas A&M, is to use a standing desk.2
These tests, which were performed on students, show that standing at a desk conveys neurocognitive benefits by improving what’s called executive function – the function of your brain that enables you to more easily grasp what’s involved in a mental task, divide the task into logical steps, and stay focused on those steps until you get them all done.
Executive function, say the researchers, also helps you use your time efficiently, memorize important information, comprehend what you read and keep your thoughts organized.
Other ways to help your memory work better include:
Take a nap: A study in Asia shows that taking an hour-long nap after lunch may help your memory function better.3 In this research, people who never took naps, or who took shorter naps, did not experience improvements in memory. Longer naps didn’t seem to help as much either.
Now, I don’t necessarily agree with these researchers that a full hour is necessary. The best length for a nap probably depends on the individual. And by the way, napping is not a great idea when it merely makes up for poor sleep at night. A good night’s sleep is extremely important to memory and other aspects of brain function. If you suffer from sleep disturbances, you need to get the problem fixed.
Don’t watch a horror movie: Research in Austria shows that very stimulating events like frightening or violent movies can disrupt the brain’s learning and recall processes.4 The researchers theorize that since the part of the brain called the hippocampus is involved in remembering details, an event like a horror movie interrupts memory by introducing extra turmoil into the brain’s perception of its surroundings. As the scientists put it, this leads to “changes in cognition during high arousal states” that can cloud recall.
Get some exercise: There’s plenty of research that shows just about any type of exercise including walking improves learning and memory. A study in Europe shows that going for a short run after learning new material helps you retain information.5 The European researchers think that exercise shifts the brain into “memory storage mode” that is connected to an exercise-induced increase in the stress hormone cortisol. But that’s just a theory.
So the next time you’re trying to learn or memorize something try one of these techniques. You just might find it gives you a little extra edge.