“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Center, both of which are located at Harvard Medical School.
“Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”
Studies suggest a diet rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals and B vitamins may promote improved cognitive function.
Phytochemical-rich foods in particular have been long believed to be effective at reversing age-related deficits in memory. Phytochemicals are compounds that are typically found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and other plants. Foods containing phytochemicals that are said to improve memory include berries, avocado, fish, dark chocolate and eggs.
A study published in PubMed – the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) – has shown that in both rat and human brains, regular exercise can improve memory recall. In particular, regular exercise can improve cognitive abilities and spatial memory.
Memory consolidation is a distinct process that occurs during sleep to maintain, strengthen and modify memories stored in the long-term memory.
In one study, participants were separated into two groups and asked to memorise illustrated cards to test their memory strength. After memorising a set, both groups took a 40-minute break wherein one group napped, and the other stayed awake.
After the break, both groups were tested on their memory of the cards – the group who had napped performed significantly better, retaining on average 85 percent of the patterns, compared to 60 percent for those who had remained awake.
Mnemonic devices are simple techniques a person can use to help them improve their ability to remember something. Some mnemonic techniques include:
- Names: Everyone’s mates with ROY G BIV, aka the colour spectrum of the rainbow. This is one of the most common and effective example of mnemonics
- Expressions: Creating expression is an equally popular and effective mnemonic device, for example, using the expression My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Noodles to remind you of the order of the plants in our solar system
- Ode/Rhyme: A bit of a hybrid technique, peculiar odes are not uncommon. For example, 30 days hath September.
6. Learn a second language
Adults who speak more than one language are likely to have a better working memory and memorisation skills. Learning a second language is said to increase brain size and connectivity (aka increase your intelligence), improve cognitive skills and overall brain function, and even protect your brain against aging.
A familiar scenario for many is remembering the lyrics to your favourite song from 10 years ago but forgetting what item you popped down to the shops for.
Music is one of the few activities that engages both sides of the brain simultaneously and positively impacts memory, focus, attention, language skills and physical coordination.
Listening is fine but playing an instrument is even better – kids who learn to play an instrument develop better memories and higher IQs than kids with no musical training.
Did you know?
It’s not necessarily your fault that you forget what you’re doing when you enter/exit a room… it’s science.
According to Scientific American, the “doorway effect” exists genetically in every single one of us.
A team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame – Gabriel Radvansky, Sabine Krawietz and Andrea Tamplin – established that “memory was worse after passing through a doorway than after walking the same distance within a single room.”
Called the encoding specificity principle, psychologists have known for a while that memory works best when the context during testing matches the context during learning.
But some forms of memory seem to augment to keep information at the ready until its ‘shelf life’ expires, and then purge that information in favour of new information.
Radvansky et al call this sort of memory representation an “event model” – walking through a doorway is a good time to purge your event models because whatever happened in the old room is likely to become less relevant now that you have changed venues.
By Lydia Trusdale