4 Fun Habits to Boost Your Memory Power

The problem that technology presents us is that it increases the amount of information at our disposal, but slowly degrades the power of our memory to retain it. . . like any muscle the brain can grow flabby from disuse. . . in our spare time, we should not simply look for entertainment and distractions. . . We should take up hobbies — a game, a musical instrument, a foreign language — that bring us pleasure but also offer us the chance to strengthen our memory capacities and the flexibility of our brain. –Robert Greene

Del Singh - Millennial Milk

I find the learning process fun. It’s inherently part of my being. I’m naturally a curious person. The process I don’t enjoy is the memorization of facts. It is something that could use serious improvement.

I‘ve taken on a new role at my company in the last couple weeks and am required to remember an exorbitant amount of facts. Like any new role, the learning curve is steep. I accept this challenge, but the real issue is my ability to regurgitate these facts when I’m connecting with customers.

The following four memory boosters are useful and fun habits to bring into your life whether you’re in the cramming information stage of your life, or if you simply want to keep your brain in prime condition.

Tell Stories

You might not remember a particular birthday, but you might remember specific events around a birthday. You might remember the time you ran into the lead actors from Boondock Saints on your 21st birthday.

Stories help to jog your memory. From meaningful life milestones, to shitty (pun intended) hikes, it’s the story behind the event that allows you to remember things.

Abraham Lincoln was a prolific storyteller. When he visited towns during his presidential campaigns, people would flock to the local salon to gather around Lincoln who’d captivate his audience with his cinematic stories. His ability to tell stories was able to help him win over people and the presidency.

Stories and the Brain

Stories that create an emotional connection activate multiple parts of the brain, increasing your chances of remembering an event. Stories are more memorable and interesting than facts.

Relating a story to something you have to remember will make the fact more memorable.

Writing

I’m a heavy Evernote user. In fact, I live and die by it, with dozens of notebooks comprised of notes I take every day. It allows me to create tags I can reference to find notes on topics from months prior.

Ok, I wasn’t planning on plugging Evernote.

You can type faster than you can write. Consequently, you end up transcribing or copying and pasting the facts that were given to you. The physical act of writing (remember pen and paper) may help you internalize facts that are given to you. The rationale behind this is before you write, you have to compose your thoughts based on the facts given, and jot it down using your own prose. Subsequently, when you write, you have to write it in a concise manner that will help you recall the facts.

I haven’t given up on Evernote. It keeps me organized, but I’ve also started carrying a small journal with me to help me remember ideas that arise throughout the day. Also, the physical action of writing the information has been known for boosting your memory more than note taking on your computer.

Music

What is it about music? A certain song will turn on and it will bring back nostalgic moments from high school. It will remind me of the spring break road trip I took in college.

Don’t you find it impressive that you could listen to the first few notes of a song and know the name of it? I’m sure you remember songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” from your childhood. Studies have shown that music stimulates your brain and improves your memory. Because music can be related to memories, it’s being used as a method to treat Alzheimer’s patients.

Playing an Instrument

Taking it a step further, playing an instrument increases your cognitive capacity. Nina Kraus’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University conducted a study that showed musicians suffered less from aging-related memory than non-musicians. Playing an instrument is like a workout for your brain.

This is your brain when listening to music.

 

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Listening to music is a right brain activity, where imagination, creativity, and intuition are engaged.

This is your brain when playing an instrument.

 

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The left brain involves logic and math. When playing music, the two halves are connected by a bridge, engaging your mathematical skills (music has lots of math in it), motor skills, and imagination to start a giant party.

One of the greatest minds ever to live, Albert Einstein, was both highly logical and intuitive. He was a scientist and artist, having a passion for music and physics. Einstein was never a good student and he loathed the education system. While following the logical rules of time, space, and matter, he allowed his intuition to guide him.

It’s time to pick up that dusty guitar from your garage. It’ll improve your memory and boost your brain power. For you men out there, there’s no woman that doesn’t like a man that can play the guitar.

Rhyming Mnemonics

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! -Dr. Seuss

One if by land, two if by sea, and I on the opposite shore will be. -Paul Revere

I learned the following rhyme in first grade when I was learning how to read. I’m 33 years old and still remember that rhyme.

Pop, pop, pop says the popcorn in the pan. Pop, pop, pop, you may catch me if you can.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star” is a song full of rhymes and is my conclusion why it’s easy for children to memorize.

What I like about these four practices is that they are fun, and don’t involve boring exercises. They involve creativity and playfulness—all positive qualities. Beginning by listening to music is an easy place to start. Whatever method you find the most interesting is the next best progression to take. Improving your memory is a marathon, not a sprint so it benefits you to keep it in form. Gradually incorporate these practices into your daily routine and train your brain like Lance Armstrong trains his body for the Tour de France.