Improve Your Memory With These 5 Memory Boosting Exercises
Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday
Memory improvement is something that many people work toward, regardless of age. Of course, young students and people who are getting older tend to be particularly interested in how to boost their memory since these are times in life when memory is of the utmost importance. Memory is important throughout life, though, and having a set of good memory boosting habits is the true key to excellent lifelong long-term and short-term memory.
How Memory Exercises Work
Memory exercises are methods and techniques that are specifically designed to increase overall cognitive function and brain ability. When you remember something, the neurons in your brain have to “fire” and communicate with each other in order to be able to deliver information to your conscious brain that you can then use. The shorter the paths between each point of information (and the more connections your brain has), the faster the information is processed, and the more easily you’re able to remember things.
The most successful memory exercises encourage not only communication between neurons but also the building of new pathways in the brain. The more developed and active your brain, the better memory you’ll have. That’s why it’s best to take a holistic, all-around approach to memory improvement if you want to have long-lasting, honestly successful results.
The Best Memory Boosting Methods for Fast, Lasting Results
There are articles and books that review memory-boosting games and exercises, but the truth is that most average people don’t have the time or resources to be able to actually practice these exercises in any kind of meaningful way. However, there is a lot of other excellent memory boosting methods that you can incorporate into your daily life that are actually more effective and long-lasting while also being fun and engaging! Let’s look at a few:
- Learn Something New
Learning a new skill is a great way to improve your memory quickly over the long term. While it may not initially seem to be directly related to boosting memory power, many studies have been conducted analyzing the value of skill-building in regard to long term memory improvement. People who regularly learn new things have a better ability to remember things throughout their life, even into very old age! And, best of all, this memory-boosting method applies to learning anything new. Maybe you have an interest in learning a new language, or you want to get started learning kung fu, or maybe you just want to learn about the detailed history of your hometown. Regardless of what you choose to learn, maintaining a long-term practice of learning exercises your brain and makes it possible for you to remember things much more easily.
Some particularly good things to learn if you’re trying to boost your memory include new sports, musical instruments, languages, and other hands-on activities. However, anything new that you’ll be working with and learning is a great way to improve your cognitive functioning.
- Practice Meditation
Meditation is espoused in modern culture as being an essential practice, and indeed, meditation has many benefits beyond just being a simple relaxation practice! Adults who cultivated a regular meditation practice were shown in a 2012 study to have more folds on the outer layer of their brains, an indicator of improved information processing ability, and thus also increased memory. For people who are getting older, meditation has been shown to have age-reversal effects; a solid meditation practice isn’t only a memory booster, it’s also an anti-aging technique! Because this method is intended to benefit not only your brain but also your body and spirit, it’s an excellent way to improve memory on all counts.
- Practice Using All 5 Senses
One technique for improving memory function involves the conscious use of all five senses. When most people try to remember something, they often only use one or two senses to absorb the information into their brain for later recall. When you practice using all 5 senses to remember a moment in time or a piece of information, your brain has more information it can use consciously to help pull up the detail you’re trying to remember. Of course, we’re always using all 5 senses, but it’s not especially natural for most of us to utilize them all consciously at the same time.
For example, the next time you’re trying to remember someone’s name, don’t only listen to their name, but also try to observe how they look (what color is their hair? Are they short or tall), the feel of their hand (if you shake their hand), and the smell of their perfume or cologne. Smell and taste go together, so there are many situations when you’ll have to combine these two. When you use all five senses in this example context, you’re able to absorb a lot more information about the person, and thus you’ll be more likely to remember their name quickly when needed.
- Play Games that Improve Brain Function
(cards, puzzles, etc.)
There are certain games that have been shown to actively improve memory and overall brain function when played regularly. Most experts agree that games played on electronic devices have minimal effect on improving memory (with a few exceptions), often for the reason that these games are very two-dimensional and don’t activate all the senses. However, activities such as puzzles, card games, and chess are great for increasing brain activity in a way that, over time, boosts memory dramatically.
Some specific card games that are fun to play and practical for boosting memory include solitaire, bridge, gin rummy, crazy eights, poker, and hearts. Try your hand on a complex jigsaw puzzle or join a chess club for an extra boost! Other games that improve brain function include sudoku and crossword puzzles.
- Practice Recalling Lists, Names, or Other Items
Memory champions practice recalling lists and names on the regular using a variety of special memory techniques known as mnemonics to improve their ability to remember even the longest string of list items. There are a variety of mnemonic techniques that you can try using to improve your short-term (and, to an extent, long-term) memory. Here are a few to start with:
- Expression/Word Mnemonic – This type of mnemonic involves the use of a phrase (an expression) that is easy to remember due to a combination of rhymes, vivid visuals, and, sometimes, personal experience. This phrase relates directly to the subject being remembered.
- Song Mnemonic – If you’ve ever sung the ABC song, then you’ve already utilized this kind of mnemonic! The part of the brain that we use to sing is different than the part we use to remember simple words, phrases, and lists. In fact, this memory technique is so effective that even older people with dementia or other severe memory impairment find it to be extremely helpful; many people with dementia are able to recall the lyrics of songs from their youth without trouble, but even still they struggle to remember basic details of their daily and family lives.
- Image Mnemonic – These mnemonics require the “user” to make up a mental image that adequately captures the essence of a word, concept, or name without the use of any words. Most people do this all the time to a certain extent, but actively using image mnemonics can dramatically boost memory. For example, you could remember a recipe for cherry pie by envisioning all the ingredients in some setting that makes sense to you.
Other Activities and Techniques for Improving Memory
If you’re interested in boosting your memory even further, here are some other “brain training” techniques and activities:
- Practice doing math in your head (no paper, no fingers!)
- Do list recall exercises (for example, try to memorize your grocery list)
- Play the 4 Details Observation Exercise (attempt to quickly observe and memorize 4 details about every person you meet during the day, or about objects around you)
- Repeat other people’s word back to yourself (recalling what other people say after they’ve spoken will both boost your memory and also improve your listening skills)
- Create a Memory Palace
- Learn or practice a foreign language (studies have shown that people with bilingual brains have much better recall and cognitive function than monolingual individuals)
- Practice mind mapping (it’s best to draw the map; remember to use the 5 senses!)
- Get plenty of exercise (this increases blood flow and thus also improves memory)
Improving memory takes dedication and commitment, and it certainly takes a bit of time to develop improved memory, but it’s well worth the effort! Having an increased ability to recall information, whether it be peoples’ names or stories from your younger days, is a reward in and of itself.
If you want support and advice on how to best boost your memory, contact BetterHelp today to talk to a licensed therapist. Our therapists specialize in a variety of subjects, and there’s sure to be someone who can help you achieve your goals!