Five Ways to a Sharper Memory
By Ashford University Staff
Receiving and retaining information can be a challenge for online learners, many of whom are trying to balance multiple responsibilities while adjusting to a non-traditional school environment. The sheer amount of information coming at you can seem overwhelming at times, and you may be questioning how much you actually need to remember because information is online and easily accessible.
One of the keys to learning at school and the workplace is successful integration of new information with old information, which, of course, requires memory. Ideally, once your brain decides a piece of information is worth remembering, it will find a place to store the details and then figure out a way to retrieve them when needed.
Of all the cognitive abilities – comprehension, memory, evaluation, problem solving, and creativity – improving memory is the easiest. Here are five exercises to give your memory a workout.
1. Rehearse and practice a new skill
No one becomes an expert at something overnight. Learning a new skill requires rehearsal in order to build up thinking and behavior habits over time. When you are learning a skill or committing a new idea to memory, you literally alter your brain. This process is called “neuroplasticity.” The changes made when you generate thoughts and memories build new neural connections and strengthen existing ones.
2. Stop multitasking
Many of us take pride in our ability to multitask, and at times it’s necessary in today’s environment. However, some evidence suggests that people who are multitasking are really just distracted, and dividing attention between tasks is bad for memory. That’s because your brain forms new memories when it is alert and engaged, and when conscious awareness is pulled in different directions at once, your brain cannot keep up. As a result, your brain won’t recreate the sensation.
To improve your memory, set aside time and a quiet place where you can work without distraction, focus, and concentrate.
3. Boost your sensory input
Using multiple senses can enhance your memory. For example, if you are listening to a lecture, it can be helpful to find visuals to accompany what you’re hearing. Of all the senses, scent has a relatively strong connection with memory, and sometimes emotions. Scents have a great relationship with the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for managing emotions and memories tied to emotions.
The brain is at work while your body is at rest. In dreaming, your brain reviews the sensory information collected while you were awake, and all of those details are remixed and organized into new memories. But your body needs time to relax before you begin dreaming. If you cut your sleep cycle too short, your new memories don’t get designed and processed correctly.
Beyond the benefits to your physical health, regular aerobic exercise – low-impact movements that increase your heart rate – can also stimulate neuronal growth. Specifically, the kinds of memory that improve with exercise are kinetic, spatial, and locomotive. In other words, if you’re someone who gets lost easily, or frequently misplaces your keys, you may benefit from aerobic exercise.
If you’re looking for more mind-sharpening advice, check out the “Top 10 Brain-Boosting Superfoods” blog on Forward Thinking.
Written by Jason R. Latham, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education.