It can be difficult to commit things to your long-term Memory, resulting in memories, facts, and other information getting lost over time. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can prevent this! For example, you can change the way you approach new information in order to successfully remember it in the long-term. Memory devices are helpful ways to improve long-term recall, and a few simple lifestyle changes can also make a big difference.
EditRetaining Information Effectively
- Focus intensely on the new information. You’ll be more likely to remember something in the future if you give it all of your attention while you’re trying to learn it. Don’t try to multitask.
- Minimize distractions by turning off the TV, switching off music, and putting your phone somewhere you can’t see it. Limiting the number of things competing for your attention helps new information move from your short-term to your long-term memory.
- Try asking your roommate or family to give you some quiet time. If you have kids, see if someone else can watch them for a while so you can have an uninterrupted study session.
- Take a break after learning something new. Just sit quietly or meditate for a few minutes. Avoid distractions or trying to get other things done during this time, as it will interfere with the process of building the new memories you’ve just formed.
- Taking a nap after a study session can help you remember it later! Research has shown that when mice go to sleep after learning a new task, new neural connections are formed in their brains.
- Review information right before bed. Studies suggest that your brain uses sleeping hours to review and select what you will be able to recall in the long-term. For this reason, you can improve your long-term memory recall by going over information that you want to retain right before you go to sleep.
- Organize information into related clusters. Information is stored in your memory in chunks, so group similar items together and memorize these smaller chunks individually.
- For example, if you’re trying to remember a list of items to buy at the grocery store, group them into categories like “produce” and “dairy products,” and try to memorize each category separately.
- Rearrange your study material into related categories. Try typing up an outline, highlighting similar ideas with the same color highlighter, or copying information onto index cards and making a different pile for each concepts.
- Occasionally mix up all the information from your different sections, and study the material out of order. This can help you notice new connections between more distantly related topics.
- Space out your study sessions. Your ability to remember things can drastically improve if you have many small study sessions over a longer period of time, as opposed to spending a large chunk of time cramming all of the information at once.
- Each time you review something, you will remember it better, so when first memorizing something repeat it often, and over time you can review it with less frequency. For example, when learning a new fact, first repeat it five seconds later, then thirty seconds later, then two minutes later, and so on.
- Even if you only have a little bit of time to study, it helps to space out your material as much as possible within one study session. For example, don’t review the same few items over and over again, and then move on to the next few. Instead, go over each item once, and after you’ve covered all of the information go back and review everything again.
EditUsing Memory Devices
- Form associations between new and remembered information. If you can link new ideas with previously established ones, then you can increase the chance that new memories will be formed. Try coming up with a familiar picture, song, joke, or rhyme that you can associate with the new material.
- Form a picture in your mind that includes the new fact. For example, if you’re meeting someone named Peggy, picture them with a pirate hat, eye patch, and peg leg.
- Try making an acronym or acrostic to learn multiple pieces of information in order. Invent a sentence where the first letter of each word stands for a word you’re trying to remember. A popular example is used by music students learning the order of notes on a treble clef staff, where the phrase “Every Good Boy Does Fine” represents the notes “EGBDF.”
- Come up with a rhyme that contains the information you need to remember. For example, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
- It’s helpful to come up with an association early on, when you’re first learning the information. The more associations you can create, the more likely it is that the new fact will stick in your memory.
- Engage as many of your senses as possible when learning new info. It’s common to have strong memories tied to certain sounds, smells, tastes, or feels, so take in new material in as many ways as possible.
- Pay attention to any pictures or graphs that accompany the information you’re trying to learn. Alternatively, draw your own simple diagram to summarize the idea.
- Listen to an audio version of a book, or read text out loud. Notice which methods seem to work best for you, and try to incorporate those learning styles into your future learning endeavors.
- Repeat new facts as soon as you come across them. It may be boring, but simply repeating new information over and over in different ways will help it stick in your brain better, especially if you space out the repetition over time.
- For example, if you’re trying to remember the definition of a new word, read it several times to yourself. Then speak the definition out loud a couple times, and try writing it down once or twice.
- It helps to repeat the information over a spaced-out period of time. For example, if you want to remember someone’s name, say it out loud immediately after they introduce themselves, and again at the end of the conversation. Repeat it in your head a couple minutes later, and again at the end of the night.
- Teach someone else the information you’re trying to learn. Teaching can help you remember and understand things better yourself. Find a classmate or co-worker who needs to learn the same information, form a study group, and take turns teaching each other different concepts. Alternately, ask a friend if they’re willing to learn something new from you!
- Test yourself after learning something new. Simply re-reading the same information isn’t good enough - you have to actually practice retrieving the information from your memory in order to strengthen the connections within your brain.
- If you’re working out of a textbook with quizzes at the end of each chapter, go through and answer several of the questions. You can also try asking yourself questions about the material, and looking up the answers you come up with in order to double-check yourself.
- Many people don’t like tests because they feel frustrated when they realize they’ve forgotten something they’ve just tried to learn, but going through the process of forgetting and re-learning new things helps better cement memories in your mind.
- Be sure to immediately check your answers to make sure you’ve gotten them right. If you answer something wrong, you will be more likely to remember it incorrectly in the future as well, so immediately correct yourself and repeat the right answer a few more times.
- Recover a missing memory by thinking of associations you have with it. When you can’t remember something that you’re sure you know, think of when you might have learned that piece of information. Try to remember where you were, who told you, or what you were doing, and it may help jostle your brain into remembering.
EditKeeping Your Brain Healthy
- Eat heart-healthy foods to improve long-term memory function. Your heart is responsible for pumping blood to your head, so keeping your circulatory system healthy will also aid your brain.
- Munch on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. In particular, strawberries, blueberries, and leafy greens are thought to help keep your brain sharp as you age.
- Eat more unsaturated fats, and fewer saturated fats. For example, cooking with olive or canola oil is healthier than cooking with butter.
- Make sure your diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in high quantities in fish.
- Get some aerobic exercise. Pumping up your heart rate can improve long-term memory recall and reduce your risk of developing brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
- Exercising boosts the amount of blood flowing to your brain, and it spurs your brain to release a chemical that helps fix damaged brain cells.
- Reduce your stress levels. This can keep your brain sharper over time. Try meditating, adopting a positive mindset, and finding healthy outlets for stress.
- Get more sleep. Your brain function will get worse as you get older, but it may decline less if you’re getting enough rest. Sleep also helps cement information in your memory.
- Try taking more naps, or getting to bed at an earlier time.
- Get better quality sleep by reducing light and noise pollution in your bedroom.
- Take part in social activities. Research suggests that your memory declines less over time if you’re living a socially active life. Put in the effort to meet new people and maintain your relationships with friends and family.
- Spend time engaging with people who like to have interesting conversations. Try meeting up with people regularly for meals, or scheduling phone conversations with friends you want to keep in touch with.
- Find people who have things in common with you by looking for new local communities to join. See if there are volunteer opportunities with organizations you care about, or use social media to seek out local groups or clubs.
- If you can’t find any groups that appeal to you, start your own! You could try gathering some friends and starting a book club or a walking group.
- Keep your brain mentally active. Challenging yourself to learn new things helps keep your brain healthy by spurring growth of brain cells. Make sure you’re regularly exposing yourself to new ideas.
- Try taking a class. See if there are any interesting offerings at a local community college, or sign up for an online skills course.
- Get in the habit of trying out different mental exercises. Do a daily or weekly crossword puzzle or sudoku.
- Pick up some more challenging reading material. Thinking about complex ideas and learning new vocabulary can help keep your mental skills sharp.
- Occasionally change your study time or location. Switching up your environment can improve your ability to remember the information later.
- Try swapping the order of the what you’re learning during a long study session. When you have a large block of information, it’s often easier to remember the facts at the beginning and end while the ones in the middle get lost. Restructure your material once or twice over the course of studying so that you’ll be more likely to remember all of it.
- Spend extra time reviewing information that is harder to remember. Some things are more naturally committed to memory than others, so pay attention what is easier and what is harder for you to recall and adjust your study session accordingly.
- It’s very tempting to cram material right before a big test or presentation, but avoid it as much as possible! Repeating the information regularly, over a longer period of time will help you remember it.