We all have those moments when we’re grasping for an answer that’s on the tips of our tongues. We’ve asked experts to tell us some memory-enhancing moves...
1. Boost your imagination
‘We’re taught at school that remembering is about information repetition, but that only really works for short-term memory,’ says Tansel Ali, four-time Australian Memory Champion and author of The Yellow Elephant: Improve Your Memory And Learn More, Faster, Better. His advice for learning a series of points for a work presentation is to create a visual and colourful linking image between each one. ‘Say the first point is “budgeting”, you’d create an image of what a budget is, maybe it’s a suitcase full of money. If the next section is “quarter one”, you might think of cutting the suitcase into quarters. The next section might be “expenses”, so you’ve taken that quarter and it’s a really expensive quarter, it’s gold and shiny. If you involve colour and exaggeration, it jogs your brain into remembering,’ Tansel says.
2. Get a good
You might think cramming information for a test the night before will improve your performance, but you’re better off hitting the sack early. ‘We know sleep is really important for consolidating memories,’ says Amanda Barnier, Professor of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University. ‘Being sleep deprived makes it harder to think, so you won’t have enough cognitive resources to pay attention and your memories won’t be of a high quality.’
3. Laugh more
When we’re stressed, our levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase, which can damage neurons that are involved with learning and memory, especially our short-term memory. That’s why you lose your keys or forget your phone at home when you’re strung out. The antidote to this is laughter, which helps dissipate stress and improves your short-term memory, according to research efforts by Loma Linda University. Just 20 minutes of watching a funny video and laughing was enough to boost short-term memory, the researchers found.
4. Spend time with your family
Amanda, who researches how couples, families and groups of people remember past events, says organising regular family lunches is a great way to avoid some of the risk factors for dementia, such as social isolation and a lack of interaction. ‘Being able to share memories and talk about them with other people plays a really important function,’ Amanda says. ‘We find that long-married couples remember more and retain higher quality information when they remember together.’
5. Snack on blueberries
Several studies have linked the juicy little berry with improved recall and retention, including one study from Tufts University, which found a diet rich in blueberry extract improved short-term memory loss in ageing lab rats. ‘Alzheimer’s Australia tells us that having a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can protect us from the cognitive decline that leads to dementia,’ Amanda says.
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