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How do I Improve Memory?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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There are a number of different ways you can improve memory and increase your ability to retain information. The types of techniques you choose will depend a great deal on how you learn best, and what the information is that you need to learn. At the very least, you should try to eat healthy foods, get adequate sleep each night, reduce stress whenever possible, and regularly engage in memory building and enhancing exercises. You should also consider specific techniques to improve memory, such as using mnemonic devices and repetition of information to improve your retention of the information.

One of the simplest ways to improve memory is to ensure you are living a healthy lifestyle. Eating right can help you improve your memory by ensuring your brain is properly fed with nutrients and vitamins needed to run properly. Regular exercise can also help your memory, as oxygen to your brain helps you clear your thoughts and focus on information. Certain games that use your mind, such as crossword puzzles and sudoku, can often help improve your memory since exercising your brain tends to make it “stronger.” You should also be sure to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night to be fully rested and better able to receive, encode and recall information.

Receiving information is the first part of memory and involves you actually being aware of the information you need to remember. You can often improve memory by increasing how you receive information both through focusing on the information and by trying to receive it in more than one way. If you can read the information while you hear it being spoken, then you are often more likely to receive that information properly. You should also be sure to really focus and concentrate your attention on the information being received.

Encoding is the process by which the information you receive is actually stored in your memory by your brain. You can improve memory by increasing your encoding effectiveness through the use of mnemonic devices and other tricks to improve memory. This often includes using acronyms, sentences, and rhymes to help you remember information. Many beginning musicians remember the lines of a treble staff as “Every Good Boy Does Fine” for E, G, B, D, and F; and the lines between them with the word “FACE” for F, A, C, and E. These types of devices often help encoding of information for recall at a later time.

Recall is the process by which you remember the information you have received and stored when you need it. Whether you are trying to remember someone’s phone number or pass a test, the process is the same. By using mnemonic devices you need only remember the rhyme or acronym and then recall what it all stood for, often easier than remembering a long list of details. You can also improve memory by trying to learn material in the same condition in which you will need to recall it. Some tests have shown that people often more easily recall information in a mental state similar to how they learn the information, so try to avoid learning new material or studying under conditions drastically different from how you will need to recall the material.

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Discussion Comments

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 21, 2015

@irontoenail - I've heard a theory that this is actually related to intelligence as well, since some would define intelligence as a heightened ability to connect facts together.

I guess that means that if you can improve memory skills you might be directly improving intelligence as well, which makes sense, even though I never thought being able to memorize large amounts of facts was necessarily a sign of intelligence.

By irontoenail — On Jan 20, 2015

@Mor - Actually that's related to the way that memory works in general. It's kind of like a big filing system. Some scientists think that everything is filed away, but a lot of it is never seen again because it isn't put in the existing system. Others think that if it isn't filed properly in the first place it isn't remembered at all.

At any rate, in terms of practice, it means that you are much more likely to remember something if you can connect it to something you already know. That might be something abstract and not really related, or it might be two facts that are absolutely related.

So, for example, it's much easier to remember a fact about Oscar Wilde if you first know he exists and don't just find out both those things at the same time. That way new facts about him can be filed in the right place and you will know where to access them.

By Mor — On Jan 19, 2015

I know this will sound silly and obvious but the best way I've found to improve my memory is to really concentrate on something. Not just read it several times and hope to remember it, but to really try to understand it and link it in my head to other things I already know.

Even if it's a phone number or some other kind of relatively random number. I'll try to see number patterns that are already familiar, like my sister's birth date or something like that.

If all I do is repeat it over and over that never seems to work for more than a few minutes.

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