8 Tips For Improving Memory So You Never Draw A Blank Under Pressure Again
There's nothing more important than keeping yourself in tip-top shape.
I'm not just talking about maintaining a banging beach bod, either.
If there's one thing that's just as important as keeping your body in good condition, it's having a healthy mind.
After all, your brain is basically responsible for everything you do on a daily basis.
If cramming for midterm exams has your brain feeling like it's going to explode, don't worry. Our minds all start to feel bogged down with information by the middle of the semester, but there are a lot of ways to improve memory.
Preparing for exams by pulling all-nighters, eating whatever food is in the library vending machine and skipping the gym to squeeze in an extra study sesh may seem like the norm for most students.
However, it turns out that some of your studying habits might actually be hurting your ability to remember information, rather than helping it.
If you're looking to boost your brain power before your next exam, here are eight simple tips for how to improve memory:
1. Eat Some Food For Thought
If your diet consists of Red Bull and ramen during finals week, I hate to break it to you, but you're not doing yourself any favors.
Sticking to a healthy and balanced diet not only improves your memory but can also enhance your ability to learn and stay focused.
Opting for a wholesome breakfast that contains whole grains, as opposed to refined carbohydrates, can help you improve your mental focus and alertness throughout.
Eating fish such as salmon, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, has been found to boost your mood, improve your memory and enhance your cognitive functions.
Researchers at Tufts University revealed that blueberries can also improve your concentration, and fend off short-term memory loss.
So yeah, I guess they don't call these things brain food for nothing.
2. Jog Your Memory
The activities you do after studying can have a substantial effect on your ability to retain information.
A study published in the journal Cognitive Systems Research found that people who engage in moderate exercises, such as running, after a period of studying remember things better than those who take part in passive activities.
In fact, research conducted by Dr. Chuck Hillman of the University of Illinois and his fellow colleagues revealed that exercising for just 20 minutes before an exam can help to improve your scores.
3. Say It
If you want to remember something, say it out loud.
When you read, you rely on your visual pathways to form memory links. This is a highly effective way of learning if you happen to have a photographic memory like that insanely smart dude, Mike Ross, from the television show “Suits.”
But if you're not blessed with this type of brain, you'll need to rely on other types of memory connections and brain exercises.
Research has found that reading out loud helps you remember things better because it creates visual links (seeing the words) and auditory links (hearing the words) at the same time.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that reading aloud also results in a phenomenon known as the “production effect” — your brain creates a memory link to the actual production of the word you're saying.
So next time you're studying for a vocab test, you might want to skip out on the library and read your flashcards out loud in your room instead.
4. Spray It
Putting your nose in a book isn't the only way you can use your schnoz as a study tool. Your sense of smell can also be used to help you remember things because memory recall can have a strong tie to certain smells.
This phenomenon, known as the “Proust Effect,” occurs because the olfactory bulb (the neural structure responsible for sense of smell) is in close proximity to the hippocampus (the part of the brain that handles short-term memory).
You can take advantage of this by spraying an unfamiliar scent every time you study, then wearing the scent on you when you take your test to help you boost memory.
5. Sleep On It
Pulling all-nighter before an exam may seem like the logical thing to do.
However, it turns out that skimping on sleep can actually sabotage your test scores. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can compromise memory recall, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and even your creativity.
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that sleep plays a crucial role in memory and learning because it's the time that your brain assimilates information and consolidates memory.
German researchers also found that sleep enhances memories that are expected to be of future relevance. So next time you need to memorize a lot of information, hit the books before bedtime or try taking a nap after your afternoon study session.
6. Take Note
If you want to boost your ability to remember something, simply write it down.
Studies have shown that writing something out with a pen and paper allows you to retain information a lot better than typing it out on a keyboard.
A team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles put these two mediums of note-taking to the test. They found that students who took notes in longhand performed significantly better than those who transcribed the lecture on their laptops.
The reason for this is that typing verbatim notes often leads to a mindless processing of the information, and therefore a lower quality of learning. Writing notes out, on the other hand, is an effective memory booster because it helps you internalize information.
7. Give Yourself Something To Chew On
Worried about remembering all the answers for your test? Just chew some gum while taking your exam.
Research led by Andrew Scholey of the University of Northumbria in Newcastle found that people perform better on memory tests when they chew gum as it increases focus and concentration.
A possible explanation for this is that chewing has been linked to an increased activity in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays an important role in memory.
Plus, the act of chewing also causes your heart rate to increase, which improves the delivery of oxygen to the brain and enhances your cognitive abilities.
8. Grab Your Attention. Literally.
If you're having trouble squeezing info out of your brain, you might want to invest in a stress ball.
A study, led by Ruth Propper of Montclair State University, found that clenching your right fist before remembering information and then clenching your left fist when you want to retrieve it can actually boost your recall.
Apparently, this handy trick works because making a fist with your right hand triggers the side of your brain that's responsible for memory recall, and clenching your left fist activates the side of your brain that encodes information.
If you're left-handed, the process is simply reversed.