by Sarah Halfpenny
Getting older doesn’t have to mean a decline in memory – try these five tips and start impressing yourself with your powers of recall!
The technical term in psychology is the ‘spacing effect’. The more you repeat, retrieve, and frequently use information – spaced out over time – the better you’ll recall it. It’s akin to creating a well-trodden path through a forest! For example, if you read a new book, hear a review about it the next day, then a friend talks about it the day after that, it’s likely to be preserved in your memory as it’s been re-learnt on different occasions and in different settings.
Create a ‘memory palace’
This approach is based on visualisations and is said to date back to ancient Latin scholars. It can be used to remember anything – from a simple shopping list to a complex sequence of numbers. Take a location you’re very familiar with – usually your home – and visualise the items placed in different rooms of the house, making a virtual ‘tour’ of the location in your mind, which you can step through at any time.
Acoustic encoding is the transformation of auditory information for storage and later retrieval. Rhyming poems, for example, are encoded by the brain as a pattern of words, making the experience more intense – that’s how oral traditions and history have been handed down over time. Learning the alphabet or your times tables are classic examples of acoustic encoding and are even more effective when repeated out loud.
Connect an event, word or person you need to remember with a feeling, place or object that you’re already familiar with and that is relevant to your life. When remembering people’s names, you might think that Ruby is as bright as the gem on your favourite ring, and Jim looks so fit he must go to the gym. Also, reflect on events immediately afterwards to help preserve them in your memory.
This isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s time we actioned it – how we treat our body on a daily basis unquestionably affects our brain! Get enough sleep – that’s when memories get consolidated and stored. 7 hours a night is optimal, with 6-minute power naps added in for extra memory-boosting benefits. Exercise daily – 30 minutes moderate intensity as a minimum, even if it’s broken up into three 10-minute sessions. And a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and water is absolutely a thing if you want to maximise your brain power. Start now!