Top 10 Tricks to Boost Your Memory and Remember Anything

It’s easy to say that you have a bad memory and leave it at that, but a strong memory can be developed in a multitude of ways.

There are a few little tricks and ways to cheat the brain but if you are looking to improve your exam grades, maintain better organisation of your life or just want to generally improve your memory, first and foremost you will have to improve the health and vitality of your brain.

If you feel you were born with a poor memory, but that there’s nothing you can do about it- there is! The brain has an excellent way of adapting and changing throughout life, forming new neural pathways, improving existing connections and adapting and reacting to how you use and affect your mind.

1. Get your sleep

We often treat our brains as though they are not a part of the body, as though healthy (or unhealthy) habits will not affect the way we think. However, nothing could be further from the truth and a healthy lifestyle will improve our thinking processes, including memory.

Sleep is one of the most important activities for the health of your brain and you want to be getting as much as you need to function at your best. The length of time will depend on your age, height, diet and so on, but generally adults need between 7.5 to 9 hours per night, with teenagers needing around an hour longer on average.

Bear in mind this time should be actual sleep- this doesn’t include lying in bed trying to sleep, or even (as some people may think) sitting watching YouTube videos before bed. We also don’t sleep 100% of the time from when we do drift off, as we are often disturbed at night for several minutes at a time. Consider getting a sleep tracker to see how much real sleep you get each night- you may be surprised!

In addition, maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try not to use any TVs, tablets, phones or computers an hour before bedtime and drink less caffeine. A stronger sleep schedule will make you feel better and vastly improve your ability to remember and concentrate.

2. Keep stress at bay

Chronic stress destroys brain cells and will damage the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and retrieval of old ones. Stress, unfortunately, is often a part of modern life at school, university and the workplace- though it can be effectively managed when you recognise it for what it is and keep yourself and your responsibilities in order.

-Avoid leaving things to the last minute. It can be a good method of motivation, but you will pay for it in the way your mind organises itself. Worrying yourself into action is not good for you, or the quality of your work.

-Take frequent breaks. One way of managing your workload a little easier is to break it up into several smaller parts. Just try and avoid using this as an excuse to do less work.

-Express yourself. Instead of keeping your feelings to yourself, speak to others about what you are feeling, or failing that, express yourself artistically- write a poem, paint something, write a song or whichever you prefer.

-Don’t multi-task. It’s hard enough doing one thing well at a time. Avoid trying to do too much at once.

-Meditate. Taking some time out of your day to collect your thoughts and bring yourself some peace has real medical evidence of success. You can get started with meditation through a variety of apps and books that are now available. You just have to put 10 minutes aside each day to get started with it.

-Set realistic expectations, including your leisure time. Don’t take on too much- that may be easier said than done, and it comes with practice, but knowing how much you can do while remembering to leave yourself time for yourself is an incredibly valuable way of battling stress.

3. Keep a healthy diet

Sleep, diet and exercise are the keys to a healthy lifestyle and brain, therefore memory.

We all know what constitutes a good diet- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (such as olive oil, nuts, fish) and lean protein. The hard part is sticking to it and not stressing too much if you make a mistake. Remember this: if you’re conscious of the foods you eat, you are doing better than the vast majority of people.

And if you feel like a snack, reach for some fruit. Your body will thank you for it.

4. Maintain a good work/life balance

A great way to battle stress is to make personal time for yourself, while maintaining a good structure for the work you have to do. This means your brain can relax and your cognitive function will improve greatly.

Whenever people first think of brain-boosting activities, people may think of crosswords or chess, but hanging out with friends and going to see a movie, alongside other easy-going pastimes can improve your memory a tonne.

Humans are very social animals and don’t do to well mentally if we’re alone for too long. Crosswords and brain training improve mental function but the best brain exercise may well be interacting with others.

Having supportive friendships and relationships is really vital to a healthy and functional memory and just like any success in life, having good friends is dependent on giving them time and commitment.

5. Laugh often and heartily

Laughter can actually sometimes be the best medicine, as it really engages the brain in multiple ways, releasing serotonin and generally making yourself feel better.

Realising that you can laugh is also a really good way of framing what is happening to you or what’s going on around you. No matter how bad things get or how difficult something feels, someone somewhere has made a joke about it that will make you feel better about your situation.

Listening to jokes and trying to figure out punchlines is also a good way of engaging your brain and improving your creativity. It can help you think more broadly and associate more freely.

So don’t take yourself too seriously, enjoy your time with others and ask people for funny stories- you may find yourself remembering them and plenty more besides a lot easier.

6. Give your brain a workout

A more familiar way of strengthening your mind is to challenge it.

Throughout childhood, we are constantly developing and testing our brains in new ways, learning and developing new neural connections. But once we’ve learned the ‘basic’ stuff and it is so familiar to us we don’t really have to think about it much, our brain requires more stimulation in order to keep developing.

Much like physical strength, mental strength requires consistent development and challenge- if you don’t use it, you lose it. So the more you learn and challenge your existing thinking, the better you will get at remembering new ideas.

But how do you know if the activity will be worthwhile? Here are four elements of a good brain enhancing activity:

-It teaches you something new. If you’re doing something you’re good at, you’re not really going to improve too much. This means you’re not going to be good at it at first and it may be uncomfortable, but stick at it- you will develop very quickly.

-It’s difficult. Good activities require your full attention at all times and will push your concentration.

-It’s a skill that you can continue to improve at. It’s often best to start with an activity that is easy at first and gets progressively more difficult the more you learn. Perhaps learning a new language or a new musical instrument?

-It’s rewarding. It should feel good to learn! Achieving goals is satisfying, especially when you have engaged your attention with it fully. By enjoying it, you are also more likely to stick with it and to continue challenging yourself.

7. Don’t avoid the gym

Physical exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise like running, cycling or swimming, really increases the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain and so reduces the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise will also reduce stress and improve chemical function within your brain.

If you choose to exercise in the morning, it can really help you get a kick-start on the day and therefore a huge impact on how you approach your work from thereon. Or if not, short breaks in the day for a walk, or some push-ups can invigorate your brain if you start to lull.

There are also some exercises that will directly improve your brain function, especially those that require strong hand-eye coordination and strong complex motor skills. Also, exercises that involve both the use of your arms and legs are especially good at reducing long-term stress as they make you more comfortable with your physical limits and allow you greater control over your responses when confronted with something stressful. Team sports like football, basketball or hockey are all very good for these sorts of things.

8. Treat any health problems properly

There are all sorts of factors that can affect memory- that’s partly why there’s so many ways to improve it. But it can get tricky to identify them all. That why if you are ever concerned about any health issue you may have, especially if you feel as though your memory has recently gotten much worse, you should seek professional medical help.

It’s not just dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that causes your memory to fade: heart disease and some of its symptoms, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure; diabetes; hormone imbalance; medications; depression and many others.

Again, consult a doctor if you are concerned about any of these.

9. Be Practical

A good memory is a consequence of good habits, as we have seen above. And while all the above tips can help improve the scope of your memory, to actually do well on your upcoming exams or improve your organisational skills, you will need to apply these ideas to your work.

-Pay attention. You can’t learn something if you never concentrated on it and so you would never be able to remember it. It takes at least eight seconds of sustained concentration to transfer something to memory, so find a quiet place and pay attention.

-Make use of your senses. It is easy to remember things if they invoke a more familiar and powerful sense. Listen to music, concentrate on what you can smell or taste, the colours you can see, the textures you can feel. Recite it rhythmically to yourself or even read it out loud.

-Focus on the basics first. For complex topics, go through the basic stuff first, rather than choosing singular random facts. Practice explaining it to someone else in your head in a straightforward manner.

-Build on what you already know. By associating new information with things you are already aware of, you can create an understanding far quicker.

-Rehearse information. The more times you remind yourself of information, the more likely it is to stay in your memory. At consistent scheduled times, revise what you have previously worked on. This is a far more effective strategy than cramming just before.

10. Make use of memory tricks

Also known as mnemonics, these memory devices almost trick your brain into remembering things, and are often used in professional memory competitions. But do note that they will often require just as much work as regular studying.

-Visual image. It’s easier to remember a word or idea when you associate it with a picture in your head, especially positive, colourful, three-dimensional images.

-Acrostic. Make up a phrase or sentence in which the first word of each letter represents the thing you want to remember.

-Acronym. If you wish to remember multiple words or ideas, take the first letter of each of those then form a new word and remember that. When recalling the acronym, it should make it easier to remember the associate terms.

-Rhyme/Alliteration. Poems and songs are easier to remember than regular text as they maintain an expected rhythm. Jokes are also easy to remember for this reason.

-Chunking. Chunking it likely the way you remember your phone number- by breaking large strings of information into more digestible parts. For example, to remember the phone number 0775854961, you may think of it as 0775 854 961 instead.

-Method of loci. Imagine a route that is really familiar to you, say from home to school. Then along the way place odd objects that represent the things you want to remember. When you want to recall, go through the journey in your head, and recall the odd objects and what they represent.