How to Improve Your Short-Term Memory: Study Tips to Remember Everything
If you want to improve your short-term memory, look no further for some ways to help you out. Your short-term memory is what allows you to retain a small amount of information for a very short period of time. Do you ever forget why you walked into a room or why you powered on your laptop? Do you have problems remembering a new name after you just met a person? All of these issues deal with your short-term memory. Keeping your short-term memory in check is key to becoming an amazing and successful person. It will allow you to become better in your interpersonal skills, be more productive daily, and stay focused for whatever comes your way. Read more to find out some interesting tips on how to improve your short-term memory!
How Exactly Does Your Short-Term Memory Work?
Your short-term memory is just one of the stages of your memory system, which takes all of the information you receive from the outside world and converts it into memories that will stay in your brain.
The different memory stages are:
- Sensory input – this is where you receive sensory stimuli from the outside world that reaches your PNS (peripheral nervous system). Some examples are: artsy posters and advertisements you see on walls, a new person you might meet, the words in the biology textbook that you’re reading.
- Sensory registers – these external stimuli travel in the form of neurons inside of your brain, either registering the information or forgetting it. This lasts for about half of a second.
- Short-Term Memory – the stimuli that are registered get placed here. Your short-term memory acts as a filter and temporary holding tank, where the information either gets filtered to move further in the system or gets forgotten. This stage lasts for only 2-3 minutes.
- Long-Term Memory – Once information successfully passes the short-term memory, it gets stored in the long-term memory, where it can stay in your brain for near eternity. These memories are long-lasting, and if you keep thinking of them, they could stay in your mind permanently.
The information in your short-term memory quickly disappears unless you make a point to remember it. An example of this is when a friend or an acquaintance of yours gives you his or her phone number and you try to repeat it over and over again until you can jot it down or add it to your phone contact list. Researchers have found that your brain can only store four pieces of information in your short-term memory at a time, so it’s not wise to try to remember a large amount of new information all at once.
Your short-term memory also acts as a filter by processing information that’s beneficial to you and throwing away useless material. This ability to discard information is important because it keeps your brain from becoming overwhelmed, and you really don’t need to remember every single thing that has ever happened to you.
Here are some tips to help you improve your short-term memory:
10 Tips for How You Can Improve Your Short-Term Memory:
Tip #1: Try Chunking
Chunking is a great technique to make things easy to remember in your short-term memory. With chunking, you can separate data into smaller blocks, such as hyphenating phone numbers or grouping letters and words into units of three. This method can be used to commit items to memory by repeating the blocks over and over again, or by writing down the chunks repetitively.
Tip #2: Use Mneumonic Devices
Mneumonic devices make it easy to remember a host of seemingly unrelated data, especially if you are being exposed to the material for the very first time. It works by evoking unusually vivid mental imagery and emotions inside of you, thereby giving the dry data some meaning.
Simple mneumonics can be acronyms or rhymes that we were taught since we were children and are used daily. You probably remember being in the third grade, and while learning about the different orders of operation, you were taught: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction).
Mneumonic devices are an excellent habit to form, whether you are battling against aging memory loss or you just want become a super-genius in school! You will be able to quickly memorize long lists of items, tasks, or important facts and then recall them from your short-term memory with ease.
Tip #3: Try Brain Training Techniques
It’s important to keep your brain sharp as a tack as you continue to age. A great way to improve your short-term memory is by engaging in brain-training exercises. Simple brain games include crosswords and jigsaw puzzles, reading mysteries and science-fiction stories, writing more, and even playing card games. These methods have been proven to delay the onset of dementia by preventing your mental juices from stagnating.
Also, CogniFit offers their own brain training programs that could help you improve your short-term memory, as well as a variety of other cognitive skills. They bring a wide range of simple and scientifically-proven memory games designed for anyone to participate. By practicing the exercises daily, you can definitely sharpen your short-term memory skills.
Tip #4 Make Sure You Take Your Vitamins
In some instances, memory loss can be attributed to a nutritional deficiency in your diet. Health experts recommend that everyone should eat more nutrient-rich foods or use specific vitamin supplements to restore that balance. These vitamins are supposed to provide the brain with all the nutrients it needs to function properly, including the way it develops and restores memories. Some vitamins that will help you improve your short-term memory are:
- B Vitamins – these include Vitamins B6, B12, and B9 (Folic Acid). Studies have found these to improve memory and other mental processes, like verbal skills and the speed at which you process new information. There is evidence that B vitamins help to reduce depression levels, which can be a major cause for memory loss.
- Antioxidant Vitamins – including Vitamin C, E, and Beta Carotene. These vitamins break down free radicals, which are toxic oxygen molecules in the blood, thereby protecting your brain tissue. They also help the brain recover from age-related loss of cognitive functioning, such as learning new skills and memory retrieval.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – these are fat molecules (mostly found in cold water fish like salmon and tuna) that are known to improve working memory and increase brain function. They are also known as “good fats” that protect the brain against inflammation and reduce high cholesterol.
Tip #5 Do One Thing at a Time
Try to focus on the specific task you have to do by not worrying about the plethora of other things you need to get done. Because many of us are always so busy, we often focus on what needs to be done in the future rather than keeping our minds hammered in the present. This will definitely help improve your short-term memory because you will be able to retain more information about what is going on around you, since your mind is focused on the present and on nothing else. Although most people don’t realize it, this will also help to improve your productivity skills. Because your mind is fully engaged in the activity you are currently performing, you will put all of your effort into it and you will use all of your energy to make sure your final result is the best you can do!
This technique, known as mindfulness, often plays a huge role in shaping your brain’s physical shape and its functional development. For more information, check out this article about How Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain
Tip #6 Avoid Distractions
If you are trying to study for your extremely tough history exam on the French Revolution that’s tomorrow, but you’re also stuck babysitting your little brother and his friends, then you know how difficult it is to retain information inside your head. In order to improve your short-term memory, it is extremely important that you avoid distractions. Since your short-term memory lasts for only 2-3 minutes, if distractions keep bombarding you, then they will override the information that you are trying to commit to memory. This will make it hard to study and remember facts, and it also reduces your productivity levels because you will have to continually repeat the same material over and over again, to no avail.
Tip #7 Say Things Out Loud
If you have a fact, a name, or a phone number that you want to learn, repeat it over and over again out loud. This will help it stay inside your memory because not only are you thinking about it, but your mouth is uttering the words, and your ears are hearing the sounds from your lips. This means that you have multiple sensory registers picking up the same material all at once, which makes it much easier for your short-term memory to remember.
Tip #8 Write Things Down
If you would like to remember new material, a good trick is to write it down. An example of this is taking notes while reading your chemistry textbook or writing down grocery lists of items you need to buy. Writing is an act that requires full concentration, and it engages your mind, your hands, and your sight. With the multiple sensory registers working together, you can’t go wrong in memorizing the material!
Also, studies have shown that writing down material is actually more powerful than typing it on a keyboard. This is because with writing, you are forced to copy down each word, letter by letter, whereas with typing, you are just tapping a series of buttons. A new saying goes, “The pen is mightier than the keyboard!”
Tip #9 Take Walks
There are a ton of benefits of exercise on the brain and brain activity. Walking outside, especially in nature settings, will improve your short-term memory by giving your mind a chance to rest and breathe away the stresses of everyday life. Even if you cannot walk outside, try spending a few minutes by the windows nearby by, or walk up and down your office or workroom. Studies show that your brain works best in 30-minute increments, so usually after a half-hour, your brain juices start to power down. Walking or taking a few minutes of break time away from your work will help to re-power your brain so that you end up remembering more important information rather than trying to consume everything all at once.
Tip #10 Get an Adequate Amount of Sleep
Getting enough rest at night is extremely important for improving your short-term memory and your overall brain health. Researches suggest that everyone should be sleeping for about 7-9 hours, as this will allow your brain and your body to rest and recharge itself.
While sleeping, your brain filters all the material it has consumed during the day time, deciding what is important to keep for future use and what can be thrown away as unimportant. Sigmund Freud believes that this is why we tend to have wacky dreams at night relating to random stimuli we received during the day – because our minds are processing out all of the useless material in the forms of strange dreams. For more information on this sensory processing, check out The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.
Radiyyah is an undergraduate student at Macaulay Honors College and Queens College. She is currently pursuing a double Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Neuroscience with a minor in Sociology. Radiyyah is passionate about all fields relating to the brain and social psychology and she hopes to continue her career in Neuropsychology research.