Two young girls playing chess

Memory – What is it & How to improve it?

What is Memory?

Light bulb in a bubble

Memory is widely understood to be defined as the process of learning, storing and retrieving information. There are two overarching types of memory which are then subdivided depending on the kind of stimuli (senses) and how it’s recalled. ‘Temporary’ memories or information that is stored for a short period of time is referred to as short-term memory. Whereas, information that is registered more permanently and longer in the brain is referred to as long-term memory. The difference between the two ways is if information is rehearsed.

Short-term memory is divided into sensory memory; iconic (visual), echoic (auditory) and haptic (touch). Long-term memory is a lot more complex. Spanning from semantic memory (factual information) to episodic memory (recall of specific moments in time). Also it includes explicit/declarative memory (consciously recalling facts and events) and implicit/procedural memory (unconscious use of past experiences on tasks).

Situational Ways to Help Memory

Chunking

How do you keep information in short-term memory? Ironically enough, we shorten it. Reduce what you need to know into small bits and pieces, group these pieces together and then categorise them in a way that is easier for you understand.

Palm Cards

Repetition

Have you already forgotten the definition of memory that was provided? If you were to look at it again periodically over the next couple of days, eventually the information will be transferred from short-term to long-term memory. The memory is then solidified. The use of flashcards, rewriting etc are all examples of repetition.

Mnemonics

Abbreviating words, visualising information into a scene and using rhymes enables information to be retrieved easier as there’s already a starting point there to help you remember.

Less Stress

Ever felt like your head is blank when you’re in an exam? Although small levels of stress can improve encoding and storing information, excessive stress can be detrimental when having to retrieve that information. You can refer to the articles, “What happens if the challenge is too much? Facing overwhelming challenges”, and “Can Stress be GOOD for you” for more information on reducing stress.

Long-term Ways to Help Memory

Young girl playing the rubix cubeStimulate the Brain

The best way to stimulate your brain is to challenge it. Break the normal routine you have by doing something different and stepping out of your comfort zone. Something more short-term can be participating in brain-training activities to stimulate the dormant parts of your brain.

Good Diet

According to research, high levels of saturated fats can lead to detrimental health affects that impact your hippocampus. Ensuring that your cholesterol and blood sugar/pressure is okay, will facilitate in keeping you and your brain healthy. Various studies have also suggested taking added omega-3 as it assists with improving cognition.

Mother and daughter doing yoga

Sleep

Sleep is vital in strengthening and reorganising memory, in order for information to be carried from short to long term. The suggested hours an adult should sleep is between 7-9 hours. Therefore, ensure that you’re getting that quality time so you can retrieve information in a more efficient way.

Exercise

Exercise has been shown to help create a healthy brain due to the increase in oxygen, blood flow etc. Exercising also reduces other factors mentioned such as stress and assists with sleep. The suggested time to exercise is moderately for 150 min a week or intensely for 75 min a week.

 

More Information

Our Psych Up! resources in April are based on ‘Make Your Mind Up’. Thus, make sure to stay tuned for our weekly blog post updates, as well as our podcasts and webinars.

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