It’s frustrating trying to study when you can’t remember what you spent hours trying to learn the day before. Sadly, this is a common phenomenon. Research suggests that you can only hold around 7 things in your short-term memory for just 20-30 seconds. If you’re trying to improve your short term memory to improve your study, there are a few memory techniques you can try. But first, let’s take a look what causes forgetfulness.
What causes lack of concentration and forgetfulness?
Short term memories are stored in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. This area consolidates short term information into long term memory. This can decline with age in older adults, especially those 80+, while damage to the hippocampus can cause amnesia.
If you haven’t undergone any trauma and you’re below 80, memory problems are likely to be less of a struggle. Expert in human memory Elizabeth Loftus, discusses failure to retrieve the information as a reason for memory loss. For example, if a memory is rarely accessed or recalled, it’s likely to disappear over time. When applying this to your revision, a simple way to combat this is to regularly revisit your notes so the short term memories don’t vanish.
Loftus states interference is another common cause for memory loss. This is when a new memory replaces a memory in your mind, causing you to get two different things confused. If you find this is the case for you, try not to digest too much information in one go.
Finally, sleep deprivation plays a role in memory loss according to WebMD. This is because sleep is essential to consolidate a memory so that it can be recalled later on. Therefore, it’s important to schedule in enough shut-eye every night.
How to improve short term memory and concentration
As well as scheduling in enough sleep, there are several habits you can adapt to improve your memory and even your mental health. One of which is to regularly challenge your brain. Tasks such as problem solving or learning a new skill will stimulate your brain, consequently helping you recall information quickly. As well as that, ensure you avoid stress as much as possible. This is because chronic stress can lead to damage of the hippocampus and increase memory loss.
The 5 best memory techniques
If you need fast memory techniques while studying, there are a few different methods you can try:
1. Test yourself
Even if you don’t have an upcoming exam, it’s helpful to test your knowledge on the subject you are trying to memorise. An experiment revealed that students who were tested on a certain subject has a better long term recall than those who weren’t tested. So, get a friend to quiz you on what you’ve learnt.
As we can only store 7 items in our short-term memory, this technique involves grouping items into smaller chunks. For example, if you were trying to memorise a phone number, the chunking technique would consist of splitting the number into 3 memorable sections – instead of trying to relay every individual number.
3. Employ mnemonics
These are clues that will help trigger the memory in your mind. For example, they could be visual, which involves associating an image with the information. Or creating an acronym using all the first letters of the words you are trying to retain. Another helpful mnemonic is turning the information into a rhyme.
4. Rehearse information
This technique involves simply reviewing what you’ve learnt at regular intervals. You may find repeating this information out loud helps you retain it. For example, if you were memorising a phone number, repeating it several times makes it more likely to stick in your head on a short-term basis.
5. Method of loci
Also known as the memory palace method, this involves creating a mental memory palace, this can be using your home or a building you know well. You then picture the elements you’d like to remember in different rooms you come across on your route. For example, if you’re trying to memorise a shopping list, you might link bread with your front door and eggs with your TV. Normally when you arrive at a shop, it’s difficult to remember what you need. Instead, simply picture yourself walking into your home and you’ll begin to remember the items you matched up with the items in your home you know so well.
Which foods increase memory power?
According to Healthline, foods which are rich in omega-3 are great for brain health. This is because the fatty acid of omega-3 is used to build brain and nerve cells. Therefore stock up on fish to sharpen your memory.
Seed and nuts are also great for improving brain function and preventing heart disease, due to the healthy fats and antioxidants. Research has shown that several participants who ate nuts over several years had a sharper memory than those who didn’t.
What is the best vitamin for memory?
There are two memory boosting vitamins which are commonly referred to, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin E. With B-12, research shows that the vitamin can slow the decline of Alzheimer’s when taken with omega-3 fatty acids. A 2014 study on Vitamin E – found in nuts and seeds – showed that it can help prevent and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s when taken in high amounts.
We hope this helps you improve your memory and ace your revision! For more tips & tricks you may find these other blog posts helpful.