Exercising your memory regularly is the key to improving your brain, especially if you want to avoid memory issues later on. But the power of memory varies from one person to another.
What separates people with good memory skills from those who struggle is that they have both a strong working memory (retention of information immediately after learning it) and Lasting memories (remembering information for more than a day after memorizing it).
It is rare to be good at both types, especially without practice. As a neuroscientist in MIT Sloanhere are two simple brain exercises I do every day to strengthen my working memory and long-term memory:
Chunking involves breaking up long, random and complex pieces of information into smaller pieces.
When you see a number like “3-3-2-1-6-7,” for example, you can break it down into “33,” “21, “67.” It also helps to assign those numbers a special meaning: “I’m 33 years old, I wore number 21 in high school football, and my father was born in ’67.”
Chunking is also great for presentations. If you’re nervous about running out of words, make a list of key terms and phrases you need to hit. Then say them out loud a few times to place them in your mind as guideposts.
Brain training: Remember the phone numbers of your nearest and dearest by breaking them down into smaller parts, instead of just relying on your contact list. See how many you can keep.
This method is all about strengthening memory over longer periods of time.
If you want to remember a fact, say it out loud a few times after you learn it. Then do the same thing a few hours later, then the next day, then the next week.
If you feel that information is starting to be forgotten, start the process over.
Brain training: Write your grocery list for the week. Repeat this in your head (for each one, visualize the object in your mind). Then cover the list and practice it out loud. When you go to the store next week, see how many items you can remember.
Any mentally stimulating activity will boost your brain power, but there are three other simple, important steps you can take to stimulate your brain:
Lots of exercise
A study found that cognitive decline was nearly twice as common among inactive adults as compared to those who were active.
For adults, the Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week.
A healthy diet
I always eat a rainbow of plants and vegetables, especially those on the darker end of the spectrum, like kale and eggplants. Even coffee and dark chocolate, in moderation, are good.
All of these contain high levels of polyphenolswhich are powerful nutrients that help guard against cognitive decline.
Clear your headspace
In this busy life, it’s easy to feel information overload. But you can quiet the noise by doing some personal inventory.
Think about what is most important to you. What are the things you remember easily? What are the things you tend to forget?
Once you have those things in mind, you can start making intentional changes.
Dr. Come on Black Bieber is a renowned neuroscientist, medical doctor, and senior lecturer at MIT Sloan. He is the author of “The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain,” and hosts a podcast Reinvent Yourself with Dr. let’s go. He works with leaders to help them achieve mental resilience and peak brain performance. Follow him Twitter and Instagram.
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