Memory Hacks – Part 2

A Balanced Blend 

This Part two of our Memory Hacks post.  These 8 hacks are simple ideas that will result in big results .  It can be difficult to strike a physical, spiritual and mental balance so pick a couple of things from the following list and try implementing them into you routine for a couple of weeks and note the change you experience.


Learn Your Environment

The other thing that the brain needs to improve its functions is a suitable environment. In information science, there is something referred to as the context of information need, which is in Wilson’s 1999 information behavior model. In the model, Wilson states that the context, which is the background or set up that forms something informs the kind of information that we look for. The context is made up of the roles we take up in organizations and society at large and the environment or society that we must execute those roles. So, the question is what is the set up for your brain? What kind of information are you finding yourself looking for? Have you ever asked yourself why you were looking for such information and what could have influenced you?

Our environment shapes our thoughts. It is important that you be in an environment that promotes your brain to function positively. So how true could this be? Psychologists have explained the role that the environment plays during early brain development. If a child grows up in an environment of abuse or neglect, the same factors will contribute to their future functioning and development. Your brain is like a child; expose it to the right conditions so that it can serve you well and positively. The other thing about the environment and cognitive functions is that learning is improved when what is learned can be applied or connected to the learner’s surroundings.

2. Do Something New

Engaging in new activities can also boost how your brain works. One of the key elements in engaging in activities is to ensure that you take that activity seriously and it must be interesting and meaningful to you. In other words, engage in an activity that needs your attention. Such activities have been found to counter stress-related diseases, stimulate the neurological system, and reduce the chances of dementia.

Several studies have revealed that craft activities decrease a person’s chances of having cognitive impairment while another study has also revealed that when an individual engages in activities that demand cognitive involvement then memory functions are improved. Such activities include digital photography and quilting. The principle here is to find an activity that stimulates you mentally.

It should be an activity that you give undivided attention and gain satisfaction from it. It should be something that you have an appetite for; for instance, gardening, cooking, or playing a musical instrument. It is also important to do something that requires hand-eye coordination. Do you know what happens to jugglers? Their grey matter increases when they juggle and when they stop, it disappears. In short, when you stop learning new things, your mind starts dying. Well, that is a good reason why learning should never cease.

3. Beauty Sleep

Researchers from Harvard conducted a study whose results have shown that people are able to get the connection between ideas that are distantly related after having a good night’s sleep. Sleep also enhances one’s memories and helps you improve your performance in any challenge or skill. An important terminology when it comes to sleep and your brain’s capacity is neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the process by which the brain grows, and it is also the same process that controls behavior. The process occurs when your brain neurons get stimulation from events or information. Sleep or lack of it can interfere with this process since sleep modifies how some genes and their products express themselves and these genes are also important for the brain growth process.

Do you now understand why babies are also expected to take naps? This is because research has proven a connection between naps and brainpower. Even as an adult, you do feel refreshed after taking a nap not just physically but also mentally. Try to at least get eight hours of sleep and if you are exhausted during the day, a thirty-minute nap should do. Also, to ensure that you have uniform sleeping patterns.

That is trying to go to sleep and to wake up at the same time every day including weekends to avoid confusing your brain. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

4. Music

Music is the rhythm that we produce to make sense of life. The thing about music is that it affects the body, mind, and soul. I am sure one question bothering you now is how music affects the brain. Let us look at that shortly. When you listen to music, it is then processed in the different parts of the brain. Corpus callosum– This is the part of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres.

The motor cortex– This is the part of the brain that is responsible for movement, foot tapping, dancing and playing an instrument.

Prefrontal cortex– This is the part that creates expectations and violations and satisfaction of the same expectations. Nucleus accumbent– This oversees emotional reactions to music.Amygdala– This does the same functions as the Nucleus accumbens. Sensory cortex– This is what gives tactile feedback after dancing and playing of an instrument.

Auditory cortex– This oversees the first stages of listening to sounds. It checks the perception and analyzes the tones. Hippocampus– This deals with memory for music, musical experiences, and contexts.

Visual cortex– This deals with reading music, looking at a performance movement or one owns movements.

Cerebellum– This oversees movements such as foot tapping, dancing and playing an instrument. It is also involved in the emotional reactions to music. Now you know why you react to music the way that you do. It is because you are using your brain but as I said before, different types of music affect the brain differently so let us find out what is responsible for how your brain functions.

Happy and Sad Music Did you know that you could tell when a piece of music is sad or happy? This is because our brains respond differently to happy or sad music. The length of the music does not matter; whether long or short, the effect is still the same. When it comes to music, there are two interesting emotions; perceived emotions and felt emotions. What this simply means is that we can comprehend the emotions in a song without feeling those exact feelings. This can be used to explain why some people find sad music as enjoyable instead of depressing or sad. This is because unlike in real life, there is no real threat that we deal with in the songs thus perceiving the emotions related to the song without feeling them.

Noise That Feeds Creativity Have you ever noticed how you love to increase the volume and the tunes when you are doing something creative? Aha, it is because when it comes to pumping your veins in creating something, loud music is the best. Moderate noise levels are the hot spot for creativity because they get your creative juices flowing. The way it works is that the moderate noise levels make it hard for you to process things and instead your brain tries to bail you out by bringing in abstract processing which leads to higher levels of creativity. This simply means that if you struggle to process things as you normally do, you resort to a creative approach. High noise levels are not only bad for the eardrums but also impairs creative thinking. It instead overwhelms you and makes you struggle to process information efficiently.

Music Predicts Personality According to a study conducted at Heriot-Watt University, different genres of music influence our personality. In summary, music can influence who you become. Come to think of it; music is made of thoughts too and whatsoever a man thinks, so he becomes. Let us see what you can become. Blues- high self-esteem, creative, gentle, at ease and outgoing Jazz- high self-esteem, creative, at ease and outgoing Classical music- high self-esteem, at ease, creative and introverted Rap- high self-esteem and outgoing Opera- high self-esteem, gentle and creative Country- outgoing and hardworking Reggae- high self-esteem, creative, gentle, at ease, not hardworking Dance- outgoing, creative and not gentle Indie- low self-esteem, not gentle, not hardworking but creative Bollywood- outgoing and creative Rock/heavy metal- low self-esteem, not outgoing, not hardworking but are creative, gentle and at ease. Pop- high self-esteem, hardworking, gentle, outgoing but lack creativity and are not at ease. Soul- high self-esteem, creative, gentle, outgoing and at ease. So according to the results of the above study, you should really be careful what you listen to.

Music for Motor and Reasoning Skills It is quite common to assume that only smart children can play instruments, but did you know that what can lead to a kid being smarter is them learning how to play an instrument? One study that was conducted showed that children who had trained for three years or more in playing a musical instrument performed better than their counterparts in class who didn’t. So how does this happen? Remember what we said about learning something new that required hand and eye coordination and how it increased grey matter. Well, the same formula applies here because the child chose an activity that requires them to hold their attention and that improves their cognitive abilities. Music is also good for visual attention. A study conducted on stroke patients showed that their visual attention improved while they listened to classical music. Let us look at the motor part of things. The right kind of music sharpens your focus and locks out the distractions thus music is good for exercise. How do you think you don’t get to concentrate on being tired during aerobics? Well, it is because the music takes over and that is why they say let the music take control. In 1911, Leonard Ayres, an American researcher discovered that cyclists pedaled faster whenever they listened to music as compared to when they didn’t. This is simply because music drowns the body’s cries of fatigue. Music and fatigue compete and finally, music always wins. This is because the mind will be focused on the sound instead of what the other parts of the body are doing. Additionally, music pushes the body to exercise longer and better and it helps us to use the energy in our bodies efficiently. In 2012, a study was done, and the results showed that cyclists who listened to music while cycling used 7% less oxygen as compared to their counterparts who did not listen to music while cycling.

Mozart Effect You did not expect me to end the very long chapter in music without mentioning Mozart, did you? Classical music affects the brain’s department of organization and ability via melody and rhythm. The rhythm is responsible for increasing the level of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter that transmits nerve impulses associated with joy and happiness. It is said that if you want to get smarter, listen to a Mozart playlist.

5. Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices refer to tools that help you remember information. These devices provide an easy way of organizing information in a format that is easy to remember. There are six methods through which you can master your information or concepts via mnemonics. Visualizing: Give a word or name an image so that you will be able to remember that word. For instance, if you want to remember Abraham Lincoln then a tall black hat should do. Therefore, always try of giving everything you want to remember an image, and you will literally never forget anything. Acoustic: Here you simply make up a sentence in which every first letter of every word stands for or is an initial of what you want to remember. For instance, if you want to remember the colors of the rainbow in order then simply say Richard Of York Gave Birth in Vain standing for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. Acronym: This is almost like acoustic but in this case, you take up the first letter of the ideas or keywords you want to recall and create a new word, for instance, BGDC for big girls don’t cry. Rhymes and alliteration: Rhyming and alliteration refer to repeating a syllable or a sound to remember facts and figures. The best example of a rhyme is the one you were taught as a child to recall the days each month has, “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November”. Chunking: This is breaking a list of long numbers or information into smaller chunks that can be recalled easily and fast. For instance, a telephone number can be broken into three sets instead of mastering the whole number as it is. If a telephone number is something like 3243454567, you can break it down to something like this 324-345-4567. Loci: When using this method to recall thins, you simply place the things you want to remember on the path that you are familiar with in a building or room. For instance, if you want to remember to buy some groceries later, place an empty salad bowl on the kitchen table.

6. No Multi-tasking

When someone says that they can multitask, we consider them as superheroes because they can get so many things done unlike some of us who focus on one thing at a time. Question is, have you ever wondered why a jack-of-all-trades is never taken seriously? Switching between activities does not sharpen the brain and instead confuses it. A single-minded person can achieve more because they have chosen an activity, which holds their attention. Multitasking puts you in a state of involuntary go-slows and it also means that you are likely to make many mistakes and even forget other things that you are supposed to do. Did you know that you only need eight seconds to commit a piece of information into your memory? Now think of it this way; in eight seconds, you can commit a big blunder while carrying your groceries, speaking on the phone and trying to open your car. It is either you put down the groceries, have difficulties opening the car door or you end the telephone conversation. In short, you are forcing your brain to function the wrong way. To beat multitasking, you must be mindful. Mindfulness helps you concentrate. If you find yourself in a situation where you are doing five things at ago, you need to stop. Prioritize your tasks and focus on them one by one. Give your brain space to launch quality instead of quantity.

7. Turn off the Television/Passive Internet 

Yes, if you want to improve how your brain works, you need to put down the remote control. So why do you need to turn off the television?

  • When you turn off the television, you add yourself four hours of the day every day. Television eats up the time you could be doing something creative or constructive. When you become a potato couch, you deny your brain to feed on what is right.
  • Television brings about stress: Time goes so fast when you are in front of that screen and before you know it, you must do everything so fast. You start feeling overwhelmed and you will have to multitask.
  • Too much television is a contributing factor to obesity: Most of us love to eat or snack when watching TV and because we are not exercising, we add on weight.
  • Television does not make you humorous: When you watch too much TV, you tend to become one. Your conversations become about soap operas and sitcoms while people are talking about global warming and green energy. You lose touch with reality. Try to spend time with friends and volunteer somewhere to activate your brain cells.
  • Television kills relationships: With TV, you are cut off from everyone and you are a passive participant. Your brain needs activities where you are participating actively like cooking, baking, playing or singing. You can also indulge in such activities within a group and meet new people and build networks.
  • Television makes you miss new opportunities: Do you remember what we said about new experiences and what they do to the brain? Your brain loves a challenge and the only way to get that is by being out there, meeting people, and reading what is interesting. TV does not offer anything new apart from the same script but different cast. Your mind is not a dustbin to take in recycled stuff. Just as your stomach wants fresh food so does your brain.
  • The television can really brainwash you: My friend usually tells me that it is quite funny when you are busy watching television (lazy in the house), the people who are on TV are at work. Question is, does your brain go to work?

I am not saying that television is the devil. Basically, watch it in moderation. There are channels that are quite good for your brain. Call them boring but they make you smarter. *National Geographic Channel *The Discovery Channel *The History Channel Watch what constructs you and not what destructs you.

8. Simple Changes

For your brain to become fitter, then it all depends on how many times and ways that you use it. Some of the hacks are not so complicated; they are all so simple. Make use of the other hand: You are so used to your dominant hand, it’s about time you tested the other hand. What is the result? Your brain rethinks itself and does some bit of reorganization. Lists are only for back up: Do not become totally reliant on lists. Try using your brain to remember things that you should do or buy and let the list come in only when you cannot truly recall what else it is that you had to do. Learn a new phone number: The brain loves challenges and what better way to feed that appetite than learning a new phone number every day. This is a great memory skill. Did you know that your brain becomes sharper if you tell stories? Tell a story each day and try to find ways to make it interesting. You will not only be interesting but also smart at the same time. Find something to observe daily: It can be a person, an animal, or a vehicle. Simply give your brain a chance to think. Make it a routine and always have something to think about every day. Do not dwell on the same subject.

Use a different route: Just as we said about shifting hands, you can also change your route home or to the mall. This helps the brain in terms of spatial memory. This is the same as breaking a routine. Do not always wake up on the right side of the bed; try the left side. Take tea instead of coffee. Feed your brain on new experiences. Solve problems: Pretend that you are a businessperson. Try to write a business plan. The next day, become a fashion designer who must put a fashion show for their summer collection. In short, let your brain chew on something. Read a book on something different: Read about money, coding, India, and anything else. Do not just entertain your brain; inform it i.e. give it information that forms it.

Tricks To Make Your Memory And Thinking Sharper The following techniques have been tried and tested. They sharpen your information retaining skills and make you sharper i.e. your mind becomes alert.

Repetition If you want to improve your thinking and memory, then repeat. The brain responds positively to repetition thus building stronger memories. Ever asked yourself how you know the lyrics to a song. It is because the song is always played on the radio and your brain masters it. One way of repeating information is by taking notes. You read something from a book and write it down.

Organize yourself Always plan your activities prior to doing them. Always write down what you would like to remember. Putting things down is a great reinforcement for learning. You can also use your smartphone’s journal to do this.

Visualize ideas and concepts If you want to master things or names quickly, then give them an image that is closely associated with them. For instance, if you meet a guy named Peter, you can associate the name Peter with a rock since Peter means rock.

Cue If you experience any difficulty in recalling information, you can try setting a cue to help you remember. A cue could be anything that jogs your memory to understand something. For instance, you could remember a number like 0704 as of July 4th. Have a cue so that your memory is easily jogged. For instance, put up an alarm to remind you of a certain activity.

Group It is easier to remember things that are in a group than to separate them individually. This is a strategy that takes advantage of organization and chunks up information for those who have a short-term memory to be able to recall it even after long periods of time have passed.

All In A Nutshell Well, those are the thirteen things you can do to improve your memory and how your brain works but I would like to give a very short summary on how you can go about it. Pay attention: It only takes eight seconds for your brain to encode any piece of information into its system. Do not be the kind of person who is easily distracted. If possible, involve all your senses: The environment around you is taken in by your senses. Ensure that what you learn and want to retain can be felt by almost all the senses so that it is easily imprinted in your brain. If you are a visual person, then read it out loud so that your ears can recall the words. Move from the known to the unknown: Relate the information you have at hand with something that is already familiar to you. This sort of connection makes it easier for you to recall the information whenever the need arises. Go with the basics: If you are dealing with complex ideas, then it is better to understand the basic ideas first instead of cramming. Rehearse what you have already learned: It is important that you review what you have learned the same day you learn it. Do this in intervals. It is a better way of retaining things than cramming. Cramming crumps up the brain where every piece of information is fighting for space to be retained and some information just drops off in the fight since they were not accorded proper attention.

Final Thought

Nobody is born smart or dumb. All the chaos starts the moment we develop our cognitive abilities as children. Therefore, you can do wonders by simply executing the above 13 simple techniques. For your brain to perform better, eat well, get enough rest, inform your brain, shut out the noise and give your brain new experiences that it can grow from. Go ahead and become a genius because the sky should never be a limit when you can go up to the Milky Way!

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