Of all the tools in a student’s mental toolbox, memory is one of the most used… and least considered for improvement. Think about it. You’re working to to develop solid study habits and techniques so you can learn. Where does everything you learn get stored? Your memory! You can improve this all-important mental capacity with a few techniques we’ve outlined here.
#1 Turn off the Music
If you’re like me, you enjoy turning on music when you study. As much fun as music is, studies have shown that playing any kind of music – whether you enjoy or hate it – actually decreases your ability to focus and memorize.
Science has shown that music has the same effect as any other type of noise. While complete silence will probably seem strange at first, you will be rewarded by a better memory.
Just think you can’t do without music when you study? We get it. If that’s the case, make it instrumental only and keep the volume down. Lyrics actually pull your mental capacity towards active listening when songs play, decreasing your focus on the reading or writing you may be working on.
Don’t skip music in your life just because you don’t listen while studying. Music you enjoy enhances your mood, making mental processes more effective. Listening to music can be a real mood and energy boost before hitting the books.
#2 Exercise a Little
You don’t need to become an Olympian to realize memory benefits from exercise. If you find your concentration dwindling or if a knotty problem is foiling your solutions, try going for a short jog or walk. The time away from your computer will give your brain the chance to subconsciously process everything you’ve learned, and the blood flow will encourage greater thinking abilities.
Even better, though, this exercise will improve your ability to remember what you learn both before and after the exercise. If you maintain regular exercise for six months or more, studies have shown an additional boost in brain power.
#3 Make a Fist
This one seems a little strange, but science has found that squeezing your right fist for 45 seconds or more will improve your ability to remember the material you study just afterward. When it comes time to recall these memories, make a fist with your left hand to improve your recall.
If you’re left-handed, this fist trick will still work, but you’ll need to reverse hands: squeeze your left when studying and your right when remembering.
#4 Write in Longhand
If you’re like most of our generation, you probably can’t read your own handwriting and take all your notes on a computer or tablet. That’s all very well for notes you want to review in the future, but longhand notes are actually more effective for long-term memory.
Even if you never read those notes again in the future, the act of hand writing your notes will help commit much of it to memory.
#5 Chew Gum
While this one doesn’t necessarily directly improve memory, chewing gum helps maintain your focus for longer periods of time. If you’re starting to get tired of studying or are feeling easily distracted, chewing a stick of gum will help you focus longer and more effectively.
Interestingly though, study participants who did not chew gum performed better at the beginning of a task. You may want to postpone your gum until you start feeling distraction setting in.
#6 Sleep on it
Pulling an all-nighter sounds like it must require impressive dedication to learning. While it certainly does require dedication, studying instead of sleeping is actually one of the worst injuries you can do to your memory.
Try to study more effectively instead of just more by sleeping when you start to feel tired. Even just taking a short 20 minute nap in the middle of the afternoon can improve your memory abilities for the rest of the afternoon.
#7 Doodle in Class
Spending important class time simply drawing sounds like a terrible idea, but it actually might improve your memory of the class.
While you will definitely want to make notes your top priority, doodling in the boring parts of class will make those parts less mind-numbing. By engaging your brain in drawing, you will actually also engage your mind in class.
#8 Make Time for Social Events
The top students are the ones who spend all their time locked in the library with their nose in a book, right? Actually, not so much.
While solitary study is key to success in college, social interaction is too. Taking the time to invest in others improves your brain health which boosts your immediate memory and concentration while also building your long-term health.
Don’t just save these memory tips for your schoolwork. Give some of them a try to manage your day-to-day activities, too. Good luck strengthening your all-important memory!