Reading time: 3 – 4 minutes
Every year in March, Brain Awareness Week (BAW) unites the efforts of partner organizations worldwide in a celebration of the brain for people of all ages. We’ve been celebrating it since 2011 and this year, wanted to highlight some practical tips for minding your memory.
BAW was founded and is coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and European Dana Alliance for the Brain. Based on what brain science tells us about memory, there are a number of simple strategies that everyone can use to improve the ability to learn and remember new things.
Everything begins as sensory input from our environment. We have a mechanism to filter out and discard irrelevant or background data, such as the feel of the carpet as we walk or the sound of the air conditioner. To establish a more durable memory, we need to prevent incoming information from being discarded. The use of strategies plays a critical role in structuring input to help it move into long-term memory in a meaningful and memorable format.
10 tips to mind your memory
- Pay attention: engage your brain and live in the moment. Actively attend to what you’re trying to learn. This can be hard, so don’t give up! Overriding the distraction reflex takes intentionality and practice.
- Stay focused: concentrate on what you’re doing. Reduce distractions and interruptions to help stay centered. If you’re working on your computer, close your email and/or social media clients. Turn off the radio or TV.
- Repeat it: as children, we learn by repetition. This also works as an adult. Repetition increases the strength of relevant connections in your brain and enhances a process called consolidation, whereby memories are moved from temporary storage in the hippocampus to more permanent storage in the cortex.
- Write it down: writing down important things is useful for two reasons: (1) it is another way to repeat the information, and (2) it provides a visual reminder.
- Make associations: relate new information to things you already know. This uses existing synaptic connections in the brain to learn something new.
- Stay organized: keep things you regularly use in the same place. The hard part — especially when we’re busy — is always returning items to their place.
- Plan and prioritize: the human brain isn’t meant to multitask. Planning our time and prioritizing activities is critical. No one can “do it all” — let yourself off the hook, reduce stress and regain control over your time and your life.
For more information, see Brain Awareness Week: Staying Sharp.