10 Tips to Change Your Short-Term Memory into Long-Term Memory
By Dominick Cooper, Director of Launch Academy, Winner of the DaVinci Scholar Award, Nominee for Tulsey’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and University Guest Speaker
Memory is such a crazy, fascinating phenomenon in itself! But it can also be a scumbag. It remembers the minutest of details about what you wore to your prom and every single quote from The Office, yet forgets what y=mx + b means or how the law of supply and demand works.
But what exactly is the difference between short-term and long-term memory? Short-term memory is viewed as a rapidly decaying system and typically doesn’t involve any permanent change in the brain. The long-term memory, however, does appear to be permanent. A permanent change occurs in our brain when we remember things for a long time. The question is – “How do we program ourselves to remember things for a long time?”
1) Take more deliberate breaks
Short-term memory is influenced most heavily by repetition while long-term memory is more passive in nature. By studying something, taking a break, and then going back to studying the same thing, you actually build up long-term memory. Some neurologists refer to this as “Spaced Learning” and it has shown incredible success.
2) Make more goofy connections
So you’re reading that super boring and ridiculously long “wine-food compliment” list for a restaurant waiter test. How do you make this better? Draw pictures! Create a play! What if each wine was a Disney character? By creating these goofy, somewhat nonsensical connections, you’re actually strengthening your mental connections to what it is you’re trying to put into long-term memory. Think of the wine-food list as a city and each new avenue is a new road to it – the more roads you have, the easier and more accessible it is to get there.
3) Create games
Have some fun! Educational psychologists have known for a long time now that emotions are the gateway to learning. Try putting gummy bears randomly on a page and, as you reach a gummy bear, test yourself over what you just read, and then eat it (granted that you got the answer right)! Get some friends together and just have a good time. After all, that’s what friends are for.
4) Develop a mindmap
A mindmap is literally a map of how different concepts connect to each other. Say you’re learning how a certain drug gets absorbed and distributed in the bloodstream. Put what you want to learn in the center of the paper. Then, all around it like little islands, write in the things that you DO know! After you do this, draw bridges from the center to the islands and label how they are connected (there’s no limit to how you make those requirements)! The more bridges you can make, the stronger the connection.
5) Don’t underestimate behaviorism
Reward yourself when you get right! Punish yourself when you get wrong! No, like slap yourself. Ridiculous, yes, but do you want long-term memory or not? Dr. Pavlov showed us how the wonders of behaviorism worked for his dog and the same is principle can work for you! Make a mnemonic way to remember it – tap out a beat as you say a question and its answer. If a word or answer keeps coming up several times, say it different then the others – try a loud, British accent. Remember, it’s only ridiculous if it doesn’t work. Thankfully, it does.
6) Take fish-oil pills
The fatty acid found in fish and seafood can boost memory function by 15 percent! Scientists have done experiments comparing people who had a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and people who did not and found there to be a significant difference. Lead researcher Professor Welma Stonehouse explained that “‘The cognitive functions shown to be affected by the DHA-rich fish oil, namely memory and working memory, are among the most important functions of our brains for numerous everyday activities, such as working, driving, shopping, studying, playing sports, etc.” Fish oil is relatively inexpensive too, which is a fantastic plus given the benefits.
7) Enjoy some Gingko Biloba
Botanicals like Gingko biloba and vinpocetine help promote circulation through the brain. More circulation means your body can get nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to your brain more quickly, thus providing more fuel for more computations. What does this mean to you? It makes your brain more productive, so you’re able to memorize things more easily and efficiently.
8) Eat some carbs before studying or testing
Your brain always has neurons firing. so this means its using a lot of energy! The trouble is that most people don’t realize this and end up starving their brain. Complex carbohydrates are best because they break down slowly, thus allowing for a nice continuous stream of energy to your brain. Simpler carbs like sugar, however, give a quick jolt of energy, thus making for a good treat before a test. Some great complex carbs would be:
- Oatmeal, Brown rice, and whole wheat pasta
- Grapefruits, pears, and apricots
- Spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes
- Soy milk, skim milk, dill pickles, and low-fat yogurt
9) Stay active, even if it’s just walking
study published in Neuroscience magazine, they found that physical activity provided a significant benefit to memory and brain potential. Not only does it release endorphin which makes you feel better, but it also improves your circulation, thus creating easier access to essential vitamins and minerals.
What is the best type of exercise for memory? Exercises that involve balance. So break out the yoga mat and get to increasing your memory power. Or, if you want to take it a step higher, try out some Pilates.
10) Remember to Repeat
The saying goes that you repeat to remember for short-term memory, but you must remember to repeat for long-term memory. What this means is that you must deliberately make it a point to remind yourself to review whatever it is that you’re trying to learn. Set an alarm on your phone for every hour and a half and quiz yourself over the material. Recite as many facts as you can and, if you get stuck, go look it up on the spot! Smartphones make the information very accessible, so there is no excuse. Once you feel comfortable that you can recollect this memory on command, then you can move on to something else to memorize.
Go Ahead and Start Memorizing
These 10 ways are scientifically proven to help your memory capacity and efficiency. However, as with anything to be effective, you must put them into practice. If you find yourself having trouble remembering things from a couple of days ago or longer, try these out and you will be on your way to becoming a long-term memory expert in no time.