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How to Sharper my Memory? A mental workout?
January 21, 2013 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Ok, HiveMind, I want to sharper my memory. What have you tried/implemented with success? I decided to pick up Sudoku again, but, what else is good for a mental workout and more focused on memory strengthening?

I have heard of the 7 Sins of Memory, and Moonwalking with Einstein. Although, I am not sure if either give tips per se on strengthening your memory. I am going to look at my diet- so if you have tips on that as well- great. I have also heard of a game called Brain Age and seen ads for a site called Luminosity- are either of those actually helpful? What other tips do you have? ?? There is a store at the mall called Marbles: The Brain Store- anything good there?
posted by TRUELOTUS to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I use a free website called Memrise both to sort of give my memory a workout but also just to learn some things that I've never really committed to memory. So I learned/memorized all the Canadian and US capitals and all the European capitals and am working on the ones in the rest of the world. The thing I like about this site is that there is a practice period and then once you should know them you need to sort of "water" the memory plants every so often (they use a pants metaphor that you either like or hate but it's pretty understandable) so you can go back and practice and it guides you through it. A lot of people use it for language learning but I find it helpful to do little practice stuff regularly. A lot of the exercises are less than five minutes.
posted by jessamyn at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2013 [8 favorites]

I did the Luminosity free trial and it was fun -- not sure if it was especially effective.

I did a bunch of Khan Academy math practice problems (reviewing for this semester over break) and that seemed to sharpen my mind/memory more than anything. Might not be helpful if you hate math though...
posted by DoubleLune at 1:59 PM on January 21, 2013

Most of the "memory improvement" stuff out there is utter bunk. Taking care of your brain isn't rocket science. Treat your body well. Take a multivitamin, eat a balanced diet with plenty of good (monounsaturated) fat and protein, pursue an active lifestyle. Push yourself to experience new things. Expose yourself to new ideas. Seek out meaningful social interactions on a daily basis. Read voraciously, and not just in your areas of interest -- read stuff that challenges your most cherished notions and strongly-held beliefs.
posted by killdevil at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

What specifically do you want to strengthen about your memory? There are ancient techniques for memorizing a long speech, but they won't help you remember where you put your keys.

In generally you will strengthen your memory of things if you pay full attention to them, rather then multitasking. Alternately, you can develop techniques to finesse your crumbling memory, such as always putting your keys in a particular bowl.

What do you want to do? Oh, sorry, I forgot I already asked that.
posted by musofire at 2:15 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have tried all those brain teaser/memory strengthening sites and the one thing that has actually made a difference is really just getting enough sleep.
posted by elizardbits at 2:18 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, I had success with neurofeedback, I just do not have the funds to continue. But, I noticed the I was processing faster.
posted by TRUELOTUS at 2:33 PM on January 21, 2013

All that I've read and experienced points to basic good nutrition, good rest, good exercise making the most practical improvement. Practice of some kind seems to be a well thought of, seriously enter into learning a new language, lots of regular memorization practice there.

Sudoku maybe not so much, I use it sometimes on the morning commute as a method of "estimating" my current alertness level, I do it in ink and if I finish without a mistake it's a good indicator that I've got enough sleep, if I make a blatant error right away I try to avid accessing some parts of the system (just hate it when I drop an online table.. ; -)
posted by sammyo at 2:46 PM on January 21, 2013

One thing that helped me, besides the sleep as elizardbits points out, was when I stopped relying on other means. When I stopped writing to do lists on my phone, when I stopped sending emails to myself, when I stopped taking notes and just started to listen, to be in the moment and process the information then and there. While I have had a admin keep both a professional and personal calendar (in conjunction with my ex who insisted on it), I never referred to it because I asked to be told of every event orally.

I think you just need to exercise your memory/brain like any muscle. For things like remembering where you put your glasses, just put them in the same place every time and you will look like you remember.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:49 PM on January 21, 2013

Yes, read Moonwalking with Einstein. It's not a how-to manual, but it definitely talks about specific memory techniques that you can run with or explore further. I now use the Memory Palace technique for my grocery list instead of writing it down (because it's fun). However, I still lose my cell phone all the time. These are memorization techniques; they won't help you remember where you put your cell phone or what someone said to you when you weren't paying attention.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:35 PM on January 21, 2013

Do you know how to knit? Learning to knit stretched my brain in all kinds of ways, and because it is the sort of skill where you can learn more and more sophisticated techniques, you can continue to learn new things and give your brain and memory a workout.

When you are confident enough, start lace knitting. Try to memorize the pattern of stitches for lace repeats. By the end of even relatively complex patterns, I often find I've got a good deal of them memorized.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:49 PM on January 21, 2013

I would pick a subject area that you love and use it to create memory challenges. Maybe you love wine, so you learn the names of regions and varieties and tastes. Maybe you love 1950s rock and roll, so you memorize every band and song from that era you can find. Maybe you love cooking so you memorize the names of spices or something like the seven Moles of Oaxaca. Basically, become an expert in a subject area.
posted by conrad53 at 7:28 PM on January 21, 2013

Brain Age was debunked:

I wouldn't go all the way to "don't take notes", but maybe a
process of "read, close book, then ask 'what did I just read' and
write that down."

If you need to memorize stuff, use Anki and other software to learn it.
I'd learn a language, a science, architectural history or some such, rather than arbitrary lists.

If you just want to keep your wits sharp, regular exercise,
sleep, and eats should help, along with learning something. Include
something that has you working with your hands or body.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:51 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The evidence that I know of says that any kind of cognitive training will only make you better at the things you practice. Su doku is fun and will make you better at Su Doku. Memorising lists will make you better at memorising lists. Learning languages will probably make you better at learning languages. Figure out what you want your memory to do and then practice doing that, otherwise it isn't likely to have much effect (though it will feel like it does because you will get better at what you are practicing).

Otherwise more sleep, less distractions, simplify your life and your day to day memory will feel like it improves (but really you're just putting less strain on it).

(Cognitive psychologist in a previous career)
posted by kadia_a at 1:16 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

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