Long term memory has become more and more topical over the last decade, with dementia cases set to rise threefold over the next 50 years¹. Much has been said about improving long term brain function and keeping these ever more prevalent diseases as bay. But there is very little really being talked about when it comes to short term memory. This guide to how to improve short term memory will allow people to retain things longer and have easier recall.
What is Short Term Memory?
The active memory is the place where you keep small bits of information that can be readily accessed for a short length of time. For example, it is when you first set your keys down, that you remember right away where they are. But wait a few seconds and if it hasn’t been transferred over to long term, you may forget where you put them.
This is different than your working memory which is actually the processes, structures and methods of storing the information. Researchers have discovered that the capacity for short term memory is rather small, as little as seven seconds². There are a variety of factors that go into how long we can recall something from our short-term memory, but if our short term memory starts to fail, we will not have the information long enough to transfer over to our long term memory, and that can cause a lot of issues.
Brain Training Exercises
Now that you understand what short term memory is, it is time to look at some ways we can improve it. One way is through brain training. Just like training for anything, it exercises the brain, which has been shown to improve memory, both short and long term. It takes time, but doing some exercises everyday for even 10-15 minutes has been proven to help. Some braining training exercises include:
- Visual Memorisation: With this exercise, you can use regular playing cards, picture cards or anything that you can lay out and cover. Start with a low amount of even cards that are paired, such as 3 or 4 pairs for a total of 6 or 8 cards. Look at each card then place it face down on a table. Then try to make pairs with few mistakes. As you improve your memory, increase the number of cards until it becomes very difficult.
- Pattern Recognition: This exercise helps you to recognise patterns quickly and improves memory by increasing how many patterns you can recognise. You can use any thing that has a pattern. Cards work well in this exercise also. This time, have start with one card of each suit. Look at it before you turn it over. Then try to call the name of the suit before you turn it over. Continue adding cards until you miss more than you get right.
- Chunking: This sounds bad, but it is the process of breaking down the information into chunks so that it is easier to remember. For instance, with your cell phone number (many people don’t remember this), break down the number like this: area code (three numbers), then prefix (three numbers) then tail (four numbers). So you would memorise it like this 555 (area code), 555 (prefix), then 1234 (tail). By chunking the numbers, you make it easier for the brain to capture instead of trying to memorise the whole thing at once.
Diet can play a crucial role in memory and brain function. Like any other part of the body, maintaining the right diet will help increase the health of the brain. There are certain foods, vitamins and minerals that have been linked to improved brain function along with improved memory. Some of these foods include:
- Blackberries. Recent research has linked eating black berries to increase memory function. One or two servings a week (during season, or frozen) will help you to improve your memory. We recommend a serving size of 50g.
- Blueberries. This is a super food that offers a wide variety of nutrients for our body, including our brains. A recent study showed that over 60% of people over 70 who added blueberries to their diets showed marked improvement in brain function, memory and a decrease in likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Oily Fish. This is your salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines. The omega-3 fatty acids have several health benefits including improving memory function³.
- Ginko Balboa, the dietary supplement, has also shown remarkable evidence of improving concentration, memory and helps the brain run better. This supplement can be found anywhere that vitamins are sold.
Our memory is affected by several things: age, diet, heredity and lifestyle. Many people are affected with short term memory loss. We hope by implementing some of the techniques and dietary changes to your lifestyle will help you remember where you left your wallet, keys and phone.
¹ Dementia statistics. 2013. http://www.alz.co.uk/research/statistics
² Working memory, short-term memory, and general fluid intelligence: A latent-variable approach. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 128(3), Sep 1999, 309-331
³ Fish Oil Supplementation of Control and (n-3) Fatty Acid-Deficient Male Rats Enhances Reference and Working Memory Performance and Increases Brain Regional Docosahexaenoic Acid Levels. J. Nutr. June 2008 vol. 138 no. 6 1165-1171