Method of improving memory

Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques

Memory plays an essential role in everyday life, enabling us to learn about the world around us and adapt accordingly. We use memory in every moment, whether it be for remembering our clients’ first names, studying for a nursing school exam, or countless other aspects of our work and life.

Information we take in goes through the three stages of memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The encoding process converts information into a construct stored in the brain. Then the information is stored as either a long-term memory or short-term memory. Finally, information is available to be retrieved from storage.

There are several ways to facilitate this process, protect against memory decline, and enhance our ability to retain information. Below, we outline strategies for boosting brain health, as well as specific techniques for memorizing and recalling information.

Tips for Memory Improvement

The best way to protect and improve memory is by making good lifestyle choices: exercising regularly, limiting stress, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep. You can also keep the mind agile by learning a foreign language or playing brain training games to improve thinking skills and short-term memory.

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is one of the best things you can do to protect your memory. Regular aerobic exercise (cardio) appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. Regular exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and sleep better, all of which are related to memory.
  • Limit stress: Meditation and mindfulness are also great ways to reduce stress and improve sleep. Meditation has been shown to improve episodic memory, the memory of everyday events.
  • Be conscious of what you consume: Not surprisingly, what you put into your body can also affect your memory. Consuming a balanced diet that includes healthy fats and natural sugar (glucose)—and limits saturated fat, refined sugar, and alcohol—may be best for promoting long-term memory function.
  • Sleep: Sleep is critical, as it plays a role in consolidating of memories. Also, a lack of sleep can impair an individual’s ability to concentrate. You can improve sleep by exercising regularly, engaging in mindfulness/meditation, limiting alcohol, and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

8 Memory Techniques for Retaining Information

When studying for an exam, preparing a presentation, or getting ready to deliver a speech, you will likely need to memorize information.

Before you start preparing, you can do several things to set yourself up for success. Try to avoid distractions while you’re studying, plan ahead so you don’t need to cram, and take study breaks. Evidence suggests that studying shortly before going to sleep, as well as sleeping between learning sessions, can help people retain information.

Below are 8 science-backed techniques for retaining information and improving recall and memory performance.

1. Organize the information

Start by outlining the information you will need to recall. Creating a detailed, but organized outline of the information allows you to highlight and focus on important concepts.

A useful organization strategy is the chunking method, which breaks down large amounts of information into smaller, logical units that are easy to understand. For example, when learning a foreign language, you can list vocabulary words in functional groups such as household items, animals, and occupations. Chunking is a valuable tool for memorization.

2. Make associations

Creating associations by drawing on existing knowledge is another helpful way to memorize information. You can create mental images and connect with sounds, smells, and tastes to help encode memories.

The Baker/baker paradox tells us that if two individuals are to remember that someone’s last name is Baker, they are much more likely to do so if they picture the person as a professional baker (i. e., Mr. Baker wearing a chef’s hat). This is why developing a story is a powerful way to retain information. For example, if you want to remember that a client’s name is Sandy, you might picture her walking along a beach. 

3. Use visual cues

Using visual tools such as concept maps, graphs, illustrations, and photos can be beneficial for learning. Graphs and charts also simplify information, making it easier to comprehend and later recall. 

This method can be beneficial to visual learners, meaning individuals who better conceptualize information they can see. It’s also a great technique for presenters who can use visuals in their slide deck as retrieval cues.

Aside from being a great memory technique for retaining information, visual cues are also great for boosting spatial memory. Research has shown that visual cues have helped spatial navigation among AD and MCI patients.

4. Create mnemonics

Using mnemonic devices, such as acronyms, acrostics, and rhymes, is a good way to memorize information long-term. For example, do you remember what year Columbus landed in America? You likely do if you ever learned the rhyme, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” So if you need to remember a series of numbers for work, you might consider coming up with a creative rhyme. 

For more visual learners, another mnemonic device you can use is building a memory palace. A memory palace is an imaginary place (it can be a house or a familiar venue) where you can store mnemonic images. The idea behind this is you take a journey in your mind to recall the information. Some contestants in the World Memory Championship would even incorporate a story method with their memory palace.

5. Write it down

It turns out that some things are just better done the old-fashioned way. Researchers have found that writing down information by hand is more effective than typing for learning concepts. Because it takes longer to write by hand, you are naturally forced to be more selective with what you write and focus only on the key information. In fact, less is more when it comes to note taking. One study showed that the more words students wrote down verbatim when note taking, the worse they performed on recall tests.

6. Say it out loud

When you need to remember new information, it’s helpful to read it aloud. One study determined that the dual action of speaking and hearing ourselves talk helps get words and phrases into long-term memory. This study, among others, confirms that memory benefits from active involvement.

7. Engage in active recall

Testing yourself forces you to pull information from your memory. Flashcards are a great way to self-test. Studies show that retrieval practice can greatly enhance recollection than simply restudying materials. This is likely a very effective way to commit things to memory because of the significant extra effort involved.

8. Rehearse

Practice really does make perfect. Rehearse information over and over, either by writing it down or reading it aloud.

Studies suggest that spaced repetition—spacing out learning over a longer period of time—is a more effective way to memorize information than trying to “cram” a lot of information into your brain over a short period of time.

All of these memory techniques are not only backed up by science, but even memory champions can attest to their efficacy. Even if you aren’t a memory athlete, these memorization techniques can help you at school or at work.  Check out our posts on effective study techniques and learning from home for further information.


Indeed Editorial Team. Indeed. “Nurse Practitioner vs. Family Nurse Practitioner: Definitions and How They Differ.” May 13, 2021. Accessed: January 26, 2022

Karpicke, Jeffrey D. and Henry L. Roediger III. “The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning.” Science 319, no. 5865 (February 2008): 966–968. doi: 10.1126/science.1152408.

Trafton, Anne. “In the blink of an eye.” MIT News. January 16, 2014. Accessed: January 26, 2022

8 techniques to improve memory

Most people have occasional lapses in memory, such as forgetting a new acquaintance’s name or misplacing the car keys.

Most of the time, this is simply a sign that a person is a bit too busy or is preoccupied. On the other hand, having a consistently poor memory can be problematic for someone.

Many factors play a role in memory loss, including genetics, age, and medical conditions that affect the brain. There are also some manageable risk factors for memory loss, such as diet and lifestyle.

While not all memory loss is preventable, people may be able to take measures to protect the brain against cognitive decline as they age.

In this article, learn about eight techniques to try to help improve your memory.

Share on PinterestThere are many brain training activities online that may help improve a person’s memory.

In a similar way to muscles, the brain needs regular use to stay healthy. Mental workouts are just as essential to gray matter as other factors, and challenging the mind can help it grow and expand, which may improve memory.

A large trial from the journal PLoS One found that people who did just 15 minutes of brain training activities at least 5 days a week had improvements in brain function.

The participants’ working memory, short term memory, and problem solving skills all significantly improved when researchers compared them to a control group doing crossword puzzles.

The researchers used brain training activities from the website Lumosity. The challenges work on a person’s ability to recall details and quickly memorize patterns.

Physical exercise has a direct impact on brain health. As the author of research in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation notes, regular exercise reduces the risk of cognitive decline with age and protects the brain against degeneration.

The results of a 2017 study suggest that aerobic exercise can improve memory function in people with early Alzheimer’s disease. The control group did nonaerobic stretching and toning.

Aerobic exercise increases a person’s heart rate and can include any of these activities:

  • brisk walking
  • running
  • hiking
  • swimming
  • dancing
  • cross-country skiing

Share on PinterestResearch suggests that meditation may cause long term changes in the brain that improve memory.

Mindfulness meditation may help improve memory. The authors of a 2018 research paper note that many studies show meditation improves brain function, reduces markers of brain degeneration, and improves both working memory and long term memory.

The researchers observed the brains of people who regularly practiced meditation and those who did not.

Their results indicated that making a habit of meditating may cause long term changes in the brain, including increasing brain plasticity, which helps keep it healthy.

Learn about a variety of different meditation types and how to do them in this article.

Sleep is vital for overall brain health. Disrupting the body’s natural sleep cycle can lead to cognitive impairments, as this interrupts the processes the brain uses to create memories.

Getting a full night’s rest, typically about 7–9 hours a night for an adult, helps the brain create and store long term memories.

Sugary foods can taste delicious and feel rewarding at first, but they may play a role in memory loss. Research from 2017 in animal models noted that a diet high in sugary drinks has a link to Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also found that drinking too many sugary drinks, including fruit juice, may have a connection a lower total brain volume, which is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Avoiding extra sugar may help combat this risk. While naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, are a good addition to a healthful diet, people can avoid drinks sweetened with sugar and foods with added, processed sugars.

Along with cutting out sources of excess sugar, reducing overall caloric intake may also help protect the brain.

Researchers note that high calorie diets can impair memory and lead to obesity. The effects on memory may be due to how high calorie diets lead to inflammation in particular parts of the brain.

While most research in this area has been with animals, a study from 2009 looked at whether restricting calories in humans could improve memory.

Female participants with an average age of 60.5 years reduced their calorie intake by 30%. The researchers found that they had a significant improvement in verbal memory scores and that the benefit was most significant in those who stuck to the diet best.

Caffeine from sources such as coffee or green tea may be helpful for the memory.

The authors of a 2014 study found that consuming caffeine after a memory test boosted how well participants’ brain stored memories long term.

People who took 200 milligrams of caffeine scored better on recall tests after 24 hours than people who did not take caffeine.

Caffeine may also boost memory in the short term. A study in Frontiers in Psychology found that young adults who took caffeine in the morning had improved short term memory.

This insight might be useful for individuals who have to take tests or recall information during a time of day when they may otherwise be tired.

Eating dark chocolate sounds like an indulgence, but it may also improve a person’s memory. The results of a 2011 study suggest that cocoa flavonoids, which are the active compounds in chocolate, help boost brain function.

People who ate dark chocolate performed better on spatial memory tests than those who did not. The researchers noted that cocoa flavonoids improved the blood flow to the brain.

With that said, it is important not to add more sugar to the diet, and so people should aim for at least 72% cacao content in dark chocolate and avoid chocolate with added sugar.

Share on PinterestExercising regularly may help keep the mind sharp.

Some people may be more prone to memory impairment than others due to a range of risk factors.

There are risk factors a person has no control over, such as genetics. Some people may be more predisposed to conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, which greatly affect the brain and memory.

In other cases, a person may be able to reduce the risk of memory impairment. Eating a diet high in refined sugar and fats and leading a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of memory loss.

Eating a rounded, healthful diet and exercising regularly may contribute to keeping the mind sharp and reduce memory loss.

Many techniques for improving memory can be beneficial for a person’s overall health and well-being. For example, practicing mindfulness meditation may not only make a person less forgetful but can also reduce stress.

Even adding one or two memory boosting practices to a person’s daily routine may help them keep their brain healthy and protect it from memory loss.

Simple tips to improve memory