5 Short-Term Memory Exercises to Work Your Brain


What do we want? A cure for short term memory loss! When do we want it? Wait…When do we want what?

It’s probably pretty obvious that we’re jumping back into memory mode today as we learn 5 short-term memory exercises for those of us who suffer from CRC (can’t remember crap) syndrome and can totally relate to Dory from Finding Nemo…Well except the whole being a talking blue fish part.

Short-Term Memory Warm Up

We figured that it would be kind of helpful to have a bit of background info on how short-term memory works and some causes for short-term memory loss before we jump into our exercises. We like to think of it like a quick warm up where we get your brains primed for some cerebral cardio.

Short-term memory is used to retain small bits of information for a relatively short period of time. In fact, your pre-frontal lobe lights up with short-term memory activity for only about 20 to 30 seconds at a time for each new memory it intercepts. However, the amount of time you’re able to retain information can be significantly decreased to mere seconds if your brain prevents active maintenance.

Short term memory exercises

Did you know that your brain not only stops growing once you hit your mid 20’s and that it also starts to shrink causing you to actually lose brain cells in the process? This crazy brain shrinkage progresses as you age and is most often the cause for short-term memory loss. So, it’s totally normal to forget what you ate for lunch or where you put your phone.

However, there could also be an underlying issue causing you to struggle with remembering small amounts of information when using your active and recent memory banks. Overall physical and mental health are major elements to preserving your short term memory, so be sure to take care of yourself and check in with your doc if you’re concerned.

Here is a short version of the long list of health issues that could potentially impact your short-term memory:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chronic stress
  • Depression
  • Head injury
  • Smoking
  • Stroke
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Syphilis
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

5 Short-Term Memory Exercises to Work Your Brain

It never hurts to give your cerebrum a healthy boost of brainpower, even if you’re not over the brain hill like the rest of us. Hanging onto those slippery memories takes some work, though! We hope you’re ready to work up a mental sweat today because we’ve got some awesome short-term memory exercises that will make you wish you’d opted for the hardest P90X workout instead of our brain calisthenics.

1. Flash Cards

Flash cards for short-term memoryApparently, your Mom was really onto something when she was shoving those flashcards in your face when you were just a wee tot. Flash cards are said to get the synapses aiding in boosting short-term memory really fired up, which then encourages your pre-frontal lobe to play along by working harder to create new memories.

You can use flash cards for nearly anything you want to remember in the form of words, pictures or concepts with the questions on one side and the answers on the other. You’re giving your short-term memory a work out right out the gate if you’re making your own flash cards since even just writing them out is an excellent way to boost brain power on its here.

Keep the flash card party raging with even more practice as you go through the cards first reading them thoroughly and following it up with a quick self-quiz. Place the flash cards you remembered correctly in one pile (pile A) and the ones that gave you trouble in another pile (pile B).

You’ll want to review pile A 3-5 times a day for as long as it takes to conquer the information you’re trying to remember. Don’t forget about pile B, though. You’ll still want to flip through those cards to ensure that you’ve nailed the information for the long term if that’s your goal.

2. Doodle a Picture

Short Term Memory Exercises for AdultsEmbrace your inner artist when you’re in class, a work meeting or when you’re forced to endure a webinar hosted by the most monotone dude you’ve ever heard. It may seem like you’re off in La La Land and not paying attention to what’s going on around you, but that’s not actually the case.

Drawing all of those little hearts and practicing your new signature as Mrs. Brad Pitt is actually helping your short-term memory by keeping your brain engaged. You see, our brains are kind of like toddlers in the sense that they get bored if not stimulated enough.

Much like an impish toddler, this boredom ignites a need for your brain to find something to get into, which usually results in daydreaming, fiddling with your phone and refreshing your Facebook tab 20 times in a matter of minutes. This is where doodling comes into good use as it leashes that bored brain of yours and helps you focus on all of the information being sent your way, even if you look like you’re not paying a lick of attention.

Studies show that frequent doodlers are actually able to retain 29% more information than non doodlers. So by all means, get your doodle on!

3. Use Your Senses

Your senses are super helpful when trying to exercise your short-term memory and the more of the senses you use at once the better your results will be. Our brains respond strongly to stimulation that have emotional and sensory connections, which has a lot to do with your ability to “smell” your Grandma’s lasagna when thinking about it or how you can “feel” the texture of your beloved blanket that you carried around with you as a little kid.

Don’t hesitate to smell things (okay, maybe hesitate a little), touch textures, listen to sounds, taste foods and really look at things as a way to frequently exercise your short-term memory. You can repeat your sensory exercises as often as you’d like. However, exercises of this nature are most effective when repeated 5 to 6 times and are further aided by repeating the name of the person, place or thing you’re hoping to commit to memory.

4. Focus Factor

Short Term Memory Loss ExercisesTake a second…or 8 seconds to be exact and shut everything else out as you channel all of your focus into one thing you’re trying to memorize. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when you consider that we live in a society that feeds on instant gratification.

A society that is far quicker to dismiss the need to commit something to memory since most of the information in question is right at our fingertips after a quick Google search.

This is where the need to channel your focus on one thing becomes really important because if you don’t use it, you lose it when it comes to short-term memory. Sparing a mere 8 seconds to put your short-term memory to good use is essential if you want to beef up your brain’s memory muscles and possibly hang onto the information at hand in your long-term memory bank.

So, shut out the million and one other things that are likely distracting you and engage in an intense 8 second hyper focus short-term memory exercise.

5. Listen to Music

Music for memory

Definitely hit play on some of your favorite jams before you start studying, reading, writing or attempting to commit any piece of information to your short-term memory. Studies show that enjoying some tunes prior to engaging in activities that require you to focus can have a significant improvement on how much you’re able to recall once your brain draining task is complete.

Press stop on your playlist as soon as you’re ready to get to work studying or reading, though.

Hey, don’t blame us, blame researchers and their science stuff for interrupting your awesome rendition of Uptown Funk! These playlist pausing researchers have found that any background noise while studying or reading to be a pretty big distraction that will negatively impact how much and what you’re able to recall later.

Still not convinced? Let us explain it a bit more.

Think of it this way, you’re sitting there just minding your own business, trying to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements. You’re kicking some serious element butt as you easily recall that Li means Lithium, Pu means Plutonium and Fe means Iron. You’re enjoying the silence and feeling pretty confident about your ability to recall this info later.

Suddenly, a group of people enter your study space and totally disrupt your little cocoon of memory boosting silence. One dude has his phone blasting Britney Spears, one dudette is yelling at her friend for posting a less than flattering picture of her on Instagram and there’s a random, unsupervised 5 year old poking you every 30 seconds asking you for a snack followed by a series of questions that only prompt him to ask you “why” no matter what your answer is.

How well do you think you’d be able to recall those elements now? You’d more than likely struggle quite a bit to remember anything you just read and would likely end up more confused than anything.

Well, this rather extreme example has essentially the same effect on your brain and ability to recall information that listening to music does. So, the moral of the story is: listen to music before you study to aid in retention and turn it off as soon as you’re ready to get to work to ensure your success.

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