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Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Article medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD — By Jacquelyn Cafasso




1. Learn something new

Memory strength is just like muscular strength. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. But you can’t lift the same size weight every day and expect to get stronger. You’ll need to keep your brain constantly challenged. Learning a new skill is an excellent way to strengthen your brain’s memory capacity.

There are many activities to choose from, but most importantly, you’ll need to find something that forces you out of your comfort zone and commands your full attention.

Here are some examples:

  • learn a new instrument

  • make pottery

  • play mind games, like Sudoku or chess

  • learn a new type of dance, like the tango

  • learn a new language

Research from 2007 Trusted Source showed that speaking more than one language can delay the onset of memory problems in people with dementia.


2. Repeat and retrieve

Any time you learn a new piece of information, you’re more likely to mentally record that information if it’s repeated.

Repetition reinforces the connections we create between neurons. Repeat what you hear out loud. Try using it in a sentence. Write it down and read it aloud.

But the work doesn’t stop there. Research shows that simple repetition is an ineffective learning tool if used on its own. You’ll need to sit back down later and actively try to retrieve the information without looking at where you wrote it down. Testing yourself to retrieve the information is better than repeated studying. Practicing retrieval creates more long-term and meaningful learning experiences.


3. Try acronyms, abbreviations, and mnemonics Mnemonic devices can be in the form of acronyms, abbreviations, songs, or rhymes. Mnemonics have been tested since the 1960s as an effective strategy for students. You’ve probably been taught a few mnemonic devices for remembering long lists. For example, the colors of the spectrum can be remembered with the name ROY G. BIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).

4. “Group” or “chunk” information Grouping or chunking refers to the process of dividing newly learned information into chunks to produce fewer, larger chunks of information. For example, you may have noticed that it’s much easier to remember a phone number if the 10 digits are grouped into three separate chunks (e.g., 555-637-8299) rather than one long number (5556378299).


5. Construct a “mind palace.” The mind palace technique is often used by memory champions. In this ancient technique, you create a visual and complex place to store a set of memories. For more instructions on how to create memory palaces, watch 2006 U.S. Memory Champion Joshua Foer’s TED talk.

6. Use all of your senses Another tactic of memory connoisseurs is that they don’t just rely on one sense to help retain information. Instead, they relate information to other senses, like colors, tastes, and smells.

7. Don’t turn to google right away

Modern technology has its place, but unfortunately has made us “mentally lazy.” Before you reach for your phone to ask Siri or Google, make a solid attempt to retrieve the information with your mind. This process helps reinforce the neural pathways in your brain.


8. Lose the GPS Another common mistake is relying on the GPS every time you drive. Researchers foundTrusted Source in 2013 that relying on response techniques — such as GPS — for navigation, shrinks a part of our brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for spatial memory and moving information from short-term to long-term memory. Poor hippocampus health is associated with dementia and memory decline. Unless you’re totally lost, try to get to your destination using your brain instead of just following the instructions on your GPS. Perhaps use GPS to get there, but use your brain to get back home. Your brain will thank you for the extra challenge.


9. Keep yourself busy A busy schedule can maintain your brain’s episodic memory. One study linked busy schedules to better cognitive function. This study, however, was limited by self-reporting.


10. Stay organized An organized person has an easier time remembering. Checklists are one good tool for organization. Manually writing down your checklist (instead of doing it electronically) also increases the likelihood that you’ll remember what you’ve written down.

 

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Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Article By Molly Warren, MM, LPMT, MT-BC



When I worked at a psychiatric hospital, I would wheel my cart full of instruments and musical gadgets down the hallway every morning. Patients lingering in the hall would smile and tap on a drum as I passed by. Some would ask me if I had their favorite band on my iPad. Some would peek their heads out of their rooms, and exclaim, “Molly’s here! It’s time for music therapy group!” Oftentimes, I would hear about patients who were asleep in their rooms when I arrived, but their friends would gently wake them with a reassurance: “You don’t want to miss this.”



Music to My Ears

I’ve been lucky to serve many children and adults in various mental health settings as a music therapist. I’ve heard stories of resilience, strength and adversity. I’ve worked with individuals who have experienced trauma, depression, grief, addiction and more. These individuals have not come to me in their finest hour, but despite feeling lost or broken, music provided them with the opportunity for expression and for experiencing safety, peace and comfort.

Research shows the benefits of music therapy for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia (to name a few). Music acts as a medium for processing emotions, trauma, and grief—but music can also be utilized as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or for dysregulation.

There are four major interventions involved with music therapy:


  1. Lyric Analysis


While talk therapy allows a person to speak about topics that may be difficult to discuss, lyric analysis introduces a novel and less-threatening approach to process emotions, thoughts and experiences. A person receiving music therapy is encouraged to offer insight, alternative lyrics and tangible tools or themes from lyrics that can apply to obstacles in their life and their treatment. We all have a song that we deeply connect to and appreciate—lyric analysis provides an opportunity for an individual to identify song lyrics that may correlate with their experience.



2. Improvisation Music Playing


Playing instruments can encourage emotional expression, socialization and exploration of various therapeutic themes (i.e. conflict, communication, grief, etc.). For example, a group can create a “storm” by playing drums, rain sticks, thunder tubes and other percussive instruments. The group can note areas of escalation and de-escalation in the improvisation, and the group...

 

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Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Article by Louisa Richards, Medically Reviewed by Stacy Sampson




Breathing is usually an unconscious process. However, there are some optimal ways to breathe.

This article looks at what happens inside a person’s body when they breathe.

It also provides some tips and exercises for improving breathing efficiency. These are suitable for people with respiratory conditions and those without them.


What happens when a person breathes?


Breathing through the nose may make the lungs work more efficiently.

Breathing, or respiration, is a complex process of air exchange that involves the following parts of the body:

  • The lungs: These are a pair of spongy organs that sit on either side of the chest. The lungs expand when a person breathes in and contract when they breathe out. Each lung is surrounded by a thin membrane called the pleura, which protects the lung and allows it to slide back and forth during breathing.

  • The diaphragm: This is a thin muscle that sits beneath the lungs and above the abdominal cavity. Its up-and-down movement helps the lungs contract and expand.

  • The intercostal muscles: These are muscles that run between the ribs. They assist breathing by helping the chest cavity expand and contract.

The lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles work together to allow a person to breathe.

To breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward. This increases the space in the chest cavity, allowing the lungs to expand and fill with air...


 

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