To use games to improve your memory you first have to have an understanding of what memory is. There are actually several types of memory. There is the picture you hold in your mind of your first home. There is the knowledge that New York is called the Big Apple. There is the ability to ride a bike or knowing the face of the people you love. And there is the telephone number you learned just five minutes ago.
Amazingly all of these processes depend upon memory.
When a person memorizes a phone number that they dial and promptly forget they are using working memory. This type of memory is fragile and unless you commit the data to long-term memory the information is quickly gone. Researchers believe that you have the ability to easily remember 7 bits of data quickly but more than that is difficult. This is why you can remember the telephone number but need the credit card in front of you when you order online.
Long-term memory happens when you attach a new memory to another that has already been committed to memory. For instance the cell phone number of your neighbor is ‘attached’ to the memory of the face of your neighbor.
There are ways of improving your short-term memory ability by using games. One game to improve your memory is storytelling. Storytelling is a way to remember the information you need committed to long-term memory. The story connects the ideas and facts making them easier to recall. It also a way to increase participation which increases memory – as opposed to the use of a laundry list of items.
For instance, when you are storytelling you make up images of what is happening. This is also a very powerful technique to achieve your goals. Set your goal, tell it in a story of your life and ‘see’ yourself in the story. Use that story each day to commit this memory to long-term memory and increase the possibility that it will happen.
This can be a fun game to improve your memory when done with a group. Practice by laying out a group of items on the table and try to remember them. Each member takes a turn adding the object to the story. Once the objects are included in the story the objects are taken away and everyone sees who can remember the most objects.
Go Fish is another game to improve your memory that is fun to play alone or with friends. Use a standard deck of playing cards and remove 2 of the 4 suits. Leave yourself with 2 of each number and picture card. Now, with the 24 cards (making sure all have a match), place them face down on the floor or table. Move them around so you don’t know where each is located. One at a time pick up a card and then another trying to find the match. If there is no match put them back where they were and try again. This helps to improve your short-term memory. Time yourself to see how much faster you can do it each time.
Another inexpensive game to improve your memory is using a puzzle – but put it together without referring back to the picture on the box. Look at the picture first, giving yourself a couple of minutes; mix up the pieces and work on putting them back together.
In March 2007 Reuters news bureau reported that using computer games that are designed to help memory and cognitive function may be better than classic games at delaying age-related mental decline. There is a new group of games designed for older adults from Nintendo and Mattel, based on studies that show older people can improve their brains.
In a study at the University of California researchers studied 45 patients who had diagnosed mild cognitive impairment using either the Posit Science Brain Fitness program by Mattel or comparable computer-based tasks. The group using the Posit program had a significant improvement in visual spatial memory and a trend toward short-term and long-term memory improvement. (1)
More research is showing that our cognitive abilities are not stagnant and that like a muscle if we don’t use it we lose it. Exercise your brain power and play some games to improve your memory!
(1) Washington Post: Memory Workouts Beat Other Computer Games in Study
RealAge: Better Memory
iBraining: Training Your Brain Regularly