Written in collaboration with Emily Jones.
Nowadays we are entrusting our phones with all the things we used to remember on our own, like telephone numbers or special dates like birthdays. This reliance on our tech is diminishing our ability to retain memory; a phenomenon coined digital amnesia. With 1 in 3 not able to remember their partner’s number, or a staggering 1 in 2 not being able to commit their children’s phone number to memory, we’re in danger of eroding our brain’s function.
Although our phones can help support a busy lifestyle, we need to start training our brains in other ways to help improve memory. And your technology can play a role in this too.
Thankfully, our little device is not just good at committing numbers to memory but there are a number of tools we can use to help train our ability to remember. Numerous studies have shown that learning languages can help the brain improve concentration, help processing ability and aid memory, as explained in the infographic “SOS memory: does learning languages help the brain?” by Babbel, the world’s first language learning app.
Studies have also suggested that learning a second language can help to delay the onset of dementia, it can help you to retain names of new people you meet, and those that know at least two languages are said to perform better on tests and achieve a higher level of concentration than those who don’t.
Committing to short lessons, a new routine and spaced repetition are all useful tips and practices to help one’s memory not only with a new language, but also in all everyday situations.
We’re not saying give up your tech entirely but be more conscious of its use. Push notifications have been shown to cause distraction, interrupting brain processing and even causing anxiety. Review which applications have push notifications and determine if it is necessary to receive these notifications. Additionally, if you have a habit of scrolling whilst watching a show or movie or listening to a podcast or watching a show whilst you drive or cook, for example, consider a technology-no-go-zone. Focusing on a task at hand can help improve your concentration (and means you’re less likely to leave the stove on), build empathy and relationships. Also, do you take your phone to bed with you? If you wake up in the night, is it the first thing you grab? Interrupted sleep is also detrimental to brain function.
Make a game of it
If birthdays or phone numbers are things you’re struggling to retain, make a game of trying to recall them, without the use of your phone. If you’re going to call someone, try to type out the number instead of going to your phonebook and dialing. Monitor the progress with each call you make and see how long it takes for you to commit the number in full to memory. As for birthdays, try planning ahead, before a reminder notification pops up on your phone. At the beginning of the month, try recaling whose birthday is coming up before checking the calender. Not only will this help you to retain information better but will help you to plan ahead too – you’re sure to feel super organised.