When you try to memorize something, what do you do? You probably study hard, write out flashcards and repeat the information again and again. We believe that the longer and harder we work to memorize something, the more we’ll remember it. But research is showing that just the opposite is true. In fact, giving your mind a restful break can actually improve your memory. Here’s how you can improve your memory without even trying

Back in 1900, German scholars, Georg Elias Muller and Alfons Pilzecker, found that undisturbed rest helped to boost memory. In their studies, undisturbed rest helped participants remember 50% of the data they had to memorize, compared to 28% for people who didn’t rest.

Now, almost a hundred years later, researchers are returning to these findings, and discovering yet again, that allowing the mind to rest after memorizing information is a game changer, especially for amnesic patients.

Initial studies examined how reduced interference could help people with sustained neurological injuries, like a stroke. Each participant was given 15 words to memorize. Then, some were allowed to rest, and others completed cognitive tasks.

10 minutes later, the researchers were astounded with the results. The individuals who rested remembered three times as many words as those who didn’t. A follow-up study found that rest gave an 11-fold increase in memory retention to individuals with neurological damage.

So, how does rest or “reduced interference” boost memory? Giving your mind a break allows for more communication between the hippocampus and visual cortex brain regions. Therefore, to increase your own memory, researchers say you should avoid smart phones, screens, and anything else that will increase stimulation – even focused day dreaming can take away the benefits of rest.

So, the next time you need to remember something, work to memorize it, but then give your mind a complete break, or 10 to 15 minutes of reduced interference. This can help your brain remember new material more efficiently.

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