If you’re a Sound of Music fan, singing tunes from that iconic movie—whether in the shower or not—just might improve your memory.
I learned to appreciate the power of long-term memory when I was at a dance. It wasn’t remembering complex dance steps that did it (somehow I always mess up the moves to the Macarena and the chicken dance).
It was the amazing way everyone on the dance floor—young and old—sang along enthusiastically when the DJ played Beatles songs from the ’60s and ABBA songs from the ’70s. Okay, so maybe those are poor examples. Neither band wrote especially complicated lyrics, but still, to be able to recall them after 40 or 50 years impressed the heck out of me.
Suddenly, I had a eureka moment. As “Dancing Queen” blared, I shouted to my partner, “The key to remembering everything is to sing it!” Turns out, I was onto something.
If you want to improve your memory (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), try one or all of these tips. The key is to remember to practise them!
1. Belt out a show tune
A four-month study of Alzheimer’s disease patients found that singing can tip the scales when it comes to brain functioning. Compared to a group of listeners, the singers showed greater improvement in cognitive and drawing tests, and reported greater life satisfaction. Songs sung included movie classics “The Sound of Music” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
2. Catch a few ZZZs
An hour-long power nap can significantly improve memory performance, according to German researchers. Volunteers who memorized words and word pairs before napping had substantially greater retention than those who watched a DVD instead. (No word on the effect of napping while watching TV.)
3. Go fish
If your mom told you to eat your fish because it’s brain food, she was right. Cold water fish, such as wild salmon, sardines, halibut, and mackerel are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that people who eat baked or broiled fish once a week have larger brain volume in areas related to memory and cognitive abilities.
4. Stress less
When we’re stressed, our body produces the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels increase in the hippocampus, the area of our brain responsible for memory and learning. Chronic stress can actually shrink our hippocampus and cause memory problems. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or a walk in the park are all great ways to reduce stress.
5. Laugh more
Laughter really may be the best medicine—especially when it comes to reducing stress levels and improving memory. A study of older adults who watched either Red Skelton sketches or a montage of America’s Funniest Home Videos reduced their salivary cortisol levels and improved their delayed recall ability, compared to a group that sat quietly and did nothing.
So remember to catch a power nap before you broil your salmon while singing “The Sound of Music” and not stressing a bit, then watch your favourite comedy show. And when in doubt, sing whatever you need to remember to the tune of a familiar ABBA song.