Improve Your Memory by Playing Games
In the previous hub in this series I told you how watching a TV game show shocked me into setting out to improve my memory because I couldn’t answer questions that would have been obvious to me a few years ago. Today we’re going to look at how playing games can improve your ability to access the information that’s already in your head.
These are some of the things you can do:
• Watch game shows on television and try to answer the questions. This has 4 main benefits:
1. Revision – you’ll remind yourself of stuff you used to know.
2. Practice – the effort to retrieve information will unblock passageways and get the whole process working better.
3. More knowledge – you’ll learn new stuff. I’ve heard it said that this ‘clogs up’ the brain and makes it harder to find the bits you want. Nonsense – that’s like saying that athletes shouldn’t train because they have only so many miles in their legs. The more the brain works the better it gets.
4. Monitoring – you can judge on a day-to-day basis how things are improving.
• Do general knowledge crosswords. Everything that applies to TV game shows also applies here.
• It has been shown that learning to do cryptic crosswords makes you smarter, and your memory will benefit along with everything else.
• Trivial Pursuit – traditional or DVD versions. The same benefits apply to similar games such as ‘Scene It’.
• Scrabble. You might not immediately think of this as a memory game but Scrabble is all about recognizing patterns of letters and recalling how these go together to form words that you have seen or used in the past. There’s also the mental exercise of working out where to put your word to get the highest score without creating too many opportunities for your opponents.
• IQ tests/quizzes. You can get these in books, magazines and on web sites. They provide great thinking practice and there is also a direct memory component because you will quickly realize that you have come across this particular type of problem before and probably learned a technique for doing it. The more questions you attempt, no matter how unsuccessfully, the more you will remember. It has been said that IQ tests don’t really measure intelligence; they measure how practised you are at doing IQ tests – Great! That’s what we’re after here – learning.
• Any other game you can think of that makes similar demands on your concentration and recall of rules and techniques – various card games, chess, hangman, battleships, noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) etc.
One thing you’ll notice about all of the above – They’re mainly ‘old fashioned’ games with no ‘virtual’ component. The vital factor is that YOU do the thinking, instead of merely reacting to somebody else’s electronic creativity.
An obvious exception is the Brain Training series for Nintendo DS. I haven’t seen any statistics measuring how this affects memory and thinking skills but my personal reaction is that it’s a valuable tool.
Another bonus of traditional games is that they tend to have a social aspect – they involve other people whereas the electronic kind tend to isolate you (yes I know you can play against other people but the primary relationship is still between you and the machine.)
If, however, you find yourself with a pack of cards and no-one to play against, try a game of solitaire. There are many different versions and most of them involve close concentration and memory.
In the next article we’ll look at other things you can do to boost your memory.
You can find the first hub in this series at:
Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.
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