Better Than Puzzles: A Simple Habit That Improves Memory

Ever experienced those moments when you find yourself going crazy because you’re late for a crucial meeting and you just can’t remember where you put your car keys?

Do you ever feel that you and your wallet are engaged in a stealthy game of hide-and-seek?

And how many times have you had an awkward encounter with an old friend whose name you now suddenly seem to have forgotten?

Is There a Solution?

Of course, forgetting names, tasks, and even everyday objects can be incredibly irritating and even anxiety-inducing.

For years, we have wondered why our brains may remember some of the most useless pieces of information but then very inconveniently forget very important duties.

Thankfully, scientists and researchers have studied this complex human organ in an attempt to understand it better.

One such study has made some interesting and beneficial conclusions that could help people improve the strength of their recall through simple, everyday memory-boosting habits.  

Enhancing Memory Through Daily Habits

Scientific research has uncovered some simple habits that can elevate a person’s memory.  

Various studies have looked into how solving puzzles can improve brain function and memory. However, it’s now been revealed that there is one habit that triumphs over problem-solving in its memory-boosting powers: reading for pleasure.

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Americans are embracing the habit of picking up a book in their spare time, typically turning to social media instead.

However, the findings from this study have shown an undeniable link between reading and episodic as well as working memory. The results are  “incontrovertible,” or in other words, unable to be denied, as the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology describes.

The Reading Study

Here’s how researchers from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign conducted the important study:

First, the experts teamed up with a local library to handpick a collection of gripping books.

Then, they gathered 76 adults and split them into two groups. The first bunch got their hands on iPads loaded with those recommended books in digital form. The second group received iPads preloaded instead with word puzzles and games.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

Those who received the digital books were tasked with immersing themselves in 90-minute reading sessions five days a week for eight weeks. Both groups underwent cognitive skills assessments at the beginning and conclusion of the study to observe any differences.

And the result? Well, let’s just say they were pretty impressive.

Reading Improves Memory 

The study showed that, compared to the group that had engaged with puzzles, the readers demonstrated significant improvements in working memory and episodic memory. 

In simpler terms, this research convincingly revealed that simple, everyday reading could substantially enhance the memory skills of older adults.

Decline in Reading

That’s excellent news, right? After all, most people love to read, and with the advent of this interest, almost everyone has access to books in one form or another. 

But here’s the plot twist: 

One study found that fewer and fewer Americans are making time for the simple pleasure of reading. And if they are, they’re reading more short-form articles on their phones rather than long chapters in a book.   

Back in 2004, roughly 28% of Americans aged 15 and above reported indulging in pleasurable reading on any given day. Fast forward to 2017, and that number had dwindled to a mere 19%.

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Mentally Stimulating Activities 

Another study carried out within the framework of the Rush Memory and Ageing Project delved into the lives of 294 elderly individuals, the majority of whom were in their 80s. They aimed to explore how participating in mentally stimulating activities might influence memory retention and cognitive abilities.

The research uncovered that individuals who engaged in mentally stimulating activities, such as everyday reading and writing, had slower rates of memory decline. These habits also accounted for nearly 14% of the difference in cognitive decline beyond what would be expected.

The Joy of Reading

To cultivate a more agile and adaptable brain, one of the most enjoyable and effective choices one can make is embracing the joy of reading.

So, if you can spare some time today, get lost in a good book as you unwind at home – you can even keep a few favorites on your nightstand! 

And who knows? Maybe you will never lose your keys again! 


This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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