How to Improve Your Memory & Focus | Podcast Notes | The Huberman Lab – Episode 73 Boost Attention & Memory

As a self-confessed space cadet, this is one podcast I was keen to listen to.

Notes I made from the podcast are listed below:

How to Improve Focus & Memory

If you want to improve your focus and ability to learn, then the foundation involves 4 things:

  1. Exercise – aim for 30-45 minutes per day
  2. Good quality sleep – aim for 8 hours each night
  3. Meditation – aim for 12 minutes per day
  4. Cold exposure – have a cold shower after your warm shower

In terms of exercise, just aim to do 30-45 minutes per day of some type of activity that raises your heart rate significantly.

Aim for 12 minutes per day of mindful meditation.

Cold exposure can also help us become more alert and more focused. For example, take a cold shower. Cold exposure is one way to increase dopamine and adrenaline levels for a sustained period of hours. Dopamine normally peaks and then drops below baseline, which is why any substance that increases dopamine levels is highly addictive – from coke to social media – they’re all addictive and bad for mental health. Studies on cold exposure however, show that dopamine levels are significantly increased for several hours after a cold shower or outdoors swim etc.

How to Remember Specific Things Like People’s Names

To remember a specific thing, you can improve your chances of recalling the thing, like an event or piece of knowledge by:

  • Adding novelty – make things weird
  • Repeating the thing to remember
  • Associate the thing to remember with an event, person or something deep-rooted in your memory*
  • Adding emotion

*For example, I remember people’s names by associating them with someone or something that I already know, or that I’ve already remembered. For example, when I met Kieron whilst working the warehouse for my employer, I remembered this name by thinking “Oh, that’s the name of my therapist” and I remembered Craig by remembering Craig Johnston – Liverpool player who designed Predator football boots.

Novel situations are easier to remember. It can be tricky to add novelty but you can notice something weird or new about the situation. E.g. if you are writing down your times table to remember something, add a weird character to the bottom of the page, or draw the numbers elaborately.

In Derren Brown’s book he talks about making things as specific and as vivid as possible in order to remember them. So with the times table example, make the character as detailed as possible, and have him/her/it holding a number for example, if you want to remember 7 x 7 = 49, then have a gnome, in a skirt, with a grenade in one hand and the numbers 49 in the other hand. You could also put 7 on each of his thigs, and “X” on his skirt. How can you forget that image?!

Adding emotion is a tricky one. If you want your kids to remember something important, you can shout at them! This causes a cortisol release which helps with memory – as it’s often important to remember stressful/dangerous things. You don’t want to do this all the time and cause anxious and traumatised kids/people obviously though!

From personal experience (this wasn’t in the podcast) – The supplements Acetyl-L-Carnitine, citicholine and PQQ vastly improve my focus and alertness.

Use supplements at your own risk however!

There’s also a good Ted Talk about psychic bandwidth – this explains that you should put things to remember like tasks into some type of a system. This then allows you to focus more in the present moment.

A “system” might be a To-Do list next to the calendar at home, that you and your wife use, or a project management tool in work.

I was always shouted at for forgetting things at home, until we started using a To-Do list. It’s hard to filter out the important, actionable information from my wife, from the waffle about work etc!

About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
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