Mind hacks for reminiscence and focus from the Guinness World Report holder
If there’s anyone who can give you advice on how to boost your memory, it’s Dave Farrow, a two-time Guinness Record holder for memorizing the most decks of playing cards in a single sighting.
In one session, Farrow recalled the sequence of 52 shuffled decks, or 2,704 cards, when he was just 21 years old. He even reclaimed the title after his record was broken by memorizing the order of 59 shuffled decks, which equals 3,068 cards.
“For memory and mental focus in general, novelty is key,” Farrow, author of “Brainhacker: Master Memory, Focus, Emotions, and More to Unleash the Genius Within,” tells CNBC Make It.
Dave Farrow is a two-time Guinness World Record holder for best memory.
Courtesy of Dave Farrow
“The more novel something is, the more you will remember it. But also an activity that is very novel, and only that [means] unique or different is something that challenges your brain more.”
This is how the world record holder increases his memory and concentration.
5 brain hacks for memory and focus
1. Short intervals of intense concentration followed by periods of rest
“We have this strong brain, but we have a terrible battery for it,” says Farrow. “The key is to trigger focus at will, not try to force your brain to focus for 24 hours.”
If you’re working hard to remember something or focus on an activity, you should go back and forth between intense concentration for six to eight minutes and completely clearing your mind through meditation or breathing exercises for a short period of time, he suggests .
“It’s actually one of the secrets behind my Guinness record. I could never have memorized 59 decks of cards if I tried to memorize them all at once,” he says.
“If you do this in short intervals, you never really push yourself to build up so much chemistry that you need a vacation to clear your head.”
2. Conversations with new people
Meeting new people and engaging in interesting conversations is stimulating for the brain and can be great for boosting memory, says Farrow.
“You have to be sociable. Go out and meet new people,” he adds. “[For] People with Alzheimer’s or dementia [those] who have risk factors for it, the best thing they can do is be social.”
3. Challenging activities
Don’t be afraid to try something new, especially if you think you won’t be good at it, he says. For example, playing a new instrument can be challenging, but even if you’re not great at it, it’s helpful for brain stimulation.
“Once you start sounding good, it’s actually less challenging for your brain,” says Farrow. “So keep trying new things and be adventurous.”
Also consider learning a new language, taking up juggling, planting a garden or changing the oil in your car if you’ve never done it before, he notes.
4. Look up as often as possible
This one might be difficult to understand, but according to Farrow, it’s actually a whimsical trick to boost memory.
“When you look up, it’s your brain’s natural tendency to remember something,” he says. “Nobody knows why, but we do know that it sends more energy to your cerebral cortex and hippocampus, all of the brain’s memory centers.”
So when you look up, “you’re actually improving your memory,” says Farrow.
5. Breathing exercises
From time to time, Farrow suggests breathing deeply enough so that your chest stays in place but your stomach moves in and out.
“You will find that your brain changes [and] you relax,” he says. This is especially helpful when you can’t remember certain information or can’t concentrate due to extreme stress, he says.
“[With] The students I’ve worked with on this generally remember the information when they take a few deep breaths, when they’re blocking out something and it’s stress-related,” says Farrow.
3 more easy brain hacks
- Standing on one leg for a while now and then
- Brush your teeth with your other hand
- The goal is to remember people’s names and faces
“I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia when I was a kid,” says Farrow. With little knowledge of these conditions at the time, people saw them as disadvantages, and so did Farrow initially.
“When I first set my sights on the Guinness Record, no one believed I could do it. The second time I tried it, everyone was like, ‘Oh, why didn’t you do that sooner?’” Farrow continues.
“I just wanted to show people with ADHD or dyslexia that great things can be achieved.”
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