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Positively better English!
Wednesday 6th February 2019
Dr. Flavia Belham
Think happy thoughts: How positive emotions can help our memory
Have you ever felt like it was really hard to memorise something new? Like new words and expressions simply did not stick in your mind? Learning new things such as a new language can be really hard. Luckily there are techniques and free learning platforms to help us :-)
Techniques to help you memorise
Let's look at a few of these techniques. For example, it is much more effective if you spend your time answering questions instead of simply reading the information. Every time we answer a question, our understanding of that particular topic increases. One easy way to use this technique is to have a large set of flashcards.
And what's a flashcard? Well, it's basically a piece of paper with a question or a keyword on one side and an answer or definition on the other side. So you simply read the first side and try to answer the question or remember the definition. Then, you flip it over to check if you were correct.
Flashcards are great because they can be taken anywhere so you always have questions to answer. And free online revision platforms like Seneca Learning have taken the revision of new subjects and languages to the next level by embedding these learning techniques in an interactive study platform
But there is another thing that really helps memory, positive emotions
Positive emotions boost memory
Researchers in the fields of Psychology, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science all over the world have examined the effect of emotions on memory. In children and adolescents, the results seem to show that positive emotions truly boost memory.
For example, research in Germany found that positive emotions increase students' concentration, focus and creativity during learning. A collaborative study between Spain and the USA found that children displayed more accurate memory for information learned from a happy video than from a sad one. Also, a US-UK experiment revealed that their young participants were better in remembering the correct words they had learned if those words had a positive meaning.
What does this mean in practice?
There are a couple of implications from all of this research when it comes to your own study routine. Firstly, it helps if you are in a happy and positive environment. Also, you will learn more if your general mood is positive.
If you are having trouble remembering a word, phrase or expression, try to think of it as more positive than it originally is. For example, if you need to remember the word "mug", try to imagine it linked to your favourite mug that your mother gave to you. Or if you are trying to remember the word "pasta", try to link it to a nice restaurant you have been to where you had pasta.
One last tip is for when you need to learn something that is simply not interesting. What you can do is to mix studying that topic with a topic that you are really curious about. For example, you can spend a little while studying verb tenses, and then switch to studying volcanos, if that is something you find amazing. This helps because learning about something we feel curious about helps us learn everything else at that time, as shown by a recent study.
There are many techniques that can help us make our memory stronger. Questions and flashcards will definitely help, but more than that, try to put yourself in a positive place because when you are feeling positive emotions and linking the studied information to those positive experiences memories will be stronger. Thinking happy thoughts really does help our memory, which is another fantastic reason to try a summer school, after all, what could be more positive than being surrounded by new friends from all over the world in an amazing city full of exciting experiences and adventures?
Bio of Dr. Flavia Belham
Dr Flavia Belham applies experimental findings from Neuroscience to the free revision & homework platform Seneca Learning as the Chief Scientist. During her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, she used behavioural and brain imaging techniques to investigate how people of different ages memorise emotional events. She is a certified Science teacher and worked in schools before joining Seneca Learning.