Guinness World Record holder and author of ‘Brainhacker’: This is the key to improving your memory


If there’s anyone who can give you advice to boost your memory, it’s Dave Farrow, two-time Guinness Record holder for remembering the most card games by a single sighting.

At one time, Farrow remembered the order of 52 shuffled decks, or 2,704 cards, when he was just 21 years old. He even reclaimed the title after breaking his record, by remembering the order of 59 decks of shuffled cards, totaling 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 the best memory.

Thanks to Dave Farrow

“The newer something is, the more you will remember it. But also an activity that is very new, and just that [means] unique or different, is something that challenges your brain more.”

This is how the world record holder increases his memory and focus.

5 brain hacks for memory and focus

1. Short intervals of intense focus followed by periods of rest

“We have this powerful brain, but we have a terrible battery for it,” says Farrow. “The key is to activate focus at will, not force your brain to focus for 24 hours.”

If you are working hard to memorize something or concentrate on an activity, you need to go back and forth between intense focus and completely emptying your mind for six to eight minutes using meditation or deep breathing exercises for a short period of time, he suggests.

“This is actually one of the secrets behind my Guinness record. I would never have been able to remember 59 decks of cards all shuffled if I tried to remember it all at once,” he says.

“If you do it in short intervals, you never force 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 having interesting conversations is stimulating for the brain and can be great for boosting memory, says Farrow.

“You have to be social. Go out and meet new people,” he adds. “[For] people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or [those] who have risk factors for that, all they can do is be social.”

3. Challenging work

Don’t be afraid to try something new, especially if you don’t think you’ll 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 useful for brain stimulation.

“By the time you start sounding good, it’s actually less challenging for your brain,” says Farrow. “So, constantly try 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 may be hard to wrap your brain around, but it’s actually a quirky trick to boost memory, according to Farrow.

“When you look up, that’s your brain’s natural tendency when it’s trying to remember something,” he says. “No one knows why, but we do know that it sends more energy to your cerebral cortex and hippocampus, all the memory centers of the brain.”

So by looking up, “you’re actually improving your memory,” says Farrow.

5. Deep breathing exercises

Every so often, Farrow suggests breathing deeply enough that your chest stays in place, but your stomach moves in and out.

“You will notice that your brain changes [and] you relax,” he says. This is especially helpful if you can’t concentrate or remember certain information because you’re extremely stressed, he notes.

“[With] the students I’ve worked with on this, if they take a few deep breaths if they forget something and it’s stress related, they generally remember the information,” says Farrow.

3 more easy brain hacks

  • Stand on one leg occasionally
  • Brushing teeth with the other hand
  • Aimed at remembering names and faces of people

“When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia,” says Farrow. With little knowledge of those conditions at the time, people saw them as disadvantages, and at first, so did Farrow.

“When I went for the Guinness record the first time, nobody believed I could do it. When I went for it a second time, they all said, ‘Oh, why didn’t you do this before?'” continues Farrow .

“I just wanted to show people with ADHD or dyslexia that you can achieve great things.”

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