Struggling to place an acquaintance’s name, forgetting a friend date, blanking on what you ate for breakfast—we’ve all experienced the occasional brain fart. Luckily, we live in an age when a solution is literally at our fingertips. Whether it’s by stimulating neural connections or quieting your mind, these smartphone apps will boost your memory skills faster than you can say, “What was your name again?”
5Memory Trainer & Fit Brains Memory Trainer
Meet the good kind of mind games. A 2013 study in Psychological Science showed that brain-stimulating yet easy-to-follow mental workouts, like the ones featured in these two apps, can indeed boost your working memory. Memory Trainer (for Android) zeroes in on your spatial and working memory as well as focus, concentration skills and chunking (grouping information to make it easier to remember; think 555-1212 and HIJK LMNOP). Fit Brains (for iOS) boasts familiar games like Guess Who and Block Breaker to enhance recognition, visual memory and three different forms of recall.
Exercise fires up your mind as well as your body, reducing neural plaque buildup that can lead to memory loss. Activities that are both physically and mentally challenging work best. Sworkit builds randomized circuit training series that you can do at home. Choose your workout category (like strength training, cardio or yoga), type (think full-body, core or, if you’re feeling ambitious, “anything goes”), and length (anywhere from five to 60 minutes). Then a timer and optional demonstration video pop up, along with audio prompts when it’s time to switch sides or positions. The app keeps things moving—and keeps things interesting.
Sworkit: For iPhone, iPad and Android, free
3Qi-Gong Vitality & Qigong Exercise and Meditation
Like heart-pumping workouts, the Japanese “energy art” of qi-gong can be as good for your memory as it is for your physical well-being. As in tai chi, it’s a practice of postures, breathing and mental focus that clears the mind of mental clutter that can interfere with memory. This Lite version of the app features 10-minute qi-gong routines, learning tools (beginners will dig the handy pose gallery) and a journal to track your progress. For 20-minute workouts, you’ll have to pony up for the paid app. Qigong Exercise and Meditation gives Android users a hand in harnessing their qi.
A solid night of rest is crucial for memory, but many people skimp on the recommended seven and a half to nine hours per night or don’t realize they’re waking up periodically after their head hits the pillow. Sleep Cycle analyzes your snoozing patterns by monitoring your motions throughout the night. Turn on the app, place your iPhone on the corner of your bed near your pillow, and the phone’s motion sensors will detect your movements to determine how much time you spend in each stage of sleep. Use the stats it produces to improve the quality of your zzz’s—and your memory—over time. Bonus: It has sounds to lull you to sleep, and in the morning, it wakes you up during your lightest phase of sleep, meaning you’ll feel rested and relaxed instead of groggy and grumpy.
Sleep Cycle: For iPhone and iPad, $0.99
Nostalgic for a #throwback? An updated version of the old-school handheld game Simon, iMimic, spits out a computer-generated sequence of notes on that iconic four-button light-up disc. You have to play back each one, in order, as the sequence builds; the faster you tap, the higher your score. Trust us, it’s just as nerve-wracking as it was in the 80s.
iMimic: For iPhone and iPad, free