Improve Your Memory
There is no such thing as a "bad memory", and everyone can improve their memory, as long as you are not suffering from memory loss as a medical condition. If you want to improve your memory, there are a number of things you can do, from eating blueberries to using a variety of mnemonic devices. If you're optimistic and dedicated, you'll be able to improve your memory, whether you want to win the World Memory Championships, ace your history test, or simply remember where you put your keys.
Doc:Memory Tricks,Memory Palace,Roman Room
Using Mnemonic Devices
- Use association to remember facts. To use association effectively, you can create an image in your mind to help you remember a word or an image. For example, if you have a hard time remembering that JFK was the president involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion, just picture the handsome president swimming in an ocean surrounded by happy, oinking pigs. This is absolutely silly, but this concrete image in your mind will forever help you link the president with this event.
- By creating a visual, your brain can fixate on a single, easy-to-identify piece of information. When you recall that single symbol, you can also recall the larger strand of information you assigned to it. For example, as you place your car keys in your purse, imagine your purse suddenly growing wheels and speeding away. Since the image is such a strange one, you're more likely to remember it later, which will also help you remember that your car keys are inside it.
- The more unique or unusual the image is, the easier it will be for your brain to remember it.
- Use association to remember numbers. Let's say you keep forgetting your student ID every time you need to use it again. Just break down the number into smaller chunks and create images associated with those chunks. Let's say the number is 12-7575-23. Find a way to make these numbers meaningful. Let's say "12" happens to be your house number, "75" happens to be your grandmother's age, and the number "23" is Michael Jordan's jersey number. Here's what you can visualize to remember the number:
- Picture your house with two copies of your grandmother standing to the right, showing that the house comes first. Then imagine Michael Jordan standing to the right of your grandmothers. There you have it -- 12 (your house), 7575 (double-dose of Grandma) and 23, the basketball star.
- Use chunking. Chunking is a way of grouping things together to help you memorize them. Random lists of things (a shopping list, for example) can be especially difficult to remember. To make it easier, try categorizing the individual things from the list. For example, list all of the fruits together, the dairy products together, and the bread products together. Alternatively, you can chunk your list by the starting letter of each item; you need to pick up eggs, bread, bacon, coffee, and cheese from the grocery store, remember one E, two B's, and two C's. As long as you remember the correct numbers, you should be able to recall the items in each letter group. This will not only help you memorize the list, but it'll make your shopping experience much faster.
- If you can remember that, among other things, you wanted to buy four different kinds of vegetables, you’ll find it easier to remember all four.
- Chunking is what we do when we list a phone number with dashes. Which looks easier to memorize, 8564359820, or 856-435-9820?
- You probably won't remember 17761812184818651898, but try putting a space after every fourth number. Now you can see that those numbers are years, and you can pick key events from each year to help you remember the string of numbers (such as the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, and Spanish-American War).
- Use rhymes. Using a variety of common and silly rhymes can help you recall basic information. For example, if you're trying to figure out if April has 30 or 31 days, just say the old rhyme aloud: "Thirty days has September, April, June, and November." Then you'll remember that April does indeed have 30 days. Here are some other rhymes to use as memory tools:
- "In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
- A child can learn the alphabet by singing it to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," which makes the letters rhyme.
- Use acronyms. Acronyms are another wonderful tool for remembering a variety of things, from the names of the five Great Lakes to the words used as conjunctions. You can use a popular acronym, or create one for yourself. For example, if you're going to the store and know you only need Butter, Lettuce, Bread, and Unagi, then just create a word out of the first letter of each term: "BULB" -- Butter, Unagi, Lettuce, and Bread. Here are some popular acronyms to use:
- HOMES. This one is used for remembering the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
- ROY G. BIV. This man's name can help you remember the colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
- FOIL. This will help you remember how to multiply two binomial terms: First, Outer, Inner, Last.
- FANBOYS. This acronym can help you remember simple coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.
- Use acrostics. Acrostics are similar to acronyms, except instead of just remembering the acronym, you can remember a new sentence made out of the first letters of a set of words that you have to memorize in a certain order. For example, you can say, "My very eager mother just sent us noodles." to learn the order of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. You can also make up acrostics of your own. Here are a few more popular acrostics:
- Every Good Boy Does Fine. This is used for memorizing the lines on the treble music staff: EGBDF.
- Never Eat Sour Watermelons. This is used for remembering the points of a compass in clockwise order: North, East, South, and West. Another good example is Never Eat Shredded Wheat which also rhymes too.
- King Philip Can Only Find His Green Slippers. Use this to memorize the order of the classification system: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.
- Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Use this to remember the order of operations in mathematics: Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction.
- Use the method of Loci. This method has been used since the time of Ancient Greece. This technique requires you to associate things in terms of place or location to help you remember the full set of information. To use this method, simply imagine placing the items you want to remember along a route you're very familiar with, or in specific locations in a familiar room or building. First, pick a familiar path; then, picture the things you want to do or memorize along that path.
- If you needed to memorize the acronyms HOMES, FANBOYS, and FOIL, you can picture a miniature home, on your front porch, a loud group of fan boys cheering on your stairs, and some foil wrapped around your bed.
- When you organize a list of information by saying, "in the first place," "in the second place," and so on, you are using a basic version of the method of loci.
Using Mindful Approaches
- Stop thinking that you have a "bad memory." Convince yourself that you do have a good memory that will improve. Too many people get stuck here and convince themselves their memory is bad, that they are just not good with names, that numbers just slip out of their minds for some reason. Erase those thoughts and vow to improve your memory. Celebrate even little achievements to keep yourself motivated.
- Exercise your brain. Regularly "exercising" the brain keeps it growing and spurs the development of new nerve connections that can help improve memory. By developing new mental skills -- especially complex ones such as learning a new language or learning to play a new musical instrument -- and challenging your brain with puzzles and games, you can keep your brain active and improve its physiological functioning.
- Try some fun puzzle exercises everyday such as crosswords, Sudoku, and other games which are easy enough for anyone.
- Get out of your comfort zone and pick something that is new and challenging, which makes you flex your brain muscles. Try to play chess or a fast-paced board game.
- A large portion of your brain is activated when it learns a new skill. Learning new information is also helpful, but since skills require both the intake and output of information, they exercise a larger portion of your brain.
- Give yourself time to form a memory. Memories are very fragile in the short-term, and distractions can make you quickly forget something as simple as a phone number. The key to avoid losing memories before you can even form them is to be able to focus on the thing to be remembered for a while without thinking about other things, so when you’re trying to remember something, avoid distractions and complicated tasks for a few minutes.
- Take better pictures. Often we forget things not because our memory is bad, but rather because our observational skills need work. One common situation where this occurs (and which almost everyone can relate to) is meeting new people. Often we don’t really learn people’s names at first because we aren’t really concentrating on remembering them. You’ll find that if you make a conscious effort to remember such things, you’ll do much better.
- One way to train yourself to be more observant is to look at an unfamiliar photograph for a few seconds and then turn the photograph over and describe or write down as many details as you can about the photograph. Try closing your eyes and picturing the photo in your mind. Use a new photograph each time you try this exercise, and with regular practice you will find you’re able to remember more details with even shorter glimpses of the photos.
- Involve multiple senses. You can stimulate more parts of your brain by using as many senses as possible when memorizing information. When a larger part of your brain is active, your ability to trigger your memory banks will increase.
- Write it out. The process of writing information by hand stimulates your brain and makes it easier to remember the information later. Typing is far less effective, however.
- When you do type out information, use a strange font. When you finish, read it back. When something is a struggle to read, you need to concentrate on it more, which can help fix it into your memory more firmly.
- Rehearse or relate the information. Tell yourself or tell another person the information. Hearing yourself recite the information will involve your sense of hearing. If you need to explain the information to the other person so that he or she can understand it, as well, your memory and understanding will be enhanced even further.
- Use your environment. Change the normal location of things to remember to do something. If you need to remember to take your multivitamins every morning, then put the toaster on its side, and only put it back in its normal place after you've taken your vitamins. Seeing the toaster out of place will remind you that something is off and that there's something you need to remember.
- If you need to remember something important, such as a person's birthday, just wear your wristwatch on your other wrist. You'll remember that there was something important you had to do when you see that the watch is out of position.
- The trick is to focus on what you want to remember as you alter the object being used. If you are not focused on the piece of information, you may not be able to associate it with the change later on.
- Use flash cards. Flash cards are especially useful for studying. It's essentially a card with a question on one side and the answer on the other. (You can also put two things you want to associate on opposite sides of a flashcard.) In the course of learning a topic, you would have a stack of cards and would go through them testing yourself. Those that you got right you would put to one side and review a few days later.
- Place the terms you remembered in one pile, and the ones you need to know in another. Keep going until all of the cards are in the "know" pile, even if you need to take breaks.
- Go back to your flash cards the next day and see if you've still memorized the terms on them.
- Don't cram for an exam. Cramming only works to put information in your short-term memory. You may remember the information for your exam the next day, but you will barely recall the unit when it's time to take the final. Spacing out your studying is important because it gives your brain time to encode the information and store it in your long-term memory.
Trying Memory Tricks
- Say things you want to remember aloud. If you have trouble remembering whether you took your medication every morning, just say, "I just took my medication!" right after you took it, to reinforce this idea in your mind. Saying this aloud will help you remember that you did indeed take your medication.
- This also works if you're meeting a new person and don't want to forget his name. Just repeat the name naturally after you learn it: "Hi, Sarah, it's nice to meet you."
- This also works to remember an address or a meeting time. Just repeat it aloud to the person who invited you: "The Grand Tavern at 7? That sounds perfect."
- Deepen your breathing when you have to remember something. When it's time to study or remember something new, switch your breathing pattern to be slower and deeper. Deeper and slower breathing actually changes the way your brain works, by inducing the brain's electrical pulses to switch to Theta waves, which normally occur in your brain in hypnogogic sleep.
- To activate your Theta waves, switch your breathing to your lower abdomen - in other words, start breathing deeply from your stomach. Consciously slow your rate of breathing too.
- After a few moments, you should feel calmer, the Theta waves should be flowing in your brain, and you should be more receptive to remembering new information.
- Remember a person's name. Use a popular trick out of FDR's playbook for memorizing a person's name. When a person introduces themselves to you, picture them with their name written on their forehead. This will associate the image of that person with their name.
- Squeeze a stress ball. Some studies suggest that squeezing a stress ball or making a fist with your hand can help you remember a piece of information later.
- Before memorizing the information, squeeze the stress ball in your dominant hand. For a right-handed person, this would be your right hand.
- When you need to remember the information, squeeze the stress ball in your opposite hand for at least 45 seconds. This simple action might be enough to help you remember.
- Chew gum. This simple act can stimulate the brain and improve your concentration, especially if you need to remember information for 30 minutes or more.
- Some studies have suggested that visual and auditory memory improves when a person chews gum by keeping the individual more focused.
- When you need to remember something for less than 30 minutes, though, it is actually better not to chew anything.
- Move your eyes from side to side. Studies show that moving your eyes from side to side for just 30 seconds once a day will align the two parts of your brain and make your memory work more smoothly. Try this trick when you wake up in the morning.
- Smell rosemary. Studies show that smelling rosemary can improve your recall. Carry around a sprig of rosemary or smell rosemary oil once a day. The Ancient Greeks even put a spring of rosemary behind their ears on exam days to help them boost their memories.
- Try some clever tricks. Begin by memorizing this list of ten words. It's simple - because each word rhymes with its number in the list. When you have to remember a lot of things, use these rhyme-number patterns. For example, you have to remember to clean your glasses. The singular for 'glasses' is 'glass', so just remember this. If this is the first thing on your list, picture a gun, which rhymes with one, shooting the glass. By association the original activity should pop back into your head. The list is enclosed below:
Improving Your Lifestyle
- Organize your life. Keep items that you frequently need, such as keys and eyeglasses, in the same place every time. Use an electronic organizer or daily planner to keep track of appointments, due dates for bills, and other tasks. Keep phone numbers and addresses in an address book or enter them into your computer or cell phone. Improved organization can help free up your powers of concentration so that you can remember less routine things.
- Even if being organized doesn’t improve your memory, you’ll receive a lot of the same benefits (i.e. you won’t have to search for your keys anymore).
- Opt for mindfulness instead of multitasking. Multitasking may seem like it allows you to get things done faster, but research suggests that it actually causes the brain to slow down overall. Mindfulness allows you to increase your focus, which improves your memory and speeds the brain up.
- You need about eight seconds of focus to commit something to memory. When you multitask, you tend to set information aside faster than eight seconds, so you're more likely to forget it.
- To practice mindfulness, all you really need to do is improve your concentration and spend more time focusing on one task at a time. When you really want to remember a specific piece of information, spend at least eight seconds focusing on that information alone.
- Exercise daily. Regular aerobic exercise improves circulation and efficiency throughout the body -- including the brain -- and can help ward off the memory loss that comes with aging. Exercise also makes you more alert and relaxed, and can thereby improve your memory uptake, allowing you to take better mental "pictures".
- Even just walking for 30 minutes a day is a fantastic form of exercise.
- Nerve cells release neurotropic factors during exercise, and these proteins trigger other chemicals that promote brain health.
- Exercise also improves blood flow to the brain, which increases the amount of oxygen your brain receives.
- Some studies suggest that regular exercise, whether moderate or vigorous, can increase the brain's memory center by one or two percent each year. Without exercise, the memory center will remain stable or may decrease in capacity.
- Reduce stress. Chronic stress does in fact physically damage the brain, it can make remembering much more difficult. After prolonged stress, the brain will start to become affected and deteriorate. Stress may never be completely eliminated from one's life, but it definitely can be controlled. Even temporary stresses can make it more difficult to effectively focus on concepts and observe things. Chronic stress can also cause long-term damage to the hippocampus, which is where memories are stored.
- Try to relax, regularly practice yoga or other stretching exercises, and see a doctor if you have severe chronic stress as soon as possible.
- Meditate for at least 15 minutes a day. This will help you slow down your breathing and relax, and it can improve your focus.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine can make you feel more anxious and stressed.
- Give yourself a massage or get one from a friend. This will help your body loosen up.
- Reduce stress by spending more time being social with your friends. Being a more social creature and talking to people more will also improve your memory.
- Anxiety and depression can also make it difficult to concentrate and remember information. If you are struggling with clinical anxiety or depression disorders, you should work with your doctor to figure out a way to treat these conditions.
- Laugh often.
Laughter causes multiple parts of your brain to light up, and the portions responsible for your memory are among them.
- Laughing becomes even more beneficial when others are involved. Some studies suggest that socializing with friends, close relatives, and even pets can slow your overall rate of memory decline as you age.
- Eat Well for Less. There are a lot of herbal supplements on the market that claim to improve memory, but none have yet been shown to be effective in clinical tests. A healthy diet, however, contributes to a healthy brain, and foods containing antioxidants -- broccoli, blueberries, spinach, and berries, for example -- and Omega-3 fatty acids appear to promote healthy brain functioning.
- Feed your brain with such supplements as Thiamine, Niacin and Vitamin B-6.
- Some of the suggested foods for your brain are green tea, curry, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, walnuts, crab, chickpeas, red meat, blueberries, and healthy fats (including organic butter, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, avocado, and salmon or other fatty fish). Each of these foods contains antioxidants that may protect your brain and encourage the production of new brain cells.
- Increase the amount omega-3 fatty acid you consume but decrease omega-6 fats. Omega-3 fats are usually found in salmon and similar animal sources, while omega-6 fats are typically found in processed vegetable oils.
- You should also avoid sugars and grain carbohydrates since these foods can negatively affect your brain. Saturated fats and high-calorie foods are similarly believed to hinder your memory, especially in the long term.
- Red wine may improve your memory when consumed in moderation. If you consume more than one glass a day as a woman or two glasses as a man, the alcohol can begin to impair your memory. In small amounts, though, the resveratrol flavonoid in wine can increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Grape juice, cranberry juice, fresh berries, and peanuts are said to provide a similar effect.
- Grazing, or eating 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals, also seems to improve mental functioning (including memory) by limiting dips in blood sugar, which may negatively affect the brain. Make sure it's healthy stuff.
- Try increasing your vitamin D intake. Studies suggest that low vitamin D may be associated with decreased cognitive performance.
When vitamin D receptors in your brain are activated, the nerve growth in your brain increases. Some of the metabolic pathways for vitamin D are located in areas of the brain responsible for forming new memories.
- While too much sunlight can cause skin damage, a moderate amount can provide all the vitamin D needed by the average adult.
- Vitamin D3 supplements are other alternative methods of getting adequate vitamin D.
- Sleep well. Sleeping improves your neuroplasticity—your brain's ability to grow—which enhances the brain's ability to control behavior and memory. The amount of sleep we get affects the brain's ability to recall recently learned information. Getting a good night's sleep -- a minimum of seven hours a night -- may improve your short-term memory and long-term relational memory, according to recent studies conducted at the Harvard Medical School.
- Try to get anywhere from 7 to 10 hours of sleep each night. The ideal for most healthy adults is eight hours.
- Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every night. This will make you feel much more rested.
- Spend at least half an hour reading in bed and winding down before you go to bed. Shut off the TV, your computer, and any other visual stimulants at least an hour before bed.
- Take catnaps during the day. They can help you recharge your batteries and boost your memory.
- Your brain also consolidates information into your long-term memory bank during sleep. If you stay awake, this process won't be able to happen.
- When studying, take a break every so often, and do something dynamic, run up and down the stairs a couple of times, go back to your work in ten minutes
- Memorize your favorite song or poem until you can say it to yourself without any help. Try to do this often.
- There are also games that have been created to help you improve your memory. Playing some of these will help.
- If you're poetically inclined, try turning some things you need to know into a song or poem.
- Take a tray of objects (say, 10 objects). Study them for 30 seconds. Take the tray away and write down all the objects you can. Increase the number of items to exercise the mind even more. Or, get someone else to find the objects on the tray; this makes them harder to remember and will test you more.
- One easy method to help you remember people’s names is to look at the person when you are introduced and say the person’s name: "Nice to meet you, Bill." Another way to remember someone's name is to visualize that person holding hands with another person you know well with that name. It's weird but it works.
- Write the event or task down immediately. If you don't have a pen, one thing you can do is change the time on your watch; later on you will remember why it is set at the wrong time. You could also wear your watch upside down.
- Chew gum. It works really well to improve function in the Hippocampus, an area in your brain directly related to memory.
- Put black ink at the end of your palm to remember any important thing for the next day or for that day itself. Whenever you see the black dot, you'll remember what to do.
- Leave yourself a telephone message reminding yourself of important "to do" tasks.
- Write in a diary or journal every day without fail. Even small issues should be written down -- this is a good way to make sure you don't miss anything.
- A large number of memory improvement products are available (a search on the internet will produce hundreds of such products). Most of these products actually teach you mnemonic strategies, and while some are no doubt bunk, some are legitimate.
- Try memorizing the order of a deck of playing cards. Although this may seem like a pointless task, it will allow you to discover memorization techniques that work best for you.
- Visualize whatever you have to do as part of something you see every day. For example, if you have to give your dog some medicine, visualize your dog in your fridge every time you walk past it or look inside. This will keep your dog fresh in your mind.
- Most people’s brains are not very good at remembering abstract information, such as numbers. This is one of the things that separate those with eidetic, or photographic, memory from those with a great, normal memory. The key to being able to recall such things is to build associations and links that evoke the memory. This is why almost anybody with normal brain functioning can dramatically improve their ability to recall things using mnemonics. While building a memory palace, for example, actually requires that you "remember" more, by associating the thing to be remembered with other things (emotions, other memories, images, etc.) you build more mental "links" to the memory, thus making it easier to access.
- You could try to remember the page you are on when you read a book, instead of relying a bookmark.
- Solve any personal or some concerns that bother your mind. A peaceful mind leads to a good memory.
- If you notice a severe or sudden deterioration of memory, talk to your doctor immediately. Sometimes these can be precursors to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- While some herbal supplements that claim to improve memory may in fact work, there is no conclusive evidence that any of these are effective. Most are harmless, however, and may be worth a try, but exercise caution: some supplements can have harmful effects, and not all contain what they say they contain.
- Exercise due diligence when purchasing a memory improvement product. Find out as much as you can about how the program works, and do your own research to determine if it will work for you. Some of these products are simply scams. Be especially wary of products that promise to improve your memory instantly or with little or no effort: effective strategies to improve recall take time and practice.
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