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Do you ever find yourself staring blankly at ATM screen not remembering what your PIN code is? Did you ever forget your girlfriend’s birthday and got into serious trouble? These are some of the signs that your memory might need some exercise to get into a better shape. You might find the following tips how to improve your memory useful.
You should notice an improvement in you short and long term memory after practicing these exercises for some period of time. They are truly simple tricks you can start doing today! Choose the ones that best suit your needs and personality, you don’t have to apply them all at once.
1. Visualize information
Try to convert boring information into a picture. Most information we consume every day is abstract and that is why it is difficult for our brain to latch onto it. For example you have an appointment with your tax man today at 3 Bridge Street. Try and convert the abstract information into a familiar image. You might want to imagine three bridges or a three-column bridge to remember the address. Later in the day when it comes to going to the location, your mind will recall the information faster and you won’t even have to take out your phone and look it up again.
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Images work like mental hooks that will help you retrieve the information form your memory. They work well for both short and long term memory. You can use this technique to remember something as banal as where you parked your car or something more complicated as the capital cities of European countires.
2. Chunk it
Image by Yale Law Library via Flickr
Chucking information increases the number of arbitrary items our memory can process. You can remember “chunked” information easier by remembering the group as opposed to every individual item separately. It has been scientifically proven to be a faster way of remembering things. Break up big pieces of information into small logical chunks and try to remember those. Organize the information based on its meaning.
Don’t make your brain lazy by writing a grocery list. Instead, put each item you need to buy in a mental product sercion (dairy, bakery, deli, etc.). When you physically get to the particular area of the store, you will be more likely to remember all the items you needed in there.
Another good example is a phone number. We tend to remember a phone number better in three chunks: 0423 859 569 than in one piece like this 04023859569. It is much easier to remember groups of numbers than each of them individually.
3. Make associations
Relating new information to something you already know is a great way of remembering it. Try to look for connections between different facts and pieces of information. Find a link between what you try to memorize and what you are familiar with.
Great way of making an association is to connect information in a story. We tend to remember stories better than individual fragments of information. You might be trying to memorize some historical information for a test. Make up a story that connects the dates and people to help you remember the facts.
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4. Do something strange
This is probably my favorite trick so far. Do you also run around the house looking for your keys every other morning? Try and do something wacky when you are placing them somewhere the night before. This will activate your memory by breaking an everyday routine.You can stomp, whistle or cry out, whatever occurs to you 🙂 The point is you will remember doing this the next morning and you will recall where you did it. As simple as that.
5. Pay attention to detail
Exercise your mind when you can. Try to remember details of places and situations that are important in your life. The more details you remember the more likely you are to recollect the moment later. Make an effort to register as much information as you can. Pay attention to what people say and how they say it. Stay at present and pay attention to the task ahead. Your mental presence is important when seeking to improve your memory.
I found a fantastic practical tip related to this point:
When you are ready to go to sleep, go over what you did that day from the time you got up until you get into bed. Start with the time you awoke, got out of bed, follow your entire day step by step until the time you went back to bed. Try to recall as much detail as possible, visualizing in your mind each and every step from beginning to end. In the beginning, you probably wont remember much detail, and you’ll probably move rapidly from task to task or think of the day in large periods of time. However, try to slow down and remember as much as you can to take in as much detail as you can. ~ Source: Forbes
6. Be active
Your body and mind are interconnected. Your brain works better when your body is active. When you start exercising, you brain recognizes it as a stress moment as if you were in danger. You body starts releasing a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which not only protects your brain and body form the stress, but also repairs your memory neurons. Exercise also triggers endorphins, which help prioritizing functions of your brain. That is why your ability to remember things and sort out your priorities improves after exercise.
Don’t forget to exercise your brain too. Any intellectual activity is good for you. Find things you like and try to do them at least once a day: read, play sudoku, meditate, write a poem… You can also start a brain fitness program
consisting of different memory games and exercises
Active lifestyle will not only improve your memory but also help increase your productivity!
7. Live a healthy life
Exercising often is only one part of living a healthy lifestyle. Another important factors that affect your memory are what you eat, and drink and how much you sleep.
The food we eat has an enormous effect on our brain activity. Recent studies have shown that eating antioxidants is beneficial for our memory function. Two great foods for improving memory are apples and blueberries, so make sure you have enough of them in your diet.
You might think alcohol has negative impact on memory. Well, not quite. Research actually demonstrates that drinking in moderation helps improve brain function as well as short-term memory. There are other studies suggesting that people who drink in moderation are less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
A good night’s sleep may improve your memory and help consolidate recently encoded information in your brain. It also plays an essential role in learning new information. Your memory simply needs to be well rested to operate optimally.
8. Use your environment
This technique is also call the method of loci or a memory palace and has been a popular mnemonic device since the Ancient Greece. You use an environment you are familiar with, a location you spent a lot of time in and know well. It can be your house or your daily drive to work. You then imagine walking through that location or journey and selecting places, objects and landmarks. You put the objects you need to remember into these places walking through the location in a set path. You can combine this method with the visualization method mentioned earlier and visualize a connection with an item you need to remember and the familiar place.
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This method requires some practice but once deep-routed, it can serve as a powerful tool for your memory and help you remember information you would normally forget.
9. Involve multiple senses
One of the most common problems people have is to remember names. They have an abstract meaning as we cannot associate them with anything familiar, if we don’t know the person yet. Try to use your senses when you are introduce to someone new. You can focus on their voice or the taste of the drink you have when you meet them. Again, you can use visualization method to make an association with their name. We all have different preferences when in comes to how we learn and process information. Use the sense that best suits your learning style to remember new names, numbers or addresses.
10. Don’t rush yourself
Repetition is the mother of all learning. If you study for an exam, you will most likely need to go over the information a few times before you can safely say you remember it. Work slowly towards your goal and review the material progressively. It will be stored in the long-term part as the brain. Take your time and practice your memory. Don’t forget to relax your brain in the meanwhile and take a break from study to revitalize your memory function.
“Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own.” ~ Salman Rushdie
There are probably other great ways to improve your memory. What are your favorite tips? I’d love your insights on this.