Iron rusts from disuse, while stagnant water loses its purity; even so does inaction sap the vigor’s of the mind.
The Failure of Memory
When we were kids, remembering things seemed to be so easy and effortless. We could remember and recall long lists, facts, numbers, names, learn new languages almost over night, and it all just seemed so effortless and simple that we didn’t even think twice about the process of remembering or learning. However, as we’ve grown older — and hopefully wiser — our memory has probably come under question at times due to a variety of factors and reasons. It could be because we are constantly bombarded with so much more information today then ever before. Or it could simply be that we have been so far removed from the “academic learning game” that our brains have just become lazy and fail to take the necessary critical steps that would allow it to easily and effectively organize, process and recall information with precision and speed.
The good news is that no matter what your age or level of academic experience, you too can dramatically improve your memory by following some sound, tried and simple guidelines.
These keys to improving your memory involve simple processes, strategies, exercises and nutritional guidelines that will keep your brain fresh, active and at peak condition. Learn them, apply them and incorporate them into your daily experience, and you too will benefit from a vastly improved memory.
Improving the Memory Process
If we were for a moment to step into the mind of an individual who has an outstanding memory…
- What would we see?
- What insights would their process of thinking give us about how they think on a daily basis?
- What would we learn about the way they process information, organize information, and recall information?
Even though every individual may have a slightly different strategy for processing and organizing information, we could however zero-in on a general understanding of what these great thinkers do, and it would probably look something like this:
Improve Concentration, Focus and Observation Skills
Many of us don’t realize it, but we tend sabotage the memory process unconsciously through the simple act of not paying attention, focusing, concentrating or incorporating keen observation skills that are the essential building blocks for improving your memory.
Have you ever listened to someone talk, read an article, or listened to a lecture and then realized several seconds or minutes later that you have absolutely no idea what the information was about? Yes, this no doubt happens to many of us. However, you can change this habit by simply teaching yourself to pay attention to the details in every conversation, book, lecture or piece of information that you come across.
Begin by paying attention to the big picture, or in other words the purpose of the information and seeing it as an organized piece of associated knowledge in your mind, somewhat like a mind map. You can also practice by testing your observation skills in the following way:
Simply, take 30 seconds to look around your room at all the details, colors, furniture and other visuals. Next, close your eyes and recall from memory where everything is located, including colors, placement and all the other vivid details. Finally, open your eyes and check to see how accurate your memory was. You can also do this with photographs.
It is strongly suggested you perform this exercise within an environment that you are not very familiar with.
Tailor Information to Your Personal Learning Style
There are three learning styles including visual. auditory and kinesthetic learning. Subconsciously and consciously you are likely to favor one of these styles over others. For instance you might find that you learn information much more readily and easily through reading and seeing pictures (visual style). On the other hand, someone else might prefer listening to an audio version of that information as this is much more complimentary of their learning style (auditory). While a third person may only learn through means of interacting with this information in some way, shape or form (kinesthetic).
Simply, determine your preferred learning style and adapt the information you are trying to process into your long-term memory in a way that will be consistent with this method of learning.
Create Associations with Existing Knowledge
It is said that the more languages you know the easier it is to learn another language. How is this possible?
Whenever we learn something and take it into our long-term memory, it becomes familiar to us. We clearly understand this information, can recall and access it at a moments notice. Later when we undertake the process of learning a new language, there will always be some concepts, ideas, character structures, grammatical patterns, etc, that are quite familiar to us based on our past experience in learning languages. This therefore makes learning a 3rd, 4th and 5th new language much easier than it was learning your 2nd.
Knowing this, simply understand that to better remember and recall information, you must find links and associations of related concepts and ideas that you are already familiar with, and connect them with the knowledge you are currently learning. In this way you will improve your memory and recall ability.
Group Related Objects
When you have large chunks of information to remember, it makes it easier to take a little time to group this information into related parts that naturally compliment each other. It is as though you are creating category folders on your computer for Word and Excel files.
Just imagine for a moment that you had 500 different Word and Excel files on your computer about many different topics within a single folder. This type of structure would make finding the file you want more difficult and time consuming. Instead, how about organizing these 500 files into about 20 related folders and then maybe even breaking down each of those folders into more sub-folders. If you understand that this would be a more efficient and effective means of finding information, than you will also understand how important it is that you classify your
information in a similar fashion within your brain on a continuous basis throughout your day.
Involve Your Imagination and Senses
Our imaginations lay down foundational principles for building strong memory and recall. While you are listening or reading a new piece of information, try at the same time to create vivid pictures in your mind in ways that will bring this information to life like never before. Exaggerate these visuals, make them weird, funny and most of all, memorable. Your imagination is simply a film projector turning pieces of content into a vivid story that will make recall much more easy, efficient and effective.
Learn to utilize all your senses to improve your memory. Read information out load, do something with the information, visualize the piece of information in a unique and memorable way, even try incorporating your sense of smell and taste to add extra sensual vividness to the information you are learning.
Focus on “Just” the Basics
Sometimes we become confused with the amount of information that is being thrown our way at home, work, on the Internet or at school. It is easy to get quickly overwhelmed with all these new pieces of wisdom that we just can’t seem to grasp. In situations like this, many of us might just give up [never give up] as we are simply unable to comprehend what we can’t recall or understand. The solution for this is to focus on the basics.
Commit yourself to understanding the basic building blocks of the information and move from there. It may help to create a mind map of the information on paper to allow you to grasp a birds-eye view of the content within one visual frame. Once you have the basics in place, you will be ready to expand on your understanding of each piece of information one step at a time.
Utilize Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are simple tools and clues that we can use to remember something.
Utilize visual images by linking them to the information you are trying to remember. This could be as simple as associating a person called Daisy with the daisy flower.
Utilize sentences where the first letter or each word represents a list or set of words within a group. For instance memorizing the lines of the treble staff in music is best remembered as:
Utilize acronyms which involves taking the first letter of each word within a list and creating a word (out of these letters) that represents the entire list of words.
Utilize rhymes to assist in memory and recall of information. Simply turn the information you would like to remember into a rhyme, poem or rap song.
Utilize humor by making the things you would like to remember funny, amusing and entertaining in someway. You can even create an interesting funny story or joke about this information that will make it stand out in your mind.
Method of Loci
Utilize the Method of Loci , which involves the process of associating each part of what you would like to remember to a landmark on a route as you are commuting to school or work.
Organize Your Information
Once you have collected the information you want to remember, be sure to organize it in a way that will make it easy to find within your mind as well as within the physical world. Organize the information you are learning through the use of colors, codes, labels, folders, categories, etc.
“Repeat” to Improve Your Memory
Through the process of regular repetition, you are informing your brain of the information’s relative importance. As a result your brain will always make this information easily accessible at a moments notice.
Take Time to Relax
In order for your memory to be at its peak, you must make sure to get adequate relaxation and sleep. No matter how efficient and effective your memory is, if you are not rested it will undoubtedly let you down.
Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude
Finally, the memory process wouldn’t be complete without a quick discussion about the importance of a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA). Having a PMA is absolutely essential to a healthy brain and effortless recall. Always believe in yourself that you have a great memory and that no matter how much information is trying to upload itself into your memory storage banks, that you will find a way and method to process, organize and recall it when required.
As a final thought, don’t ever catch yourself saying:
I don’t remember
This kind of talk will only work to your disadvantage when it comes to cultivating a PMA.
Memory Boosting Strategies
Those who have an outstanding memory perform some simple and specific tasks and activities throughout their day that give them that necessary edge when it comes to recalling the information they need at the spur of the moment. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Cultivate Lifelong Learning
First, and most importantly, people with a great memory have committed themselves to lifelong learning. For most of us, once our years of schooling are complete, we tend to neglect further learning that would keep our brains sharp and active throughout our adult lives. This is a big mistake, because as the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you will lose it. ”
Commit yourself to reading non-fiction self-help, business, history and other books that will keep your mind sharp throughout your adult life. Or simply spend time every day learning more about your business or industry.
Practice Listening Intently
Listening is a critical and important skill when it comes to everyday human interactions. On the job if we are unable to listen to instructions correctly, we could make mistakes that might potentially cost us our careers. At school, if we are unable to effectively take-in what our teachers have to say, we will miss important information that might be essential to passing our examinations. And at home, if we don’t listen attentively to our spouse, we may very well end up sleeping alone.