Iron rusts from disuse, while stagnant water loses its purity; even so does inaction sap the vigor’s of the mind.Leonardo da Vinci
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.
Attentive listening is of course important when it comes to social interactions, however it is also equally important when it comes to the fundamentals of memory and recall. The simple truth is, that if you don’t listen attentively you will fail to pick up on information, and therefore won’t be able to recall it at a later time. Listening is the foundation of auditory memory. By taking time each day to really focus in and concentrate on improving your listening skills in every situation will significantly boost your memory and recall of information.
Create affirmations that will set you on a path towards improving your memory.
The first step is to never doubt your ability to remember things. The second step is to create an affirmation that will naturally enhance and improve your memory each and every day. An example of an affirmation you can use is:
Every day in every way my memory is improving.
Very simple, yet said with conviction and repeated many times throughout your day, it could very well instill the belief you need to improve your memory.
Begin Setting Goals
Setting effective goals is obviously an important aspect of life when it comes to personal success and achievement. However, what many of us may not realize is that setting goals can also boost your memory and ability to recall information. Here is a simple explanation:
When you set goals, you are at that moment giving your brain a direct command by outlining a purpose and an objective that you are aiming for. Automatically your brain sees these targets as being important and will therefore store them away and make them easily accessible whenever you need this information.
Given this knowledge, begin setting small goals throughout your day that you will work towards accomplishing. Make them real by writing them down on pieces of paper like you would with a To Do list.
Organize Yourself by Creating To Do Lists
Leading on from goal setting, To Do lists are like mini-goals that you set yourself on a daily basis that point you in the direction of your larger goals and objectives. The simple act of taking the time to write things down — that you would like to accomplish throughout your day — increases your chances of remembering two fold.
Clear all Unresolved Issues
For many of us, the greatest memory saboteurs are simply unresolved issues that we have neglected over time. The numerous problems and issues that we are carrying at the forefront of our mind affect our focus, concentration, thought process and listening ability. All these issues drain us physically, emotionally and mentally. After all this, is it any wonder that we can’t remember simple things?
Resolve today to clear as many unresolved issues as you can. It will be like clearing out your closet of all the mess that has been progressively building up over the years. Throw away and distance yourself from everything that you no longer need, and pay the price with an uncluttered and vastly improved memory and mind.
Find a Place for Everything
This extends from the previous point. If you are finding that you are spending too much time looking for things, than simply commit yourself today to finding a place for everything at home, work, school, in your car, etc. This will save you time and help you unclutter your mind, leaving room for the more important things that are really worth remembering.
Refresh Your Mind Regularly
Keeping your mind adequately refreshed will dramatically help you to boost your memory and recall.
Have you every tried to remember something when you were under an overwhelming amount of stress? If yes, than you know how important it is to ensure that your mind is rested at regular intervals for optimum performance. You can rest your mind via relaxation, meditation or simply by taking regular breaks throughout your day.
Finally, if you are experiencing difficulty with trying to remember something then it might help to simply sleep on it. As you nod off to sleep, ask yourself a question that will help trigger an answer. You may find that as you awaken in the morning that the answer will magically pop into your mind when you least expect it.
Take Advantage of the Mozart Effect
Classical music composed by Mozart has been proven to assist with better memory retention and recall of information. By simply playing Mozart’s piano sonata in the background while you are working or studying, can assist with improving your memory. For more information click here.
Visualize What to Remember
Whenever you want to remember a piece of information, simply stop yourself for a moment and take a few seconds to create a visual image, picture and representation in your mind about this object, information or situation. This simple act will help increase your ability to recall this information at a later time. [see: visual thinking magic]
Write Reminders on the Back of Your Hand
If in doubt, write it out. The back of your hand is like a portable notepad for simple reminders. However, use it sparingly only as a backup reminder tool. Improving your long-term memory should be your number #1 objective.
Keep a Notepad and Journal
Similar to the back of the hand technique, keep a notepad in your pocket at all times for simple reminders.
Finally, writing out a daily journal can be a great way to sort your thoughts and clear the clutter from your mind.
How to Better Remember Things
Have you ever been introduced to a person and ended up forgetting their name a few moments later? Have you ever misplaced your keys or wallet? Have you ever been given a telephone number that you simply could not remember? Have you ever found it difficult to recall long lists of items? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions than these guidelines will set you on track towards improving your memory:
Remembering names first begins with working on your listening skills. Simply begin by paying attention, making an effort and listening to the name that the person gives you. If the name is unusual or you missed it for some reason, ask the person to repeat it again or to simply spell it out.
Next, be sure to repeat the persons name several times within the next couple of minutes while you are conversing with them. This will assist in locking the name away into your long-term memory.
Thirdly, ask the person for a card so that you can obtain a visual representation of their name. And finally, to lock the name away into your long-term memory, associate the person’s face with their name in some way. For instance observe the person’s features such as nose, ears, mouth, hair, etc, to pinpoint something that might standout in your mind. Now use this feature and piece it together with their name. For instance if someones name was Adam and you notice that they have a big bulging Adam’s Apple, than you can associate the name Adam with their Adam’s Apple.
Remember Where Placed Items
I’m sure that most of us have experienced more than one moment in our lives where we misplaced our keys or wallet. If this is a regular occurrence in your life, than fear no longer as there are a couple of ways to rid yourself of this habit once and for all.
Firstly at home, identify a specific place within a room where you will always place your keys and wallet.
Secondly, if for some reason you cannot place your keys within this spot or you are in an unfamiliar environment, than take a moment to stop yourself before leaving your keys on a bench or table. Stop yourself for just five seconds and imagine the table burning or eating your keys in a creative and vividly memorable manner. Use a lot of movement and incorporate as many of your senses into the experience as physically possible. This act alone should trigger your memory when it comes time to look for your keys.
There is no doubt that it will take a little practice to get into the habit of doing this. However, after a few tries, you brain will automatically create these visual images on its own without a second thought.
Remembering telephone numbers is best accomplished using one of two methods. The first is to create pictures in your mind that are associated with a number.
- 1 = Tree
- 2 = Light Switch
- 3 = Stool
- 4 = Car
- 5 = Glove
- 6 = Beer
- 7 = Dice
- 8 = Octopus
- 9 = Cat
- 10 = Bowling Ball, etc
Each of these numbers are associated to the picture word in some way. For instance, an Octopus represents the #8 because it has 8 tentacles.
Now, when someone gives you their telephone number use these pictures to create a story involving this person. Making your stories weird and fun will assist in helping to improve your memory recall.
Derren Brown uses a similar technique, however he associates the numbers to specific and memorable events that are significant and important in his life. Check the explanation of his method here.
Remembering lists is very similar to the process of remembering numbers. First it is important to chunk or group the list into smaller pieces whenever possible.
Next, take these chunks and combine them together into a memorable, weird and funny story in your mind. However, make sure to separate each individual chunk or piece on the list clearly within this visual story. This will assist in improved memory recall.
Now, go ahead and visualize this story three or four times within your mind before thinking about other things. With practice and repetition this technique will become second nature.
Memory Health Fundamentals
Sometimes we tend to forget that memory strategies and techniques only comprise half the pieces of the puzzle. The other half pertains to our health and nutritional intake.
If we live in an unhealthy way, disregard our nutritional obligations, don’t get enough exercise or sleep, and constantly bombard our body with toxins, then no matter what wonderful and effective memory strategies we utilize on a daily basis, we simply won’t be in the right frame of mind for efficient memory recall.
The following list presents you with some simple nutritional strategies and activities that are known to boost your brain power and improve your memory and recall:
Memory Boosting Supplements
The following supplements have all been found to support the building blocks of memory and can assist in improving recall:
- Vitamins (B12, B6)
- Antioxidants (Vitamins E, C, Niacin, Thiamine, Beta-Carotene)
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids found in Flax-seed and Udo’s Oil
- Ginkgo Biloba
Memory Enhancing Vegetables
Vegetables are a great source of many types of essential nutrition. However, there are certain vegetables that promote, enhance and can actually boost brain power. The following vegetables will get you started on the right track:
- Bok Choy
Memory Building Fruits
Here is a list of a few essential memory boosting fruits:
- Black Currents
- Red Apples
More Memory Enhancing Foods
Other foods that can assist with improving memory and recall include:
- Folic Acid
- Wholegrain Cereals
General Memory Enhancing Strategies
As a general rule of thumb, to improve your memory and to keep it functioning at optimum levels be sure to avoid smoking and stressing at all costs. These two unfortunate habits have very negative consequences and side-effects on both long-term and short-term memory. On the other hand, people who undertake regular exercise have shown to have enhanced memory function and recall ability.
Control Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
Finally, control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as they are critical factors for the long-term health and well-being of your brain. Also check with your doctor to see if any of the medications you are taking might be preventing you from potentially improving your memory.
Exercise Brain to Keep it Young and Vibrant
To finish off our discussion about memory, it would be wise to quickly point out a few simple exercises that will keep your brain at peak conditioning throughout the year:
Continuously Challenge Your Brain
As was mentioned earlier, “What you don’t use, you are likely to lose“. Don’t take your brain for granted. We exercise our body because we would like to become fit and healthy. You should also exercise your brain to keep it in peak condition all year round. Do this by simply challenging your brain to remember things, to calculate numbers, recall lists, names, directions etc, throughout your day.
Occasionally it is okay to write things down on paper or to make calculations using a calculator. However, it’s much better to regularly exercise your brain and test your memory as often as possible. Only through use can it improve. And only through improving will your memory and recall get better with age.
Play Brain Games
Challenge your brain by playing games that stimulate your thinking and recall of information. Whether it be puzzle games, trivia quizzes, scrabble, sudoku, crosswords, or a phone or tablet app brain training game — just get yourself involved, have fun, get others involved and test your brain in new and creative ways each and every day. The more often you get your brain involved with these types of activities the better your memory will become.
Earlier on within this discussion we discussed the importance of making associations with existing knowledge and information. We spoke about how learning a 4th language was much easier than learning a 2nd language because of existing associations that were previously created.
By reading books often on a variety of topics that you may initially not be familiar with, will create many new associations within your brain that will lead to improved memory and recall of information.
Use Opposite Hand
This could well be the most overlooked strategy for boosting your brain power. It is so easy to just look past this suggestion without giving it a second thought. However, simply spend a couple of weeks using your opposite hand to brush your teeth, to eat, to wash yourself, to write, to open doors, etc, and you may well see a transformation in your thinking patterns and recall of information.
By using your opposite hand to undertake simple tasks, activities and chores that your dominant hand takes for granted, you are stimulating and exercising the opposite side of your brain for what maybe the first time in your life.
That which hasn’t been used in a long time, could be the key that unlocks many wonderful opportunities.
Through continuous diligent effort and repetition, you can boost your memory and recall of information in ways that you may not have imagined was possible before. Use these guidelines as daily tools to get yourself into proactive habits that will promote a better and more effective memory that won’t leave you hanging when you are relying on it most.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any further thoughts, ideas, reflections or suggestions about this topic, than please feel free to comment below.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Would you like to keep these concepts at the forefront of your mind? If so, then you might like to download the accompanying mind map reference poster to your iPad, tablet or computer. The map presents you with a quick overview of this article. It’s designed specifically to help improve your memory and recall of this information so that you can better integrate these concepts into your daily thoughts, habits and actions. Your purchase will also go a long way towards supporting the further development of these maps.
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- Boost Your Brain Power @ Litemind
- 10 Ways to Boost Your Concentration @ Change Your Thoughts
- Brain Workout – 10 Free Mind Games to Exercise Your Brain @ Life Optimizer
- 22 Research Proven Tips for a Better Memory @ Ririan Project
- 15 Extra Ways to Keep Your Brain in Shape @ Ririan Project
- Maximize Brainpower: Program a Function Library for Your Mind @ Scott H Young
- Keeping Your Brain Young @ Pick the Brain
- Build Brain Power with these 21 Resources @ Pick the Brain
- 11 Simple Ways to Improve Your Memory @ We the Change
- The Memory Toolbox: 75 Tips and Resources @ Online Education Database
- Improve Your Memory: Simple Tricks to Remember @ How to Improve Memory
- The Memory Palace @ Litemind
- Do You Need Brain Training Software for a Fit Brain? @ Mind Tweaks
- 10 Ways to Enhance Brain Fitness Online @ Make Use Of
- 50 Fun Free Web Games to Make Your Brain Smarter, Faster & Sharper @ Online College Blog
- Remember Any Number with the Major Memory System @ Litemind
- 10 Smart Strategies to Help You Remember Names & Faces Easily @ Ego Development
- 10 Ways to Train Your Brain for Free or Cheap @ Mind Tweaks