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10 Tips for Memory Improvement

By Combi31 @combi31

Use it or lose it – 10 Tips for memory improvement

Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to remember things as if they were a snapshot, in vivid color and in great detail? Unfortunately a photographic memory isn’t something that we all possess, but we can at least work on our memories in order to be able to recall what we need, when we need it – the operative word here being, ‘work’.

Many people complain of having a bad memory, so what do they do? Well, very often they make long lists of things that they must remember to do, or they use a plethora of Post-its as a way of ensuring that they don’t forget anything.

That’s fine – or is it?

The problem is that if people have trouble remembering things it is usually because they do not work their memory, but rather rely on cues made up of lists or Post-its, the result being that memory will have little chance of being developed.

The key here is to find ways of actively improving the memory, or accepting that you have a bad memory and continuing to let it slip, slowly away – if you change nothing, nothing changes.

The brain works best when it is viewed as a muscle – work it and it will stay on tip-top form, if it isn’t worked and exercised it will become atrophied, slow and listless. I am talking about active learning, or at least being active – not just doing things in a passive way. Unfortunately, the bulk of our education systems are built on passive learning, reciting, learning by heart and rote learning, which often leads us to march in line with received ideas, accepting the status quo as the norm.

I hear a lot of people state, quite rightly, that at 40 years old, they haven’t got the same facility to take in information and remember things as they did when they were 20. This is undoubtedly true in most cases, but I firmly believe that we can regain this, the only thing is that we will have to work harder for it as we get older.

Some people, who have learnt languages state that they have “lost their French” etc. Now how can this be true? How can you unlearn something, unless you have suffered some traumatic cerebral injury – it just doesn’t happen like this. How can you unlearn how to ride a bicycle? You may have to work to get it back, but it is in no way lost – it’s just misplaced in the almost infinite drawers and cupboards of the memory.

Have you ever gone into a room and then wondered what you were there for? Opened a drawer to find something and completely drawn a blank as to what you were searching for? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Is this bad memory or distraction of the hundreds of thoughts and tasks zooming around in the mind?

There are five main forms of memory:

1. Short-term memory – information that arouse the senses and creates interest and can be from a few seconds to several minutes. When driving you may notice an unusual building, a person or a poster – which can subsequently be forgotten fairly rapidly.

2. Long-term memory – this entails a deliberate action o concentration to transfer the short-term to the long-term. The action of storage is, in some way active, such as remembering dates or the way to get to work, but the retrieval can be almost a reflex that is little more than auto-recall.

3. Episodic memory – this is where the sequence of life events that make up a person’s biography are stored, as a sequence of episodes.

4. Semantic memory – is the reserve of knowledge about the world around us.

5. Procedural memory – the store of memories that produce quasi-automatic movements such as skiing, riding a bike or getting to familiar places.

Explicit memory helps us to remember things in context, sometimes with the sights, sounds, emotions and smells that accompanied the original event, which generally lasts a very long time and is accessed almost at will as a very strong memory item.

Implicit memory, on the other hand, is when memories are recalled without the context that surrounded them – sometimes referred to as unconscious knowledge. Both implicit and explicit memory are vital ingredients in learning and long-term memory.

Whatever conclusion we come to, it is clear that we could all do with a bit of work on our memories.

Here are some tips to start getting active, working that big gray muscle and helping you to learn some ways to improve your memory.

1. Get enough sleep – This is obvious, I suppose, some can thrive on just a few hours a night, while others need a full 12 hours. Sleep depravation has a negative effect on the functioning of the brain and on the memory. get the amount of sleep that you need.

2. Drink frequently – studies have shown that frequent intake of water help both the concentration and the memory. Ensure that you are drinking enough to stave off dehydration, which hampers concentration and has a knock-on effect on poor memory performance. The key here is little-and-often.

3. Taking notes – if you must use a pad of Post-its a day to remember all that you need, just try limiting what you write down – keep it to key words so that you have to force your memory to work to retrieve the information / tasks that need to be accomplished. You will also save Post-its, ink and time. Writing everything down is not a failsafe guarantee that you will remember everything anyway.

4. Do something active in your down-time to get those neurons moving. Word puzzles, Sudoku, Acrostics or word searches. These are ways of relaxing and also optimising your leisure time by working your brain.

5. Use Mind Maps – The use of effective MindMapping techniques really help to join the dots in terms of memory improvement, retention of information and creativity. They must be personal and meaningful to you, pleasant and almost inviting to look at and form a basis for linking concepts, ideas and information. In fact a mind map just gets on paper what is happening in the brain. Mindmaps link information, ideas and concepts much as the brain does with neural networks.

6. Use images – If you are using concept or mind maps, try using as much imagery as possible – images have a stronger influence on memory than words alone. “A picture is worth a thousand words”, was never a truer maxim when linked to good memory acquisition and improvement.

7. Use your imagination – Information is then transformed from an external sensory input to an internal transformational stimulus in the brain. Advertisers know how to use this to the full – remember these : “Vorsprung Durch Technique”, “Let your fingers do the walking”, “Go Compare” “Because I’m worth it”… These all produce some emotion and imagination and fix the images, slogans and memories firmly on the brain – as much as we may resist

8. Use more of your imagination – if you have to remember something important, try making it so colourful and ridiculous that it will have a such huge impact on your memory that it will be almost difficult to forget.

9. Chunk information – By chunking information into manageable chunks you can learn to recall quite phenomenal information, such as numbers: If I try to remember the following number it will be almost impossible – 1066060619442211196301091939191419181111191899991114022512 However, if I make it meaningful and I chunk it, I will have a good chance of remembering it: 1066(Norman Conquest)06061944(D-Day)22111963(Assassination of President Kennedy)01091939(German invasion of Poland)19141918(duration of WWI)999911(UK and US emergency services telephone number)1402(valentine’s day)2512(Christmas day) and we could go on … then we just need to get the sequences right – I did say that memory takes work, didn’t I?

10. Use all your senses – Being observant is the number one quality in having a good memory. When meeting people, it has been proven that the simple act of repeating the name when introduced to a person helps remember the name. Think about colours, emotions, sounds, smells. We all do this naturally, now we can use it on purpose. How often do people smell cooking and say “that reminds me of my mother’s / grandmother’s etc cooking”? When we hear a piece of music, we can be transported back to the place where we heard it (at least in some meaningful way) – all the senses are good back-up for our memories – you may as well use them.

All you have to do now, is just do it – ah, yes, remember where that comes from? Whilst you are at it, think about why you remember it. Can this be a help to you and your memory. For those that accept that their memories are bad and they cannot hope to get a good memory, all I can say is “Yes, we can.” Oh, there I go again …

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Use it or lose it – 10 Tips for memory improvement
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