How to Improve Memory: 12 Memory Boosters That You Must Remember

(Last Updated On: April 23, 2017)

Think about your keys right now.

Do you remember where you put them?

Do you still remember that gorgeous beach you visited last year?

Memories are part of our lives. You use memories without even thinking about them, just like you use your arms and legs without even paying attention to them. It is when they let us down that we notice them and wonder what’s wrong. Just like every tangible part of our bodies or even machines, memory problems occur due to the lack of use.

MEMORY TIP: Set up a forget-me-not spot where you can always keep your keys.

 

YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS

Some memory techniques and trainings discussed here takes advantage of what we call “Mnemonics”.

What are Mnemonics?

Mnemonics are memory devices. They are mind tools to help a person recall pieces of information. It is something that we use to turn something that’s difficult-to-remember into something that’s easy-to-remember.

Here in this article, we take a look at ways on how you can improve your memory power and how to do a total recall – how to get it at any age – in fun and natural ways, through simple memory exercises. Along with the tips are memory games and training to test how good you are.

So let’s rock!

1. Use ACRONYMS

Let’s start with the common one – Acronyms.

You might stumble with the common acronyms like NBA (National Basketball Association) or the ones that you never knew where acronyms actually like the humorous YAHOO which stands for Yet Another Hierarchal Office Oracle.

yahoo logo

Using acronyms to aid our memory is particularly useful when we want to memorize words or items in a particular order. One of the memory strategies introduced to kids is the acronym ROY G. BIV to help them easily memorize the colors of the rainbow in order – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.

2. Use ACROSTICS

In acronyms, you use every first letter of the words you are trying to remember to form a new word. While in acrostics, you use these first letters individually to form another word which then make up a sentence.

You can be very creative to come up with never-heard-before mind blowing acrostics.

One example is this acrostics to memorize the order of the nine planets (there was once nine planets :p) It says:

My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Pizzas (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto)

 

However, some dudes at New York Times suggested adding the five dwarf planets making this the new order of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. They encouraged people to submit new acrostics to remember the new order of the planets (MVEMCJSUNPHME) easily.

And here are some funny examples:

planets acrostics

  • My Very Educated Mother, Crying, Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, Heating My Esophagus
  • My Very Educated Mother Cannot Just Serve Us Nine Pizzas — Hundreds May Eat!
  • Many Very Excitable Monsters Can Join Some Universe, No Place Has More Enemies
  • My Very Educated Mother Can Just Scream Until Nine Planets Haunt My Encyclopedia.
  • Marvelous Voluptuous Entities May Coast Jauntily Soaring Under Noctilucent Puffs — Houndstooth Matrices Enrapture

And more:

acrostics sample 6 acrostics sample 5 acrostics sample 4 acrostics sample 3 acrostics sample 2 acrostics sample 1

Who said memory tricks like this are boring? Memory improvement can be really entertaining. You just have to be creative to aid your memory.

3. Create Mental Images

When I say “winter”, what image comes to your mind?

A snow right?

How about “summer”?

Perhaps, sands and beaches!

That’s how our brain works.

When information enters our brain, we create mental images for it. We create mental pictures as representations of the data we receive. As a result, we also recall the data stored in our brain as a mental picture.

How can it help you?

If you learn how to create mental images properly in your brain, it will be easy for you to boost your memory recall. This is why people with photographic memories (or eidetic memory) are super humans. They can retrieve hundreds or even thousands of information through vivid images with high precision, because they have enormous ability to store data as an image, allowing these persons to recall the data with a little or even no sweat at all.

But you don’t have to be like them to improve your memory!

The Placing Method

Mental images can be used in conjunction with a memory strategy called “placing”. It involves linking an object to a place to trigger your memory of that said object.

For example, if you frequently forget to take your medications after a meal, try associating a glass of water with your medicine so that every moment you drink a glass of water, you will remember your medications (I personally do this :P). What happened here is that I linked my vitamins (the object) to a glass of water (the place) to trigger my memory of the object, in this case, the vitamins, hence the name “placing”.

You can use this technique to remember your shopping list too! Take a “mental tour” in your house, visualize the spots in your house and think what you need to buy. Perhaps you might stumble on an empty vase, maybe you need to buy some fresh flowers?

Method of Loci/ Memory Palace/ Journey Method

method of loci

To use the Method of Loci, first, you should identify a visual path and imagine yourself walking through the path and then identify the landmarks.

The visual path could be anywhere (a path to your friend’s house, or office) as long as it can be vivid to your memory. The landmarks you should identify depends on the number of things you want to remember (more on this later).

For example, if you want your house to be your visual path. You try to remember nine things so you can identify nine landmarks:

method of loci sampleImage Source

Now that you have determined the path, try to associate each thing you want to remember to each landmark (that’s why the landmarks you identify depend on the number of things you want to remember). If you are trying to remember this 9 Important Things To Remember When Your Life Feels Like A Complete Shitshow, you might associate the first one to the T.V set.

Once done, you can then make an “imaginary journey” of your house following the visual path you made and identify the information you want to remember as soon as you stumble through the identified landmarks.

Memory Exercise #1
A TOUR OF YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

  • Write two lists of ten words each.
  • To memorize these 20 words, work out a route around your neighborhood where you will choose ten reference points. Link each point with one word from list 1 and one from list 2.
  • Reread everything, then put the exercise aside.
  • Try to rewrite both lists four hours, one day and one week later. Each time, record how many words you remembered.

The use of placing method almost certainly enabled you to remember a greater number of words. Through the connections established between the reference points and the words you had to remember, you structured the information by means of a guiding thread, which also helped the retrieval process. This method will exercise your powers of association and visualization.

FROM “101 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY,” © 2005 BY READER’S DIGEST ASSOCIATION (FAR EAST) LIMITED, HONGKONG

4. Impose structure and order

There are two ways to help us structure information:

1. Find the logic
2. Grouping and Chunking

Let’s talk about looking for logic first.

Find Logic

To think logically is to think in an orderly structure – that is to create meaningful structure on the information because memory is easy to recall when there is order put into it.

For better understanding take a look at this picture:

Figure 1 and 2

Which combinations of lines do you think is easy to remember? Yeah, it’s right: Figure 2.

It is because Figure 1 lacks order, whereas, in figure 2, the combination of lines can be regrouped into something with an orderly structure which makes it very easy to remember.

This can be applied to everything – whether lists, words or images. You must find some kind of order and logic behind it and these things will be easily retained in your memory.

Memory Exercise #2

Look at this sequence of five cards…

Finding Logic exercise

What should be the next logical sequence?

Finding Logic exercise

Click here for the answer
FROM “101 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY,” © 2005 BY READER’S DIGEST ASSOCIATION (FAR EAST) LIMITED, HONGKONG

Grouping and Chunking

An average person can only store 7 (plus or minus two) items in our short term memory. This is particularly cited in Miller’s (1965) famous article “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information”.

With our short term memory being limited in capacity (can only store about 7 item) and duration (can be lost with distraction and in a passage of time), it is important that you know how to “hack” it.

One trick on how to improve short term memory is a technique called Chunking.

Another way to establish orderly structure on information is to group things together. Chunking is a form of efficiently grouping information to take advantage of our short-term memory.

Take a look at these 2 sets of same 10-digit phone number grouped differently:

Group #1

0-9-1-7-5-3-8-9-2-6

Group #2

 09-17-53-89-26

Which one is easy to remember? The group #2.

This is because we regrouped the set of numbers into meaningful smaller “chunks” giving us just five elements to remember instead of ten. Again, this can be applied to almost every information we try to memorize.

In fact, a track runner achieved remembered up to 80-digit sequence in just 20 months of practice using this method.

If you want to memorize all the elements in the periodic table, try to memorize it row by row, or column by column, or whatever method of grouping the elements you prefer. When you think that your primary groupings of information are not enough, you can make a second level of organization or sub-categories.

Memory Exercise #3

THE POWER OF GROUPS

1. Read this list of 30 words very carefully. Work out how to classify them in terms of certain categories and write those headings down on a piece of paper.

Bread Kennel Nose
Sheep Elbow Head
Shed Haunches Stomach
Chest Poultry Steak
Den Croissant Cucumber
Burrow Cheese Orange
Finger Tomato Stable
Soup Trout Foot
Pen Anthill Neck
Salad Apple Ankle

2. Cover this list and your notes. Write down all the words you can remember.

You may have been surprised at how many words you were able to remember. By establishing that certain words belong in the same subject areas, you can classify them in categories. In this exercise, you can group together words referring to food, types of dwellings and parts of human body. Putting them into these three categories made it easier to remember them. This method enables you to recall 16 – 20 words and can be used for up to 50 words. In the latter case, it is better not to have more than seven categories.

FROM “101 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY,” © 2005 BY READER’S DIGEST ASSOCIATION (FAR EAST) LIMITED, HONGKONG

5. Connect your memories

Take an app on your smartphone for example. Every time its creator releases an update to the app, it updates files that are already installed on your phone. Same with our brains. If there is new information to store, it looks as if there is something already there and then updates it.

This process allows you to connect and associate the new information of people, events and ideas that have something in common or share the same characteristics.

How can we take advantage of this?

For example, if you want to remember a certain date of history (history is boring really!), is there a personal relevant date that you can connect it with? If there is, the moment you remember this personal relevant date of yours will also help you remember that certain date in the history or vice versa.

6. Repeat it!

There are things that we remember so clearly even after 20 years! Why? Because we learned it by heart. For sure you remember that split of a second where you avoided an accident right?

But not all memories happen that way.

In fact, we start to forget almost 42% of information within 20 minutes and 75% after 6 days of learning it.

This is known as the “Forgetting Curve” identified by a German researcher, Hermann Ebbinghaus. The forgetting curve describes the rate at which information deteriorates and be forgotten.

Ebbinghaus Forgetting CurveThe best thing about this is: You can change the shape of the curve and have a better memory.

There is one thing you can do to solidify that memory, and make it stand the tests of time. The most reliable method of having long term memory of a particular information is through repetition – When we expose ourselves to the same information over and over again, it becomes easier to retrieve that information on our brain.

Take a look at this graph on how students retain a 1-hour lecture:

Curve of forgetting

The curve shows that at Day 1, the curve is at its highest point – you know 100% of the lecture. As days pass, without repetition (reading it again and etc.), we remember less and less every day.

However, you can raise the curve to almost 100% again through repetition which is depicted in the graph above, for example by reviewing the lecture again after Day 1 for about 10 minutes. After that, it will just take you less and less time to “activate” that information again at Day 7 (5 minutes) and Day 30 (2 – 4 minutes).

That’s the power of repetition. It enhances memory by giving the brain the signals to hold on the data. This act serves as a reinforcement that strengthens what’s already in our mind.

Do you have a favorite poem that you never want to forget? Recite it every day and you never will.

Memory Exercise #4

STRINGING UP STRIPED SOCKS

Here are six tricky tongue twisters demanding absolutely clear diction. Try to say them aloud, either on your own or with others. You will probably find that your pronunciation becomes rather slurred and clumsy after a while, with rather unfortunate results at times. Now try to remember and repeat as many of them as you can.

  • Seventy-seven benevolent elephants.
  • Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.
  • The great Greek grape growers grow great Greek grapes.
  • She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
  • There was a fisherman named Fisher who fished for some fish in a fissure
  • Till a fish with a grin
  • Pulled the fisherman in
  • Now they’re fishing the fissure for Fisher.
  • Six sleek swans swam swiftly southwards.

In this exercise, you will have less difficulty in recalling the words thanks to both repetition and the humorous nature of words.

FROM “101 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY,” © 2005 BY READER’S DIGEST ASSOCIATION (FAR EAST) LIMITED, HONGKONG

7. Talk about It

Talking about an information makes it easier to “encode” or associate with what’s already on our mind. Just read an interesting article? Telling a friend about the article you read is an excellent way of remembering it. Talk about the significant aspects of it to make your story comprehensive.

8. Use the AM Principle

This is suggested by Margaret Sewell, a clinical psychologist, and director of the Memory Enhancement Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Using AM Principle:

Pay Attention to what you want to remember and give Meaning to it.

Ever wonder why you remember a random lyric of a song even when you don’t intend to? How about those jingles in T.V commercials? It is because they are played loudly and have rhymes and music. Every time these songs and music are played, we tend to focus on them.

That explains it: We remember things when we place our focus on them even when we don’t intend to remember it in the first place.

9. Simply use your brain and exercise your body

Simply using your brain keeps it strong and healthy. Physical exercises, especially aerobic exercises, helps you get rid of memory problems. It helps your brain boosted and stay sharp. Exercise pumps up blood to the brain bringing glucose and oxygen which invites healthy brain functions.

BrainHq has some tips on how to choose the right physical exercise for your brain:

tips on choosing right exercise

10. Eat grains, fruit, and vegetables

Another way to improve memory is by eating right.

The Mediterranean diet which is loaded with foods that are high in healthy unsaturated fats (whole grains, olive oil, nuts, and seed, fish, wine, fruits, vegetables, etc.) lowers the risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) that can result in Alzheimer’s disease.

11. Get adequate rest

Sleep is a simple memory booster. Our brain is active when we have adequate rest. A research was conducted to test how people learn new skills with and without sleep. Those with sleep have more active regions of their brain compared to those without.

Sleep actually triggers changes in the brain that solidify memories—strengthening connections between brain cells and transferring information from one brain region to another.

Lauren Hale, Ph.D., from the National Sleep Foundation discussed how sleep affects brain function in her video.

Brain functions while sleeping

She said:

But when we sleep our brain is actually very active. Now we aren’t exactly sure what’s happening up there, but we think that the brain uses sleep to strengthen or build new pathways between cells. And sleep may be a time when the brain cleans itself. That helps our ability to learn and remember.

Our brain allows us to focus more, think clearly, learn and remember well – the things that we can’t if we don’t have enough sleep.

 

12. Passion and purpose

Purpose and Passion helps you remember

You may be surprised but studies have shown that people with high purpose in life are more likely to remain free of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those persons with a low purpose in life. How cool is that? Live your life with passion and purpose whatever it is – family, hobbies or friends.

Read: 9 Best Habits to Improve Your Memory

Wrapping it Up

Learning how to increase memory power can be both enjoyable and fun. Advancing in age will probably mean hair loss for most of us, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a better memory. Don’t let your memory power deteriorate as quickly as you age when in fact you can do something about it.

So don’t forget: memory is like a diary we all carry about with us. Don’t let those precious moments vanish into thin air!

Other Resources:

  • Roach, Mary. “Reverse Your Memory Loss.” Reader’s Digest. Vol. 79. N.p.: Reader’s Digest, 2002. 68-73. Print. Ser. 470.
  • “You Must Remember This.” Reader’s Digest. N.p.: Reader’s Digest, 2005. 106-12. Print.


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