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.
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- YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS
- 1. Use ACRONYMS
- 2. Use ACROSTICS
- 3. Create Mental Images
- 4. Impose structure and order
- 5. Connect your memories
- 6. Repeat it!
- 7. Talk about It
- 8. Use the AM Principle
- 9. Simply use your brain and exercise your body
- 10. Eat grains, fruit, and vegetables
- 11. Get adequate rest
- 12. Passion and purpose
- Wrapping it Up
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.
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:
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
The 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:
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.
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:
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.
Lauren Hale, Ph.D., from the National Sleep Foundation discussed how sleep affects brain function in her video.
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
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.
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!