Don’t you often wonder how some people can read something and not forget what they’ve read? Wouldn’t it be nice to always remember your anniversary, spouse’s birthday or even what you just read? So few of us have an eidetic, or photographic memory, and forgetting things on occasion is natural. It’s also natural to get more forgetful as we age, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Everyone can take steps to improve their memory, and after a little time, and a lot of practice, most people can learn to memorize huge amounts of information that would seem impossible. Whether you want to ace your world history test, remember where you put your keys, or win the World Memory Championships, this article can get you started.
15 Steps to get you going:
1. Think positively. Start out by convincing yourself that you have a good memory, but it just needs to be tweaked a bit. Eliminate the negativity you may be stuck in and realize that it is possible to improve your memory with some training. Make up your mind you can and are going to do it, and you will!
2. Reduce your stress. Prolonged stress can make memorizing a lot more difficult, not to mention eventually do damage to the brain. Stressful situations are recognized by the hypothalamus, which causes a chain reaction in your body. The hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to secrete the ACTH (adrenocorticotropic) hormone, which causes the adrenal glands to discharge adrenaline and later cortisol (corticosteroids). Corticosteroids weaken the blood-brain barrier and damage the hippocampus (memory center). The best option then is to learn to control stress — it will never be totally eliminated unless you are in a constant state of Nirvana.
Temporary stress can make it more difficult to focus on concepts, and creates problems in remembering names and faces. The best thing to do is try to relax. You could try deep breathing and stretching exercises, or meditation. If you have severe chronic stress see a doctor as soon as possible.
3. Eat a healthy diet. Getting the proper nutrition is important to your body health as well as your brain health. A poor diet will make it difficult to think clearly. Take vitamins if you do not eat a balanced diet. There are also a lot of different herbal supplements on the market that claim to improve memory. Some, such as Ginkgo Biloba and phosphatidylserine, have shown positive results in clinical testing, but most “memory” pills have no proof to back them up.
A healthy diet, especially high in foods containing antioxidants like broccoli, blueberries, spinach, and berries, and Omega-3 fatty acids appear to promote healthy brain functioning. Practice what they call “grazing,” which is eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals. This will keep your sugar levels balanced, leading to improve mental as well as memory function.
4. Do daily exercise. Regular aerobic exercise can improve your blood circulation throughout the body, including the brain, and can help put off the memory loss that comes with aging. Exercise also makes you more relaxed and alert, and can improve your memory by allowing you to take better mental “pictures.”
5. Exercise your brain. You can keep your brain functioning at its best when you keep it active. Like any muscle, if you don’t use it the muscle will atrophy (wither) away — thus the phrase, ”Use it or lose it”. By doing brain exercises, like deductive reasoning problems, solving mysteries, puzzles, games, Sodoku or playing chess you increase your brains function. You can even play games on the computer or mobile phone devise. Try to do at least 30 minutes a day of brain exercises and it’s amazing how much more active your brain becomes, and how much better your memory will be.
6. Take better mental pictures. We often are not as observant as we could be, and so it’s not that our memories are bad that we have trouble memorizing things and storing information. Our observational skills simply need a tune-up. The most common memory lapse we have is remembering names when we meet new people. We are not concentrating on how to remember names and faces, and their names simply are just words. When you really try to be more observant you will do much better.
Here is a quick way to work on improving your attention to detail skills: Look at a photograph you haven’t seen before for a few minutes, then turn it over and try to recall as many details as possible. Close your eyes and picture the photo in your mind. Repeat this exercise with a different photo. With practice you will be able to remember more details after studying the photos for shorter periods of time.
7. Focus! Building up memories is not easy, and any distraction can make it difficult to even recall a phone number you just heard a couple minutes ago. The idea is to allow yourself time to form the memories, and the best way to do that is to concentrate on the thing you are trying to remember for a while, and not letting yourself be distracted.
8. Repeat things you want to remember. The more often you see or hear something repeated the easier it is for you to remember, right? It’s a no-brainer. When you want to memorize something just keep repeating it. You can also write it down as a reminder.
9. Visualize it! Once you can see it in your mind you can find it easier to memorize. You can even make a game of it. If you want to associate a child with a book, try not to make it too simple and easy to forget. Visualize the child chasing the book, or the book chasing the child. When you use a strong image to associate with what you are trying to remember it sticks in your mind better.
10. Memorize things in groups. Put things you want to remember into categories. A random list, like your grocery list, is much simpler to remember if you list it by aisles in the store, or types of foods (vegetables, fruits, canned goods, meats, etc.). Putting things into easy-to-remember groupings is a simple-to-use memory technique.
11. Get Organized. An uncluttered mind can retain more than a full one, and an uncluttered life makes things a whole lot easier. Make a place to keep items you always use, like your keys or glasses, so you will get used to finding them there. Place your events, appointments, phone numbers and addresses in an organizer or daily planner — either in your pocket or on your computer. Being more organized can free up your powers of concentration so it’s easier to memorize the small things.
12. Sleep! According to studies conducted at the Harvard Medical School, getting a good night’s sleep — a minimum of seven hours a night — may improve your memory — both short and long-term. Without the proper amount of sleep you brain does not function well and your ability to learn and recall information is weakened.
13. Meditate. You wouldn’t think meditation was a memory technique, but studies at Massachusetts General Hospital show that regular meditation thickens the cerebral cortex in the brain by increasing the blood flow in that area. Some researchers believe that meditation can enhance attention span, focus, and memory. They suggest that people who regularly practice “mindfulness” meditations are able to focus better and may have better memories. Mindfulness (also known as awareness or insight meditation) is the type commonly practiced in Western countries and is easy to learn.
14. Build up your memory arsenal. Learn pegs, memory palace (method of loci), and the Dominic System. These techniques form the foundation for mnemonic techniques, and will visibly improve your memory.
15. Don’t be afraid to try. There’s no harm in trying to utilize a memory technique to improve your memory. What have you got to lose? Go ahead and take a stab at memorizing the presidents of the United States, the kings of England, or the first one hundred digits of pi.
With practice you should be able to not only improve your memory, but also maybe even give ME a memory challenge.