How to improve memory is a question that most of us have asked at least once in our lifetime. To be able to remember things fast and then recall them when necessary, is a crucial aspect of life. If you are studying at a college or university, you know how difficult it may be sometimes to remember that colossal amount of information that we are constantly bombarded with.
On the other hand, the need to memorize things doesn’t stop for as long as we are alive. From day one at your new job, you are required to memorize things efficiently. And when you become a parent, not only you have to remember to take care of your own tasks, but also your child’s. Thus, the question of memory never becomes outdated.
How to improve memory – the instant approach
If you are required to memorize a large text or some information for an important event, you would want to learn how to do it in the most efficient way. Luckily, the game of memory is not so black and white. With a set of known tools, we are capable of helping our brain learn more quickly.
A mnemonics device is basically something that is used to help us memorize something. There are many ways in which one can use mnemonics. For example, we can create our own rhyme for something, or we make use of acronyms. The word “mnemonic”could be memorized as Monkey Nut Eating Means Old Nutshells In Carpet. Or if you want to memorize the order of planets from the Sun, you could use the following sentence: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune respectively).
While mnemonic learning is often based on memorizing short sentences or words, visual and auditory memorization is used as well.
Use of images
It is not a secret that for many of us memorization with the use of images really simplifies things. The use of images can also be considered as visual mnemonics. For example, when I have no time to write down the list of items I am supposed to buy from the grocery store, I simply imagine myself walking quickly through the store and picking up the things I need from the right places. Alternatively, when I think of what to buy for breakfast, I can play an image of what I am eating in the morning. I may see myself eating a bowl of cereals, which will instantly remind me to go and get milk.
I have been in situations where the amount of information to memorize was just too vast. Moreover, I knew that it wasn’t important to me personally, but instead was something that I needed to learn for an exam or a presentation.
This is where I actively used rote learning, which is the process of repeating the information many times, over and over. To make it even more memorable, you can write down the things on a piece of paper several times. Sometimes I cannot remember the thing I was supposed to say, but when I take a pen and paper to write it on, that memory miraculously emerges in my mind.
Keep in mind though that with this approach the idea is not to necessarily understand what you are memorizing, but to simply be able to say it out when asked.
Random things to remember can be a challenging task because the things are.. well.. uhm.. random. This is where chunking comes in place. Chunking is the process of grouping information.
If you have a long string of items to remember, it will be a lot easier to do so if you break it up into separate sections. The most basic example is a telephone number broken down into sections of three.
We as humans tend to see patterns everywhere, and thus also memorize patterns better. This is the reason why memorizing the clothing to take with you on a holiday is easier when you see it in complete outfits (clothing for eating out, clothing for relaxing in the hotel, etc.), as opposed to separate pieces of clothing.
How to improve memory – the long-term approach
As you can see, if you have the right tools, learning how to improve memory is really not that difficult of a task. But because the world today has become so technologically advanced, we are no longer required to use much of our memory to keep track of basic tasks – a lot of it is stored in our mobile phone calendars and note-taking applications. As a result, we may find ourselves struggling to recall from the top of our mind as little as two different phone numbers.
Therefore, it is important to also understand how to improve memory in the long run. What can we generally do to increase our capacity to memorize more and better?
The first thing that you must understand is that efficient memorization requires constant practice. The more you practice memorizing things, the better you will get at it, especially if you combine it with the tools mentioned in the first section.
To get a better picture of why we should practice memorization, we must understand the basics of how our brain works. To keep it simple, think of the brain cells, neurons, and the way in which they interact with each other, through synapses. Whenever we imagine, learn or memorize something, the brain passes on information from one neuron to the next one through a synapse. The more we learn, the stronger those connections between particular neurons get, and the better we become at learning and memorizing things.
However, if with time we decide that we no longer want to learn, the connections that were once formed in our brain, will begin to weaken. As a result, it will be more difficult to recall those things or to memorize something new. The ability of synapses to strengthen and weaken over time is known as synaptic plasticity.
Simply put, the brain, just like any muscle in our body, needs regular exercise to stay in shape. If we don’t exercise, our brain will not be ready to efficiently grasp information. Therefore, you must exercise by regularly learning something new and challenging yourself.
By the way, the idea of strengthening neural pathways between neurons has been adopted by computer science and proven to be extremely effective. Computers now are able to follow the same principle as the human brain – they learn and get smarter by creating new artificial neural networks, without the help of humans! For example, that is what Apple’s Siri uses to be able to recognize your voice amongst the hundreds of other sounds.
I am sure you understand that without sufficient sleep you will not be able to function normally. This includes being able to learn and memorize things efficiently. If you want to be sure that your memorizing capabilities are not affected by your sleeping patterns, make sure that you get at least eight hours of sleep per night.
Eight hours of sleep may sound like much to some, but if you really want to learn things fast and make these things stick with you, you must make sacrifices with time and sleep more.
You must also learn how to improve memory from the diet perspective. Eating healthy is not only important for the body, but also for the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be extremely important for the brain. It can be found mostly in fish, but also in walnuts, seaweed, eggs, broccoli and many other. Alternatively, Omega-3 supplements are good to take on a regular basis. I personally take them daily, sometimes twice a day.
Also, make sure you eat your veggies daily. They contain antioxidants that protect your whole body from cell damage, including your brain.
And finally, stay away from saturated fats. Saturated fats can be found in large quantities in fast food restaurants, but also simply in butter, red meat, pork, cheese, fat milk, pastry, etc. Saturated fats are known to affect memory and concentration.
Oh, almost forgot, alcohol or any other drug, including caffeine, damages us and decreases our ability to learn and memorize.
Stress is capable of not only harming one’s health but also killing. Therefore, don’t underestimate the impact of stress.
If you are leading a stressful lifestyle, you may as well forget about having a good memory. Stress affects memory and destroys brain cells.
If you feel that you are constantly under stress, take some time and reevaluate your lifestyle. Maybe you need to change something, or maybe you just don’t know how to cope with stress. Either way, stress is extremely detrimental not only to your memory but to you as a whole. Make sure to have a look at my post about happiness, inner peace and stress relief. I am sure you could make use of some of the examples mentioned there.
How to improve memory – final words
I hope this post was helpful in answering your question of how to improve memory. It isn’t all that difficult, but just like with any other type of success in life, it requires patience, good health and a smart approach. I wish you all the luck in mastering this skill!
And if you did like the post, leave a comment below to share your thoughts with us. Maybe there is some other technique that you use to memorize things that we have missed. Finally, please subscribe if you want to be notified of new similar material straight to your email. You get a free gift when you do so! 🙂