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Ways to Improve Your Memory - Remembering Important Stuff

Updated on February 8, 2015

WHY DO I ALWAYS FORGET STUFF?!

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Do you believe that poor memory is associated with ageing?

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Memory Loss Occurs to Everyone

Fret not if you feel that you are experiencing memory loss while carrying out your daily activities. It's normal and in fact, humans need to forget. It is actually a healthy habit that your brain practises, it helps to remove the unnecessary clutter from our minds. It would be helpful to remember what my shopping list now but after I cleared the list, it is not as useful the next time I visit shopping centre. Forgetting is a gradual process that follows a surprisingly predictable path. If you commit to memory a piece of information and are asked to reproduce it, half of it might disappear in the first few minutes, one third in the first few hours and bulk of it will be gone over the next few days. However, some memories will stick to you for many years, for no apparent reason.

I feel assured that there is no such thing as ultimate forgetting; traces once impressed upon the memory are indestructible.

— Thomas De Quincey

Selective Memory

Be glad that you are able to forget things otherwise the heavy load of information received over the years could have given you a pretty good headache! One of the greatest feature of our brain is that it selectively choose the important information to process instead of absorbing every incoming information. Those memories that you don't need to remember or don't wish to remember will eventually fade away because they are not of any relevance to you. (or because they are unpleasant)

However, do not confuse poor memory with being absent-mindedness. Absent-mindedness can affect anybody. It happens due to the mind concentrating heavily on one matter that it completely closes off its attention on other functions and performs them on autopilot mode.This might account for many occasions where people have a complete aberration, such as entering a room and find themselves dumbfounded, not knowing why they went in there in the first place. Learn to recognise those moments when absent-mindedness cause you to forget something and contemplate ways to improve your concentration rather than worrying that your memory is failing.

Check out the video below and see if you can spot how many passes did the white team make. (don't worry if you fail the test, you're normal.)

Our Brain Focus on Important Things Only!

If you wanna cure your memory problems, don't drink!
If you wanna cure your memory problems, don't drink! | Source

4 Ways to Destroy Your Memory

To know how to improve your memory, you should also take note of what can harm your ability to remember well and avoid them as far as possible and here it goes,

  1. Physical Trauma - Trauma to the head can permanently damage brain cells. Memories are stored through a complex network of interconnected neurons in our brain. Certain brain cells may hold a fragment of memory and damaging them leads to the memory being lost or unable to retrieve. Hence, we forget.
  2. Intoxication - Alcohol has the power to slow down brain's functions when it is present in our bloodstream. It is also known to have detrimental effect on the brain's health in the long term as it kills brain cells.
  3. Inactive Usage of Brain - If you want your memory to improve, you need to stop being a couch potato and watch TV all day. There is an increasing scientific evidence that watching TV may cause brain to decline as the brain is not being simulated, causing its cells to deteriorate. Use it or lose it.
  4. Consumption of Junk Food - A diet of burgers and highly salted fries is the formula to brain decay as it avoids feeding the brain nutrients that helps it to function. Also, it increases the chances of the person having heart disease and stroke, with the latter effective at knocking out brain function and memory.

Jogging is a great workout exercise, it helps to keep your brain active too!
Jogging is a great workout exercise, it helps to keep your brain active too! | Source

Physical Exercise

One of the best ways to recover from mental exhaustion is to exercise. A 5km jog/run may be tiring and demanding for many people but it is actually very beneficial for your brain. It helps to freshen up your brain, partly by allowing it mull over some of the issues that have been taxing recently. While jogging on the streets, you see random things that may be able to stimulate your memory, reminding you of a familiar face, an item or things that you have forgotten about. Thus, it may trigger an associated memory that leads to the thing you are trying to recall. Wow, this brings the expression 'jog your memory' to a whole new level. After a great workout, it helps you to sleep better. Physical exhaustion followed by deep sleep is great therapy for the brain.

A preview of a mindmap
A preview of a mindmap | Source

Organising Your Stuff - Mindmap

Your brain remembers through an intricate web of associations. Things people say cues the person to recall a thought or an idea for e.g when I mention the word 'game', you may start to think of PS4, Xbox One, GTA 5, FIFA, Dota 2 etc. These happen because all your brain cells are linked and one thought will trigger another.

Hence organising is a great strategy for you to remember things better. Your ability to retrieve is almost always dependent on how logically you stored the item in the first place. What hold for items around your house also holds for items to store in the brain: a logical approach to committing things to memory can be the difference between rapid, effortless recall and a frustrating and sometimes fruitless mind search.

Mnemonics

You might heard of the use of mnemonics, it works by forming a common phase with the initials of the words you need to remember. It facilitates your learning of the word as it associates the word you are trying to remember with something that is familiar to you. Assuming you are unfamiliar with the colour spectrum of a rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet), let's try to learn it with mnemonics. Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain or, Roy GBiv.(if it's a name easy to remember) The key part to this is that you create a mnemonics phase that is easy to remember and from there you try to recall your stuff.

A memory palace depiction, basically you allocate  something to each item in your house. Walk through your house in a sequential order to remember the things in sequence.
A memory palace depiction, basically you allocate something to each item in your house. Walk through your house in a sequential order to remember the things in sequence. | Source

Memory Palace (Method of Loci)

Memory Palace is a very famous method that many people to remember things in order. This method might be be very useful when you are trying to remember a funny joke which requires you to reproduce it in order.

To use the memory palace, you need a very vivid memory of a familiar environment, most people use their homes as their 'palace', you can use anywhere else that you have a clear picture of. You then mentally place the items you want to remember in the 'palace'. To retrieve the items, you take a mental stroll through the building and pick up the items as you go. For this to be effective, you need a strong visualisation of the palace along with the things you want to remember. If you find visualisation easy, you will probably find this technique surprisingly powerful.

Repetition

Practice makes permanent. Whatever you want to remember, it is best that you let the thoughts go through your mind multiple times and at different times of the day. Every time you revise the things you are trying to remember, it creates a stronger impression of items, keeping them fresh in your brain. Also, our senses affect our memory too, for example, our sense of hearing. When you are trying to remember a list of unrelated chunk of biology terms, say them out loud and record it on your smartphone. Replay the recording during your revision and revise accordingly. You'll find that the bulk of words stays in your brain a bit longer and clearer as your brain associate the sound and the visualisation of the words with ease.

Confident?

Are you now more confident with your memory?

Now let's make use of the techniques mentioned above and try to reiterate the joke below without looking at it. Have fun with it, hopefully you can store your arsenal of jokes in your brain and unleash them at the next party you attend. Cheers!

Remembering Jokes

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.

The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency service. He gasps: 'My friend is dead! What can I do?'

The operator says: 'Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.' There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard.

Back on the phone, the guy says: 'Okay, now what?'

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