- Quality of Life & Wellness
5 Ways to Improve Your Memory
Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why you went there? Do you get frustrated trying to remember things like a simple grocery list without having to write the items down? If you struggle with short term memory loss or have trouble committing things to memory, you aren't alone. If you're middle aged or older, you're definitely less alone!
Some memory loss occurs naturally with age, but that doesn't mean you have to simply accept it. There are several memory enhancing exercises that can help improve your life and productivity at any age. Try some of these exercises the next time you need to remember something and see how well they work for you.
A mnemonic device is a learning technique that helps translate information into a form that makes it easier to retain than in its original form. For example, if you ever learned to read music, you were likely taught the sentence “Every good boy does fine” to help you memorize the lines of a treble clef.
It's easier to remember the sentence than the notes E G B D F by themselves. The first letter of each word, being the notes. The conversion makes it easier to commit the information to long-term memory. Mnemonics are a great way to build and enhance your memory skills. There are many variations and they can be used by anyone.
Here are five quick exercises to help enhance your memory. Try them and tasks like going to the store, remembering names, dates, phone numbers and other bits of information will be a piece of cake.
If you are a visual learner or tend to remember things by sight, visual cues can be a great help to you.
Let's pretend you need to stop at the grocery store for a few items. It's one of those days you are in a hurry and don't really have time to make a list; you just want to hop in the car and go. The items on your list are eggs, milk, spinach, onions and cheese.
Instead of repeating the items over and over again in your head; you can visualize yourself making a dish that requires all of these ingredients. A quiche would be a great example. Visualize yourself making the dish in detail. As you go through the store, you'll recall the ingredients and therefore your list.
Acronyms and Acrostics
This serves as a visual and auditory cue. An acrostic is a word taken from a group of words or key concepts you need to remember and formed into a sentence. I mentioned “Every Good Boy Does Fine” earlier to remember notes. Acronyms are similar, but instead you take a word and each letter of the word represents a concept.
I have a spiritual mantra that I meditate on. I remember it by using the word “Twilight” as an acronym and symbol. Twilight is the period between darkness and the dawn. Spiritually, it symbolizes awakening, understanding, finding more clarity.
When I am doing meditation I like to focus on certain principles, and so I developed this acronym to highlight concepts: Truth, Wisdom, Insight, Love, Inspiration, Guidance, Highest good, Trust. As you can see, the acronym is a simple and effective way to help me remember the concepts I want to focus on.
You can develop meaningful acronyms and acrostics for all sorts of important concepts and information. Try it and see what creative ones you come up with!
Alliteration, Rhymes and Fun Sounds
If you're like me, you'll respond well to auditory information. Sounds, rhyming words, and even riddles can be a great way to commit things to memory. When I was in high school, I remember learning prepositions, words that are used to link nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other parts of a sentence. Our teacher required us to memorize the most common prepositions to make prepositional phrases easier to identify. Are you snoring yet?
To make this less tedious; she would say the list in a rhythmic way and clap it out. This was my 9th grade English class, which was more than 25 years ago. To this day, I can rattle off all the prepositions in her list and I still "hear" them in my head to that same rhythm.
About, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at etc... there were over 70 of them. Looking at a list of 70+ random words would be daunting, but because she repeated them and sort of sang them to a beat as she clapped they stuck. Boy did they stick! Like I said, over 25 years and I can still clap them out for you.
Perhaps you remember being taught rhymes like “30 days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31, except February alone which has 28 days clear or 29 in a leap year.”
If you remember things like this; you will benefit from auditory forms of mnemonics.
This is where you break off a series of items into smaller clusters to make them easier to remember. Phone numbers and social security numbers are great examples. When you speak your phone number or social, chances are you naturally pause where the dashes are.
123-45-6789 is the format for a social security number and you probably have yours memorized in the 3,2,4 fashion. This is a perfect example of chunking.
For another example; let's use a grocery list again. Let's say the items are milk, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt, bread, butter, carrots, mayo, and strawberry jam. That's a lot to try to remember in that order. If you chunk it though it's much easier.
Produce: lettuce, tomatoes, carrots
Sandwiches: bread, butter, strawberry jam, mayo
Dairy: milk, eggs, yogurt
Now things are chunked into categories and are much easier to commit to memory than just trying to remember a random list. You can do this by type of food (sandwich), or by the section of the store(produce, dairy). It can also be combined with the visualization technique from above.
Method of Loci
This is another fun one for more visual people. This involves taking items you need to remember and visualizing them at various places along a route or path you take every day.
So, let,s say you take a particular route to work and on that route, there is a large yellow house, a convenience store, a playground and an Italian food restaurant. You would visualize the items you need to remember as being in those locations.
This one has never worked that well for me honestly, but many people swear by it. If you needed to remember milk, eggs, bread, and potatoes, you might visualize yummy bread being served in the Italian restaurant, the yellow house might remind you of the yolk of the egg, you might see milk spilled on the floor of the convenience store and the kids on the playground might remind you of “little spuds”
Associating new things with established memories has been shown to make the new information easier to store and retrieve.
More on Method of Loci
More Tips for Enhancing Memory & Learning
Relate new information to things you already know. This makes assimilation more natural. Involve as many senses as possible when learning or trying to remember.
Develop habits that prevent problems. Have a set location for your keys and always return them there immediately upon your return home.
Pay attention. If you aren't listening and engaging you aren't learning. “hearing” is not “listening”. Hearing is what your ears do, listening is what your brain does.
Rehearse information. In your mind visualize yourself teaching another person how to do what you just learned. It will reinforce it.
See the forest and forget the trees. When information is too complex, sometimes we make it worse struggling with all the small details. Grasp basic concepts first, then delve deeper.
Play games. Memory enhancing games are fun and can keep your mind sharp. Cognitive decline is preventable, but the mind, like any muscle, must be exercised to remain strong.
Do you use mnemonics to help remember information?
© 2014 Christin Sander