You will probably have seen TV shows where people have been able to remember vast lists of numbers and recite them back accurately. This skill is one which has been developed and practised over many years and whilst the vast majority of us would have no real need to hone our memory to become such a precise instrument, we can all take steps to improve it.
Keeping the Brain Active
Similarly to the way in which we exercise our other muscles in order to keep in good physical shape, it’s also important to keep our brains active if we want to remain mentally sharp.
It’s no co-incidence that people who do crossword puzzles or some other kind of newspaper or magazine ‘brain teasers’ tend to be more successful in staving off memory loss that can come as a result of the ageing process. Others might like to learn other new skills such as taking up a foreign language or a musical instrument. Whatever kind of mental stimuli you offer your brain, there is strong evidence that it helps to make you more alert, yet relaxed and less stressed and it also improves your memory uptake so that you can take more vivid ‘mental pictures’ and more of them.
Be Conscious of What You’re Trying to Remember
We are constantly being bombarded with information and visual images on a daily basis and so it’s hardly surprising that we can often forget certain bits of information that we are wishing to convey to others that we may only have been told about an hour or two ago. One of the ways to remember things better is to become more conscious of doing so and to place greater emphasis on the things we most want to remember.
Take being introduced to a new group of people for the first time, for example. They have only one name to remember, that being yours, yet you might have ten to remember. One of the best techniques for being able to place names and faces together is to practice using a series of photographs or images you might randomly cut out of a magazine. These images may have names already or you may wish to designate names to each of them.
Now, look at each image individually and try to pick out one distinguishing feature from each one. Then associate that feature with the name. This is often the best way to remember names from a group of strangers you’ve just met. It doesn’t matter how bizarre or insulting your association is, (they are not going to know after all). Using a rhyme as your association is also a good tip. For example, you meet a guy called Philip and you notice he has very thick lips. Your association might therefore be “Rubber lipped, Philip” Has kind of an easy to remember ring to it yes?
Think back to your school days and how you were taught your multiplication tables. Chances are you learned them by reciting them repeatedly. The more times you say something to yourself or the more times you visualise something, the more likely you’re going to remember it. This is a ploy often used in the pop music industry where a catchy chorus or a memorable guitar riff cements the song until we can’t get it out of our head even though we may not necessarily even like the song.
Group Things Together
It’s often better to put things into categories as opposed to having one long list of items. By breaking it down into smaller sub-lists, you’re more likely to remember the items as you’ll probably be able to recall how many items belong to each section of the list. Say, for example, you have drawn up a shopping list. You might not remember which specific fruit you need from a long list but if you have broken that down and can recall that you need 5 different types of fruit that can often help you remember all 5.
Use all the Gadgets at Your Disposal to Free up Your Brain
The fact that everybody might come to you if they need to find out someone’s birthday or you can pull out a mobile phone number from your mind like a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat might make you popular but try to free up your mind from the kinds of information which can be stored elsewhere. In other words, purge your mind of information which can be stored on a computer or mobile phone or on some other device. This will free up more brain memory when you’re faced with something current and important to remember.
There are lots of different things you can do to exercise your brain and increase its memory function. Try placing 10 random items on a tray, stare at them for a few minutes, make associations, then cover them back up and try to write down all 10. What about dealing yourself the first dozen playing cards in a deck, then trying to remember the order in which you dealt them. Hear a song on the radio you like for the first time and vow to have learned all the words within 24 hours.
Everyone has the capacity to improve their memory. It’s not about being clever or stupid but, like most other skills, it’s all about practice and training.