‘I can’t find my keys!’ ‘Could you please remind me of your name’? ‘Sorry, I forgot’ How many times have you made similar statements? Have you ever found it hard to recall things, places, people, names and conversations? Do you sometimes feel frustrated at your inability to recall important dates? If so, you are not alone. Forgetfulness is a very common experience for many people.
No doubt, having a good memory is a vital part of healthy living. Our brain has the capacity to remember huge amounts of information because millions of neural connections facilitate storing and retrieval of facts and figures.
It is important to note that no one needs to store everything indefinitely. In fact, there are some things we would rather forget. Nevertheless, you need to regularly retain significant information for limited periods. This is called short term memory. For example, short term memory helps you retain information to compare prices of items on your shopping list.
In contrast, many of us would like to have the capacity to remember things or past events we treasure or cherish. This is called long term memory, which is also very important. Long term memory helps you to recall special moments, occasions, anniversaries or time spent with loved ones?
At the 2016 memory championship held in Singapore, The overall winner, Alex Mullen, a medical student moved from being an individual with an average memory to a World champion with the ability to recall 3,029 numbers in an hour and a whole pack of cards in 21.5 seconds with just 3 years of training. What an amazing feat!
Many of us have can improve our memory by refining the way we receive, store and retrieve information. Would you like to sharpen your memory? What can you do to ensure you are making the most of your brain’s potential to store information? Follow these 5 expert tips for improving your memory.
1. Be emotionally involved
The brain naturally remembers what you are interested in. Your interest in a subject helps you to be attentive enough to register the information. It will also motivate you to devote time and effort to understanding concepts and relationships between the parts that make the whole picture. For example, knowing how prescriptions make us feel better would enhance our ability to follow the regimen. To sustain interest, you may need to regularly remind yourself of your reasons for paying attention in the first instance. Being emotionally involved explains why it is a lot easier to remember things when your loved ones are involved. We rarely have to be reminded of memorable occasions because we care about your family members and close friends.
2. Be organized
You may need to categorize similar concepts or related ideas. Doing so clearly facilitates recall. For example, phone numbers may be broken into two or three parts for easy recall. Some arrange items in alphabetical order. If you have a shopping list, why not group items into categories such as vegetables, fruits, toys and clothes.
3. Use multiple senses
Can you use your sense of sight and sound? Yes. When we repeat things to ourselves, we are forced to pay close attention, involve more parts of the brain and receive immediate feedback. This enhances the experience making recall easier. Some have found it helpful to draw or create a mental picture which further embeds the information.
4. Use memory techniques
Some memory techniques are particularly useful. For example, memory champions use a popular technique known as loci which combines visualization and association. They take a mental walk, connecting what needs to be remembered (eg numbers) with landmarks and objects in the mental picture.
Alex Mullen, the World Memory Champion recommends the use of a ‘Mind Palace’. He describes this as a very familiar place with several objects for attaching what you want to remember. Choose your house, street, park or any other place you know very well. He drops of images at specific places in his ‘mind palace’ and walks back along the same route to recall them. Trying out this technique may make you realize the vast potential you have for remembering things.
A much easier method is the use of mnemonics. A mnemonic is an acronym with key letters of a list. For example, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) is an excellent memory aid for project managers in setting criteria for objectives.
5. Review and reinforce
Never forget that ‘repetition is the mother of retention’. So, consider reviewing what you have stored intermittently. You may discuss it with others or repeat it to yourself. The more you do this, the better your retrieval skills will be.
Having a good memory is essential for completing tasks and maintaining good relationships. For students, the ability to recall determines if they fail, pass or make distinctions. So, trying out these tips is worth the effort.
It is important to note that forgetfulness may sometimes suggest other problems. For example, dementia and amnestic syndromes are associated with impairment of memory and other cognitive functions. Forgetfulness may also occur when you are sad. When depressed, a person may have a tendency to be absent-minded or remember only negative, unpleasant things. Getting a medical evaluation may be necessary if forgetfulness is serious or persistent.
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