How to Improve your memory
When I was a child I found it easy to remember things: faces, names, tiny details of insignificant events, many of which I can still recall fifty years later. Learning French and German vocabulary at school came quite naturally – often I only needed to see the word once for it to stick in my memory.
But how very different things are now! It’s a struggle to remember faces and places and there’s absolutely no chance of remembering a name, date or appointment details. As for foreign languages (which I still enjoy studying): I have to work so hard to remember any new vocabulary that I find it quite discouraging to even try.
I’ve read that the human brain is limitless, that its capacity to store data is huge, and that our brains don’t necessarily perform worse as we get older, but they may be better at some things and worse at others. For instance, although it becomes harder to store new information, our long-term memory actually improves as the years go by. Maybe we just need to try new ways of remembering new things. So I’ve done some research, asked around and come up with a list of methods that can be used to improve memory recall.
- Repetition: watch a small child learning how to do something: he or she will repeat the same action over and over again until it is thoroughly known. Try repeating the same thing in different contexts.
- Little and often. Write a couple of things on post-its every day and put them somewhere you are bound to see them.
- Make learning part of your regular routine: learn something each time you brush your teeth or while you eat your breakfast.
- Say it out loud. Add rhythm and different voices to make it memorable. Maybe even turn it into a song.
- Revise regularly. When you feel you know something, go back to it briefly every week or two to check that it’s still embedded in your brain.
- Write things down using coloured paper or pens to categorise and make it memorable. Draw diagrams and make links between items where this will help. For instance, you may be able to represent information as a tree with branches and leaves.
- Make visual links between what you’re trying to remember and objects or pictures which can act as symbols or reminders.
- Plan a walk in a street or building you know well. Mentally “place” the things you’re trying to remember at landmarks or furniture items along the way.
- Place things in pairs of opposites or similar things. Maybe they start with the same letter or you can make some other association between a group of things you’re trying to remember.
- Use the first letter of each word to spell out a mnemonic e.g. ROY GBIV as a way of remembering the colours of the rainbow.
- Make up a story using all the words that you are trying to remember. This will form links between them.
- If trying to remember numbers, try to make the numbers mean something e.g.151256 could be remembered as 15th December 1956.
- Find a different way to make your information interesting. Link it to something you’re interested in.
- Make links between what you’re learning to things you already know – perhaps you are adding detail to something you have an outline knowledge of.
- Practise writing out what you want to remember, or give a talk on it to a friend. Or stand in front of a mirror giving a lecture to an imaginary audience!
- As you lie in bed at night, test yourself on what you know before you go to sleep.
- Take a walk and, as you go, test yourself on what you’re trying to remember. When you get home, check up on any weak areas.
- If listening to a lecture, take notes of the key points. Later, rework your notes as a diagram using colour and lay-out to help you.
- Be good to your brain: eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, take regular exercise and drink plenty of water.
So I intend to give all these methods a try – and hope to regain the memory abilities of my 15 year-old self!
Have you tried out any of these ways out? How did they work for you?
What other tips do you have for developing and maintaining a good memory?