Saturday, June 16, 2012

Improve your memory

Have you experienced the embarrassment of forgetting a family member's birthday or an important assignment? Are you in school and are finding it hard to study successfully for exams and tests? It's not just you! Thousands and thousands of individuals out there have the same challenge, and it doesn't just affect senior citizens. In school, they never teach you improve your memory information, or the time-tested strategies for successful memorization.

Yet there are a number of tried and tested techniques for improving your memory; you can learn to be better at it.
We spoke to the memory man himself, Tony Buzan, author of more than 80 books on the subject, and asked him whether some people are simply naturally more forgetful than others.
He's says nothing could be further from the truth.

"If you are 'simply forgetful' it simply means that you're not using your memory. It's the same as being physically unfit or unhealthy; it's within your power to change. Everyone can improve their memory. Absolutely and definitely."

How memory works

There are 100 billion neurons that make up your brain. Yes, 100 billion. These are wired up to one anther through thousands of connections, known as synapses.
Your memories form when certain connections are strengthened by your experiences. This can even be recreated artificially; scientists can give an electrical impulse to a pair of neutrons and that allows the two of them to communicate more easily.

Maximising your memory

So how can you go about improving your memory? Tony recommends using his MindMap technique as a memory aid when you're trying to absorb lots of information, perhaps when you're studying for an exam.

He's written a number of books on his Mind Map technique, including 'The Most Important Graph in the World', which is published next month.

The principles behind Mind Mapping suggest that trying to cram information through dull, linear note-taking actively prevents your mind from absorbing information.

Instead, students should create branches of information coming off a central idea, adding images and exclamations, and making connections and associations. If you're worried about drawing this, there's a free trial of some Mind Map software available on his website.

However, most people don't need to cram information for exams, they simply struggle with sudden forgetfulness, does that sound more familiar? Perhaps you sometimes go into rooms and can't remember why, or forget the groceries you need to pick up. So how can you improve your day-to-day memory?

Tony says it's about making a conscious decision to form good memory habits, and changing the way you think about goals and targets. This applies even to small goals such as adding shopping to your list.

"You have to focus on what you want to do. Picture the outcome you want so that you have a target, you have to consciously imagine your goal. This will massively improve your brain's memory power."

He argues that with the right amount of effort, you could see improvement in your memory within just a few hours.

A case in point proof that you can train your memory to near-superhuman levels is Dominic O'Brien, eight times World Memory Champion. This is a man who broke a world record in 2002 by memorising the order of a random sequence of 54 packs of playing cards that's 2808 individual cards.

He wasn't born with this ability; Dominic began training in 1987. Unfortunately, the secret is hard work: "I think a lot of it is practice and motivation," he explains.

"But I think most people can do this if they really tried, although whether everyone could get to championship sort of level I don't know

"It's a great exercise for your brain… You don't have to be born with skill, just practice, but it does require an open mind."
Dominic believes that there are many benefits to improving your memory, beyond simply forgetting less.

"We now know that if you train your working memory, it increases fluid intelligence, which is what gives you the ability to reason and solve new problems."

Tony agrees: "As you train your memory, you become simultaneously more creative on all levels and fascinatingly, less stressed. It's because you're not trying to remember in linear ways, which isn't how your mind works."

He has one final motivating reason for people to follow Dominic's example: "I'm happy to say that modern science is now indicating that if you train your memory, your physical brain cells make more connections and you get a more powerful brain."

Sometimes the best "improve your memory information" can be found by asking someone who's got a lot of experience under her belt. My grandmother used to tell me about an old trick to help remind myself of something I had to remember. *The technique is to tie a piece of yarn on your finger, or put some tape on your hand to serve as a reminder that you had to remember to do something. Since the string or tape is out of the ordinary, it will help you remember what you were supposed to do. You could tie a string on your thumb, wear your watch upside down, or even set an alarm on your mobile phone. The secret is to mix up your normal environment just enough to tune you in to the fact that something is wrong and you have something to remember.

*You can also try creating a picture to help improve the effectiveness of your memory. The easiest way to accomplish this is to create a scene in your mind of what you are trying to remember. In my language learning hobby, I have found this technique very effective in learning new vocabulary. This is how it works. "Potato," in the German language, is pronounced cart-awfol, which is in no way like to the word potato in English. Try to form the following image in your mind. You're shopping for groceries at a store in Berlin and see a gigantic cart of rotten potatoes. Your buddy exclaims, "That is a cart of awful potatoes!" Implant the image in your mind and think about how bad that smells. I'll bet that you'll remember the German word! If your image is wild and imaginative, even a little dirty, you are much more likely to remember your vocabulary word. It works, believe it! This is a system I have employed over many hundreds of words in several languages. Try it! You can use this helpful trick to remember far more things than German vocabulary!

These are just a few ways you can supercharge your brain. The improve your memory information that I've shown you here is easy enough that you can start practicing right away! In no time, your memory will be much improved, thanks to the new techniques you've learned and practiced.

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