How to Improve Your Memory

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You cannot remember what you never absorbed in the first place.

Your memory can and will improve significantly if you make a concerted effort to develop it -- just as your body improves when you purposely exercise it and flex those muscles. Memory strength increases with practices just as your body strength improves with exercise and a good diet. Not only can you improve your memory but you can improve your ability to retrieve the information stored in your memory center.


The first step in improving your memory is paying attention to what is said in the first place. You cannot remember something if you never heard the words. Many of us are guilty of this. What you did not learn because you were not paying attention cannot be encoded into your brain.


It takes your brain approximately eight seconds to sort out information. This occurs in the part of your brain called the hippocampus. The information is then sent to your memory center.


Keeping your mind engaged in challenging intellectual activities helps retain and improve memory. Games of strategy that entail remembering moves and rules, like chess played with computer software or with an opponent, or cards and crossword puzzles, keep our minds nimble and our memories in shape.

We have both short term and long term memory. Short term memory entails storing information for a few seconds or minutes. For example, the time that it takes you to dial a phone number that you have just looked up in the phone book is short term memory.


Short term memory is delicate and is purposely designed as such. If you remembered every phone number that you had ever dialed your brain would be cluttered up and on over-ride. Your brain is intended to retain, on average, seven items of this nature.


Your long term memory includes the information that you consciously or unconsciously made an effort to remember, such as the day your first child was born or the night your mother died. Recalling an episodic memory, which includes memories about an experience that you have had at certain time, and recalling semantic memories, which are factual data, such as your wedding date, require a conscious effort on your part. 


Another kind of long-term memory is called procedural memory, which means that you can perform a certain task, such as tying your shoes or typing your name, without conscious recall.


Before you can improve your memory you must determine what kind of learner you are. If you are a visual learner this means that you learn by seeing. If you are an auditory learner, this means you learn by listening. Start involving your senses in the memory process.


Relate textures, smells and colors to what you are trying to remember. Rewriting information helps imprint the memory on your brain. Connect the new data to information that you already know, building on prior knowledge. Use pictures and words to improve your memory.


If you are attempting to remember a complex process, break it down into simpler terms so that you can explain it in your words.


Employ the practice of spaced rehearsal learning, rather than cramming at the last minute. Go over what you have learned that day several times. If you actually over-learn information, recalling it later on will be easy for you.


Use a system called mnemonics, which are clues, to help you remember. Associate the information that you are trying to remember with a word, sentence or a visual image.


For instance, you can remember the name Holly by connecting the name with Christmas berries. Remember the name of Mr. Homestead by associating it with your house. Use pleasant associations. The more vivid and three-dimensional the association, the better.


Use alliteration or rhyming to remember. The humorous girl at the dental office can be "Funny Fran."


Musicians have learned notes by memorizing every-good-boy-deserves-friends for E G B D F. Another example is remembering the treatment for certain injuries known as RICE: Rest, ice, compression and elevation.  The first letter of each word in these sentences represents a word that you are trying to remember.


Chunk information together so you can remember it easier. For example, arrange numbers in groups rather than trying to remember all of them. Your social security number, for example, is in a group of three numbers, then two numbers, and then four digits. Putting a list into smaller categories makes it easier to remember.


Many foods and food supplements are credited with improving memory. Nutritional formulas and super food memory programs available from health and vitamin stores may delay the cognitive effects of aging. A diet high in whole grains, vegetables and the Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood are good for memory and brain function. B vitamins and antioxidants like vitamins C and are also beneficial for memory retention.    


Take care of your general health, stay fit, exercise, keep practicing and working on exercising your memory and you will see improvement, perhaps not overnight but in time.



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