Five Simple Techniques to Improve Your Memory

Ajan Raghunathan

"All improvement in memory consists of one's habitual method of recording facts"

- Dr. William James, Father of American Psychology

 Introduction

Most of us might have complained about our memory one time or other. But some of you have been frequently complaining about your poor memory. When we generally talk about poor memory we are really talking about poor recollection. Recollection is possible only if the content is retained in memory. This is possible only if we have recorded it into memory. That is, unless we have not assimilated, we cannot recall at all. That is why William James and many others including mnemonists give emphasis to how we record things into our memory.

Even if we record something correctly in our memory, we may not be able to recall it. This is due to many reasons, the main reasons being problems in retention and stress. The former can be solved by systematic revision and the latter by practicing some Stress Management Techniques or using Stress Management Tools like HIT (Holistic Integration Technique) of Dr.V.George Mathew or the Award winning Guided Somato-Psychic Relaxation (GSPR) Technique of Dr.Krishna Prasad Sreedhar The latter can be learned by using audio cassettes.

 

Now let us discuss five simple techniques to improve memory: Four of these techniques are used to improve assimilation and thus to have longer retention. The last one is a simple strategy for recollection.

Chunking

Perhaps Chunking is the oldest method used in memorization. In this method, the items to be memorized are divided into small and easily memorizable chunks or groups. This method works best when the order of the items is not important.

This method is found to be particularly well suited for memorizing multi-digit numbers (eg., ID nos., telephone nos., etc.) and for committing complicated spellings to memory.

Example:

  1. The number 472627607 may be memorized easily if it is grouped as 472, 627,607 or as 47, 26, 27,607.
    These chunks may then be learned by rote. Learning and retention are much facilitated if you further explore the nos. by finding some relationship among these different chunks. Finding the
    digital root will also be helpful. The more explorations or relations you do, the better.
  2. Words like mathematics may be divided into mat +he +mat +ics, Together may be divided into to + get + her; Important may be divided into im + port + ant. This technique will make us learn much faster.
  3. The list Apple, cucumber, paper, ink, cabbage, banana, grapes, beans, stapler, orange can be better learned by rearranging and applying chunking as :-
    Apple, banana, grapes, orange, cucumber, cabbage, beans, paper, ink, stapler
    -- 4 fruits, 3 vegitables and 3 stationary items.

If possible, organize the material as meaningfully as you can and think out relationships among each group. This not only improves learnability and retention but also aids in faster and effortless recollection.

Psychologists doing research on Human Memory have found that the capacity of Short Term Memory (STM) for humans is 7 2 that is from the range 5 to 9 items. So you should take care to keep the chunks you create within this limit.

Rhyming

This is also one of the popular and oldest methods in memorization. This technique makes use of the fact that we have a natural tendency to remember rhymes and rhythms. The following is a very popular example of application of this technique which almost all school students are familiar with.

"Thirty days haveth September

April, June and November

All the rest have thirty-one

February has twenty-eight alone

Except in leap year, then the time

When Febs days are twenty-nine."

If possible create rhymes like this and it will not only aid in improving your memory but in improving your creativity as well.

Mediation/Bridging

In this method, a bridge is built in between the items given to be memorized. This technique is best suited for learning material involving word pairs or material that can be reduced to word pairs. An example often cited by memory experts is the learning of the capital of Poland. The capital of Poland is Warsaw. World War II started with Germany's attack on Poland. Thus it may be arranged as Poland SAW War first.

Here, the word pair to be connected together is Poland and Warsaw. The additional information of the World War II is used as a bridge or mediator in bringing these two words together.

 Again, like other techniques, the mediation technique calls for the learner's active participation in the learning process. This is because one is to bring in the mediator or the bridge from relevant items one has learned.

 

Bed-time Recital

In this technique, you do your recital or rote learning just before going to bed. The mind in the process of sleeping would then arrange the information in a systematic and effective way when you are sleeping. Psychologists have also found that if you sleep after thinking about your problems there is a better chance that you arrive at a solution the next day.

Steps for Memory Improvement

  1. Be in a relaxed mood
  2. Write down the things that you are supposed to remember in a piece of paper.
  3. Read it aloud (if possible) once or twice and recite it two to three times.
  4. Now go to sleep without worrying or thinking about anything.

You will surely retain the item longer and find it more easy to recall it when in need.

 

Trying by Not Trying

All of us apply this method knowingly or unknowingly. Sometimes when you try to recall you may not be able to recall it at that time even if you are sure that you know it very well. You experience a blocking that prevents you from recalling it. Normally you tend to try again and again but in vain. To handle this situation you just keep away from trying to recollect it and do something else; to your pleasant surprise that information automatically pops up into your mind after some time. This is because even if you stopped trying, the mind is searching for that information and brings it to awareness when it is found. Sometimes the information was blocked when you wanted, and mind brings it forward when the blocking is removed. This is where stress plays its role in hindering recall.

If you are very anxious by nature or very stressful in nature, you may encounter this type of blockage very often. In such case, it is highly recommended that you practise some kind of relaxation technique and thus keep your anxiety and stress away. This is very important because this behavior can bring many undesirable psychological and physiological conditions. You may even consult a Clinical Psychologist in extreme cases.

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