Memory Tips for the Forgetful
In an article from Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience (“The Synapse Project,” 33, 865-882), Dr. Ian McDonough and his co-authors posit that age-related cognitive declines can be slowed or even partially restored if individuals are exposed to sustained mentally challenging experiences. This is good news—depending on the degree to which you are committed to cerebral sustainability. As far as your memory is concerned, it only works if you work.
Here are tips for enhancing your memory. They are followed by mental challenges.
1. Attend to your surroundings. If you are focused on one thing to the exclusion of another, you will not remember the second. That’s because if you are not inputting information, you cannot retrieve it. Test your own selective attention:
2. If you are not paying attention to what is trying to enter your brain, you will not retain it. Use filters, though, to avoid information overload. Subject the incoming ideas to a screen of relevancy. As you receive input through the written or spoken medium, sort through the information and grasp only the truly important. Train yourself to home in.
400 "structure" words make up about 65% of all you see and
hear. For example, an experiment at Brown University used
a passage of 134,000 words. The passage contained 20,172
occurrences of the word "the," and 12, 427 occurrences of
the word "of."
Assignment : Study a paragraph for one minute. Overlook the structure words and try to grasp only the key words. Write those down and then attempt to recreate the essence of the passage. Here are additional tips for increasing your attention to what is trying to enter your memory.
3. Develop your listening skills.
4. Develop your concentration skills.
5. Remove barriers that prevent the information from entering your brain in the first place.
6. Sharpen your powers of observation.
7. Repeat what you have heard, seen, or what you need to remember.
8. Make immediate use of the incoming information you wish to retain.
1. If the essence of memory development were reduced to a single word, that word would be "association." To illustrate, draw from memory the shape of Austria on a sheet of paper.
Now, draw the shape of Italy.
Why was the second illustration so much easier than the first? It's the power of association, of course. There are other associations you can
make, including the visual and the numeric. Let's try with words you need for work that you can never remember to spell. List five of those
here—the correctly spelled version.
Now write the troublesome part of each word in capital letters. For example, if you can never remember if the word "accommodate" has one "m" or two, you'd write it (after checking its correctness) like this: "accoMModate." After your brain has seen the word written like this thirty times, you will have that visual association frozen in your cerebral cells.
Assignments : Take a series of visual images that you'd like to commit to memory (such as the 15 marks of punctuation in our language) or take a series of words for which you can make visual associations. Figure out a schematic or mnemonic that will help you store and then retrieve what you need.
Rhyme visual association with numbers: 1=sun; 2=shoe, 3=tree, 4=door, 5=beehive, for example. Then picture five things you have to remember in relation to the visual images.
2. Do several short memory runs instead of one long session in order to commit information into long-term memory. The recommendation is 3 x 5, 3 x 5: three to five times a day for three to five days.
3. Develop your synesthesia-abilities. (Use other senses to help you intensify the experience, thus enabling more efficient recall later.)
4. Cluster data. For example, at first glance, the number 192,014,921,956,255,075
seems impossibly long to remember. But, if you cluster the numbers into some meaningful set of smaller numbers, the task is much easier:
1920 1492 1956 25-50-75
Not every association will fall into natural patterns, but many will.
Assignment : Take a simple word like "apple" or a given year like "1988" and write down everything you can recall about that word or year.
1. Combine tasks. Create routines. When you turn on your computer, review your "To-Do" list while waiting for it to boot up, for example.
2. Put things out of place so you'll notice them.
3. Prod your memory. If you can't remember a specific name, for example, start going through the alphabet. Often, you can trigger the recall you need.
4. Develop your ability to concentrate so that you will aid both input and output.