It’s ironic, isn’t it… in this day of information overload, we have outsourced our memory to electronic devices. But drop that cell phone in the sink, leave your laptop at home and our best friend’s phone number is lost. While using electronics for memory storage/retrieval is useful, it’s also essential to cultivate our own memory.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to get a “memory upgrade” by installing a new chip? But don’t forget (pun intended), the human mind is more powerful than any computer. We can imagine! We see something that reminds us of a feeling, and the memory of that feeling brings up a memory of a scene, reminding us of a friend… (a computer cannot link seemingly unrelated memories that are based on emotions since emotions are subjective and changeable – as you become distanced from a memory, related emotions can change).
Use It or Lose It!
“Use it or lose it” applies to memory. You can quickly improve your memory using Silva Method memory exercises that center around developing your powers of visualization, learning the Method of Loci and programming yourself to remember.
Everything that makes an impression on your brain is stored as a memory and it stays there forever. The problem is not the creation of a memory, it’s retrieval. When it comes to remembering important information (where you parked your car in the long-term lot at the airport; the name of that interesting person you met at the coffee shop; or a mathematical formula), you’ll have an easier time of recall if you create vivid memories. You’re more likely to remember something that’s interesting than something mundane.
Creating Vivid Memories
- Use images that are strong, positive and meaningful. Mental images don’t necessarily mean “pictures” – they may incorporate information from other senses. Many people do not visualize mental images. For some, it’s about feelings, perhaps a sense of movement and sounds. Generally, you’ll store memories according to the senses you use most; but some memories may have nothing to do with that sense. For example, a first kiss may have little or no input from the eyes!
- Make your mental images as multi-sensory as possible; use smells, movement, temperatures, emotions, sounds and touch in addition to visuals.
- Dress up and exaggerate the key elements.
- Use symbols such as big flashing neon signs.
- Have fun! The more outrageous your memory, the more memorable. Rhymes and humor are great memory techniques. Otherwise, silly rhymes like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” would not be one of those things you can remember ‘til the day you die - but you can’t remember what you were supposed to pick up at the store!
- Use your imagination to make a scene exciting – for example, you need to remember to pick up the dry cleaning on your way home. Your commute is mind-numbingly boring so to remember your errand, make a mental movie like a Hollywood car chase where the hero (you) dashes into the dry cleaner’s to grab the coat with the flash drive in the pocket before the bad guys get to it… silly? Absolutely! And effective!
- Associate the thing you want to remember with something that reminds you of it: rhymes, familiar locations, activities or objects.
- Location places a memory in context. For example, if you want to recall a conversation, place that interaction in the context in which it happened.
More memory-boosting tips:
Eat well. Your brain is only 2% of your body weight yet it uses about 20% of the nutrients you ingest. To avoid mental fog and grogginess that prevent you from being alert and aware, give your brain excellent nutrition. There are NO specific “brain foods”! A well-rounded healthy diet will provide your brain with necessary nutrients.
Hydrate. Adequate hydration allows for optimal electrochemical activity. A dehydrated brain actually shrinks – hence the headache! A glass of wine may help relax you and thus help with memory, but don’t rely on stimulants or sedatives.
Meditate. Meditation removes stress from the equation. It’s difficult to remember things under pressure so relax and allow, and the memory will surface! Meditation teaches you present-awareness, focusing attention on what’s going on now instead of daydreaming.
Get enough sleep. Easier said than done if you’re very busy and stressed so use the Silva Method’s Sleep Control technique to go to sleep and stay asleep; meditate to release stress that keeps you up at night.
Exercise frequently! Oxygenate your brain and prevent afternoon sleepiness by exercising. You will often remember things while exercising!
Take a break! Whenever you can’t remember, take a break from that problem. Use the Silva Method’s Glass of Water exercise to help you solve a problem while you sleep! Sometimes taking a break is enough to retrieve a memory.
Write it down but don’t take the list with you. Try this next time you grocery shop.
Be social. Laugh. Socialize. Talk. Listen. Brain-stimulating activities lead to improved memory! In fact, laughter helps with the free-association sometimes needed for recall. Laugh at yourself; spend time with happy, playful, funny people; and don’t be too serious (that puts too much pressure on you).
Stimulate your brain. The neural pathways you’ve established during your lifetime make you very efficient – but these well-worn paths can keep your brain from developing. Learn and remember something new every day. Take a break from your mental routine and challenge yourself to do things differently.
Pay attention! You can’t remember something you haven’t learned. Focus when someone tells you their name. Listen to the professor. Concentrate on that book.
Repeat what you’ve just learned. Repeat a name, a fact, etc. – better yet, teach it. Explaining something in your own words cements the idea in your own mind, creating a cohesive and structured memory.
Program yourself to remember. Use the Silva Method’s Three Fingers exercise to set the intention to remember. And never say, “I can’t remember.” Instead, say “It has momentarily slipped my mind” or “I’ll think of it in a moment.”: powerful commands to your brain to dig up a memory!