Is your memory good enough? Two ways to improve yours today
Guest article by Karen Meager and John McLachlan, co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training
Forgetting things is simply part of the human condition, and at some point or other, it happens to everyone. Research estimates that the average adult forgets around three things a day. Of course, some people do seem to experience forgetfulness more than others, and this number can vary wildly from person to person. Scientists have given a great deal of attention to the issue of memory, and forgetting, and have suggested a number of reasons as to why we forget things. Some argue that the memory is selective by nature, while others reason that our brains are not programmed to remember things necessarily, but to understand them.
But almost everyone finds themselves needing to remember important things at some time or other, whether it be for exams, presentations or interviews, so whatever evolutionary reason there might be for being forgetful, it can be a frustrating trait at times. Whether it will improve your ability to study, stop you from letting bills and other menial tasks from piling up, or just help you remember family birthdays, a lot of people cite forgetfulness as something they want to improve. With this in mind, here are a couple of simple but effective ways to improve your memory skills by creating memory pegs to simplify the whole process.
The human mind is much better at remembering things with ease when there is a meaning or significance of some kind, which stimulates the visual part of the brain and helps it hook onto the thoughts. For this reason, taking the things you need to remember and create a story out of them to link them in sequence. This is especially effective when there is little relevance between the things you need to remember and the story you create from them. Try this simple exercise: take five random words (let us say here, for example: tree, money, cats, race, cloud) and create a story that ties these five words together. One result might be along the lines of “We climbed the tree to get the money and the cats raced us to the clouds”. Do this, then wait ten minutes before trying to recall the five words. You’ll often find this is a very effective way of helping things to stand out in your mind.
Use an Abandoned Sense
Every person has a particular sense that they naturally find the easiest or most effective when it comes to learning or processing information. While some people work best with visuals - such as reading or looking at visual cue cards - some work better with sounds, and others process information best through touch and physical feelings. The sense you use the least in these pursuits will stand out to you, and because of this, will be a very useful way to create reminders. For example, if you are a person who processes things visually but does not feel an affinity to music, creating a song to help you process information is actually a very effective way to jog your memory. Similarly, a person who is well attuned to sounds and aural stimulation may find that the sense of touch is a helpful way to remember things better - for example, creating a mental link between a particular memory or piece of information, and the feeling of touching a fluffy key ring. Creating a mental anchor between a particular sense and a piece of information is a common practice in NLP and hypnotherapy, and can be used for all manner of purposes, from improving memory capacity to overcoming deep seated phobias, so take some time to familiarise yourself with your senses, and which ones you tend to rely on most. Getting reacquainted with the senses you put on the back burner can prove to be a very helpful way of improving your mental processes.
A third and final technique that is good for everyone, regardless of their natural learning style, is the reduction of stress. Stress can have a devastating impact on our ability to retain important information as it overloads the brain so significantly. So take a deep breath, and take steps to slow the pace of your life down a bit, in whichever ways work for you. This can take a bit of exploration, but once you come up with some ideas that suit you, you will start to feel everyday life becoming a bit easier, your mind become clearer, and more able to process thoughts and memories at a healthy pace.