Monday, January 25, 2010

Be Happy - Improve Your Memory (Part 1)

Can't find the car keys again? Don't remember where you left your eyeglasses? There is a better chance of finding Jimmy Hoffa than locating your wallet? Sometimes these annoyances are just that -annoying. Other times they make you late for that really important meeting or picking up the kids from soccer practice on time. It's a classic situation - you meet someone new, and then moments later you've forgotten their name! Names, passwords, pin and telephone numbers... the list is endless - with so much to memorize is it really possible to improve how much you can remember? Sometime, your attention to a number of things or matters at the same time makes you bewildered in the net of facts and figures and you forget to take action timely, you forget your priorities. It is the result of the lack of memory.

In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing the memory. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century put memory within the paradigms of cognitive psychology. In recent decades, it has become one of the principal pillars of a branch of science called cognitive neuroscience, an interdisciplinary link between cognitive psychology and neuroscience

A UCLA research study published in the June 2006 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that people can improve cognitive function and brain efficiency through simple lifestyle changes such as incorporating memory exercises, healthy eating, physical fitness and stress reduction into their daily lives.

The International Longevity Center released in 2001 a report which includes in pages 14–16 recommendations for keeping the mind in good functionality until advanced age. Some of the recommendations are to stay intellectually active through learning, training or reading, to keep physically active so to promote blood circulation to the brain, to socialize, to reduce stress, to keep sleep time regular, to avoid depression or emotional instability and to observe good nutrition.

While tofu consumption has been linked with worse memory in the elderly, tempeh (a fermented whole soybean product) was independently related to better memory, potentially due to its high folate levels.

Apart from healthy life styles, some brain exercises do help you improve your memory levels. Just like every muscle in your body, the adage "use it or lose it" applies, so the more you exercise your brain, the more you will remember. There are some tools which can help you both to remember facts accurately and to remember the structure of information. I may classify those tools into two sections. First, the memory techniques. Second, how to use them in practice to remember peoples names, languages, exam information, and so on.

As with other mind tools, the more practice we give ourselves with these techniques, the more effectively we will use them. These can be those techniques being used by stage memory performers. With enough practice and effort, we may be able to have a memory as good. Even if we do not have the time needed to develop this quality of memory, many of the techniques are useful in everyday life.

'Mnemonic' is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are techniques for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall: A very simple example is the '30 days hath September' rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month.

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November:
All the rest have thirty-one:
Except February,
it has twenty-eight we find,

Unless it's leap year,
then it has twenty-nine

The idea behind using mnemonics is to encode difficult-to-remember information in a way that is much easier to remember.

Our brains evolved to code and interpret complex stimuli such as images, colors, structures, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, positions, emotions and language. We use these to make sophisticated models of the world we live in. Our memories store all of these very effectively.

Unfortunately, a lot of the information we have to remember in modern life is presented differently - as words printed on a page. While writing is a rich and sophisticated medium for conveying complex arguments, our brains do not easily encode written information, making it difficult to remember.

Using Your Whole Mind to Remember

The key idea is that by coding information using vivid mental images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them. The techniques explained later on in this section show you how to code information vividly, using stories, strong mental images, familiar journeys, and so on.

You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:

· Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones
· Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images - these are easier to remember than drab ones
· Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
· Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
· Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image
· Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
· Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
· Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively.

Designing Mnemonics: Imagination, Association and Location

The three fundamental principles underlying the use of mnemonics are imagination, association and location. Working together, you can use these principles to generate powerful mnemonic systems.

is what you use to create and strengthen the associations needed to create effective mnemonics. Your imagination is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. The imagery you use in your mnemonics can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember.

is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a way of remembering it. You can create associations by:

* Placing things on top of each other
* Crashing things together
* Merging images together
* Wrapping them around each other
* Rotating them around each other or having them dancing together
* Linking them using the same color, smell, shape, or feeling

As an example, you might link the number 1 with a goldfish by visualizing a 1-shaped spear being used to spear it.

gives you two things: a coherent context into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another. By setting one mnemonic in a particular town, I can separate it from a similar mnemonic set in a city. For example, by setting one in Wimbledon and another similar mnemonic with images of Manhattan, we can separate them with no danger of confusion. You can build the flavors and atmosphere of these places into your mnemonics to strengthen the feeling of location.

Some other tools in my next post!

Be Happy - Improve Your Memory.

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