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7 Exercises You Can Do to Improve Your Memory

Who doesn’t want better memory? You can stop scrambling for keys. You won’t have to make that last minute run to the grocery store because you forgot to buy sugar. And you’ll be ace at work as you remember every significant detail of the presentation you heard the night before. You’re less stressed, more productive and possibly gearing up for a two week stint in Jeopardy --- who could ask for more?

The good news is: there are exercises you can do to improve your memory. Think of you mind as a machine you can oil to increase efficiency. While intelligence, stress and brain health provide the ceiling for how much data you can remember, you can still improve your recall leaps and bounds ahead of your current level.

In doubt? Then try out the following 7 exercises to improve your memory:

Use of Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices refer to ways of organizing data into meaningful or connected pieces of information. It is said that memory works better when what you need to remember makes sense, instead of seeming like data randomly put together. Examples of mnemonic devices include acronyms and the method of loci.

Acronyms are words where each letter stands for another word or concept, e.g. LOVE can stand for lettuce, olives, vegetable oil and eggs. The method of loci, on the other hand, is a way memorizing that involves associating what you need to remember to landmarks you’re familiar with. For example, if you need to do the laundry and visit a friend at the hospital, you can simply visualize the clothing store and the drug store that you pass by on your way home from work.

Whenever you can, practice the use of mnemonic devices --- they can be quite handy when you need a memory aid!

License Plate Watching

You can strengthen your remembering muscles by engaging in some license plate watching as you’re waiting for your bus to arrive. The mechanics are simple. Choose five cars that pass in front of you and write down the car’s plate number, as well as the car’s make and color. Memorize all the data that you have on paper. Take a 10 minute rest. Afterwards, test yourself for recall of the information that you have logged on the 5 cars you selected. Here’s a tip: you can increase your recall by actively practicing clunking --- that is, memorizing groups of, say 3 digits or 3 letters, instead of a letter or number at a time.

Card Counting

If you’ve ever watched a movie where there are professional gamblers about, then you’re already familiar with the term card counting. Basically it’s remembering all the cards that you’ve seen and making reasonable deductions as to what cards are still left. The logic is simple; after all, in a normal deck there are only 4 suits with 13 cards (Ace to King) each.

Why not start by remembering in order five random cards? When you feel that you have mastery over memorizing sets of 5, you can progress to sets of 6, sets of 7 and so on. And don’t get frustrated if you get stuck for awhile at 9! The average number of digits people can remember seems to be plus or minus 7 --- but with practice you can do as much as 15! The key is in not forcing yourself to improve overnight. Take your time; slow and steady wins the race.

Associating concepts with strong emotions

Research shows that we remember better things linked to our strong emotions --- especially emotions related to survival like fear or alarm. If you want to have better memory, start thinking of particular memories that trigger strong feelings in you. The time you almost fell into a deep well is a good example. Next, use these emotional memories to anchor new information that you need to remember. Visualize what you need to remember (e.g. your grocery list) interacting in some way with your emotional memory. For instance, picture all the things you need to buy at the grocery at the bottom of the well you almost fell into.

Analyze

When we toss and turn material in our minds, we’ll be able to recall it better. How about practicing the use of mind maps, outlines and feature descriptions to be able to recall concepts better? What separates the memories of experts from those of novices is the ability to be able to look at a concept from all angles so that there is, not just memorization brought about by repetition, but actual deep understanding of the material.

Photos to Remember Faces

You know an area where memory often fails us? Recall names that go with faces! We often hear the excuse: “I am just bad with faces,” but more often than not, we’re simply not exerting effort to take note of distinctive features in the people we meet, so that we can better recall them. What you can try is practice face recall is by studying photographs of strangers. Identify unique features; see if there are ways you can connect those features with their names. A little alliteration fun wouldn’t hurt; can you ever forget “Lucy with the luscious lips?”

Meditation

Lastly, understand how memory can be aided by mental discipline and mindfulness. Practice giving yourself 10 or so minutes of contemplative silence whenever you can get the opportunity. When you’re find is rested and refreshed, when distractions are quiet, you can concentrate on what you need to recall better!

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