Feb 16, 2009

Memory Enhancing Activities

The human mind is a very powerful tool, but it doesn’t always work perfectly. Think about it--remembering the lyrics to a song that was in the Top 100 charts a decade ago can be a snap, but remembering the answer to a history quiz question that you studied for can be a challenge. In the modern age of daily informational tsunamis, it’s easy to lapse into passive brain data collection. To help combat this, try out the following brain techniques.

There are several different types of memory, such as long vs. short term, or auditory vs. visual. Try different “flash” exercises, such as having a friend enumerate ten different things (like sports, cars, or movies) and then try to repeat them back. Gradually increase the number of items until it becomes a challenge. Either repeat the items immediately (thus exercising short-term auditory memory) or after several minutes (thus exercising long-term auditory memory). The same can be done for things you see (visual memory). Several variations on this type of activity could be used, depending on what interests you or what type of memory you are trying to enhance.

Memories are never isolated. They are always connected, in one way or another, to something else in your brain. Perhaps the smell of fresh bread reminds you of your grandparent’s house, or the image of a dog running on the beach reminds you of a childhood friend. These are “cues”--the pathways of memory. Consciously attaching cues to things you want to remember can help enormously. Perhaps a particular history lesson is recalled by looking at a painting or picture. Another method of doing this is called a mnemonic device. Essentially, one easy to remember phrase or sentence is used to list important information. For example, the phrase “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” can be used to remember the order in which colors show in the visible spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).

One of the most important (and obvious) ways of remembering large amounts of information is to break it down into more easily digestible chunks. Group together related information so that one piece connects with the others, giving cues to each following piece.

Unfortunately, increasing memory is like increasing muscle strength--there is no easy on/off switch. Keep on practicing and hone your memory until nothing gets by!

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