How to improve memory
In ancient Greek and Roman times, memory was greatly valued – the word itself comes from the name of the Greek goddess of memory, Mnemosyne. Roman senators had to address the senate without written notes, so they perfected ways of improving their memories, and identified the two main principles underlying conscious memory: imagination and association. You associate the thing you want to remember with something fixed, and then you use your imagination to make the picture as vivid as possible. The Romans associated their ideas with fixed points around the room they were talking in, and then referred to them (which gives the English expressions: In the first place …, in the second place …, etc.) The peg-word and link-word systems involve learning a series of items linked to numbers (1=sun, 2=shoe, etc, or a phonetic system which can run into the thousands). This is the list to which you then ‘peg’ the items you wish to remember by creating vivid images involving the peg word and the item to be remembered. Alternatively, create a story in which a series of items are linked sequentially.
• information important for our survival
• what we find meaningful
• what we give attention to
• what we practise
• what we link to things we already know
• what we encode using mnemonics, etc
The main things which naturally help information move into long-term memory are: emotional impact, repetition and urgent need. We remember things easily when we’re emotionally engaged and interested in the subject. Also, we best remember what is important to us and we care about. Novelty is easy to remember because the dopamine levels are high and dopamine is responsible for the formation of memories.
The memory killers are stress, apathy, depression, lack of interest and lack of good quality of sleep.
In short, the basic formula for remembering is to be motivated, curious, happy, relaxed and rested. Memory is not like an archive or locked pdf document which you can’t edit – it’s a living, active, constructive system that changes all the time.
Scientists (Rob Jenkins, Unversity of York) estimated that on average we remember about 5000 faces with the lowest of 1000 faces and the highest 10 000 faces.
The principles you can use to help you memorise things are:
• imagination: Make mental pictures
• association: Find as many links with other things as you can
• exaggeration: Make things bigger, brighter, louder
• absurdity: Imagine ridiculous associations
• humour: Make things funny
• colour: Try colour-coding associated items and ideas
• sensuality: Involve as many senses as possible
• sexuality: We remember things connected with sex
• movement: Link items to movements, gestures and facial expressions
• order and sequence: Things are easier to remember if they are ordered or
sequenced (just putting items and objects into categories can be enough to
• songs, rhymes, jingles and raps: These are natural memory enhancers
• going outside or being surrounded by plants can increase memory retention by up to 20%, a recent study at the University of Michigan suggests. The biophilia effect at home or workplace stimulate senses and improves mental cognition and performance.
The most effective review periods to ensure things are retained are after 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month
(From Transforming Learning: Introducing SEAL Approaches by Susan Norman)
According to recent research, cumin can enhance memory and cognition, as determined by acquisition, retention, and recovery in the rats. Read more about cumin and memory
• Drink eight glasses of water every day to boost your brain’s performance by 30%.
• Eat more fish for essential oils.
• Eat chia seeds, oats, vitamin B and cacao for better memory and mood.
• Fuel your brain with natural sugars from swede and beetroots.