A good memory is often seen as something that comes naturally, and a bad memory as something that cannot be changed, but actually there is a lot that you can do to improve your memory. However, it does mean taking responsibility and making an effort.
Here are the experts’ top tips.
- Take an interest – make an effort.
We all remember the things we are interested in and forget the ones that bore us. This, with no doubt, explains the reason why schoolboys remember footballer results effortlessly but struggle with dates from their history lessons! Take an active interest in what you want to remember and focus on it consciously. One way to “make” yourself more interested is to ask questions – the more the better.
- Repeat things. Repeating is the best way to remember things for a short time, e.g. remembering a phone number for a few seconds. “Chunking” or grouping numbers helps you to remember them, e.g. the following numbers would be impossible for most of us to remember: 1492178919318483. But look at them in “chunks”, and it becomes much easier: 1492 1789 1931 8483.
- Form a mental picture. Another way to make something more memorable is thinking about something visual associated with it. Form a mental picture, and the stranger the picture the better you will remember it! If an English person studying Spanish wanted to remember the Spanish word for duck, “pato”, he or she could associate it with the English verb “to pat” and imagine a picture of someone patting a duck on the head.
- Invent a story. To remember long lists, try inventing a story which includes all the items you want to remember. In experiments, people were asked to remember up to 120 words using this technique and when they were tested afterwards, on average they could remember ninety percent of them!
- Organize your ideas. If we organize what we know in a logical way then when we learn more about that subject, we understand that better, and so we add the information to our knowledge more easily. Make well-organised notes. Be sure things are clear in your mind. If not, ask questions until you understand.
- Listen to Mozart. Many experts believe that listening to classical music, especially Mozart, helps people to organize their ideas more clearly and so improves their memory. Sadly, rock music does not have the same effect!
- Make mental exercise. If you do not want to lose your memory as you get older you need to keep your brain fit, just like your body: “use it or lose it” is the experts’ advice. Logic puzzles, crosswords and mental arithmetic are all good “mental aerobics”.
- Take physical exercise. Physical exercise is also important for your memory, because it increases your heart rate and sends more oxygen to your brain, and that makes your memory work better. Exercise also reduces stress, which is very good for the memory.
- Eat the right things. The old saying that “eating fish makes you brainy” may be true after all. Scientists have discovered that the fats found in fish like tuna, sardines and salmon – as well as olive oil – help to improve the memory. Vitamins C, E and B are all good “brain food” too.
- Drink water. It increases your heart rate and sends more oxygen to your brain.
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