Science-backed ways to improve your memory


It’s safe to say that some people have much better abilities to retain information than others. Some people can remember every president since time began, whereas others of us (myself included!) struggle to remember what they had for breakfast! Thankfully, there are some science-backed ways that even the most forgetful of us can improve our memories.

Loci

This is a great technique to help you remember something such as a speech. It is believed to work because it utilizes our navigational and spatial memory skills and ties these to the words in the speech. Start by mentally recalling a journey that you are very familiar with, such as walking through your house. Separate your speech into sections and visualize yourself recalling the different bits of information in each different room or area of your house. When it comes to recalling the information, retrace the journey and the information that goes along with it. Practise the journey and the information twice a day until it sticks.

Mnemonics

Utilise phrases to help you remember a list of words or more complex information. For example, to remember the planets (when Pluto was still included!) by saying ‘My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets,’ you are given the first letter of each planet in order of distance from the sun which will help remind you. This way you are using something that is easier to remember, to help jog your memory about more complicated information.

Rhymes

Our brains are pretty amazing at breaking down he sound structure of words, via a process called acoustic encoding. This is why we can remember rhymes so easily. An example of this in practice is ‘30 days have September, April, June and November’, the poem to help us remember how long each month is. You can make up your own – it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece!

Chunking

You probably already do this without realizing! When we recall phone numbers, we tend to remember them in blocks of 3 or 4 numbers at a time. You can utilize this when you have to remember a long number by grouping them into separate ‘chunks.’ Practise remembering these chunks, and they will flow together in their groups, allowing you to recall longer strings of numbers much easier.

Write it down

When you write something down, you are triggering your RAS or reticular activating system which requires your brain to focus and pay attention to form each letter. Although memorizing by looking at flashcards has been proven to work, the real benefit is from writing it down. Try using different colors and images on your flashcards or notes to stimulate various sensory nerves.

Linking

This is another visualization technique, which changes abstract facts into easy to remember mental pictures. This is perfect for remember things such as a shopping list. As you go through each item in the list, visualize something happening. For example, if you need to pick up soap, imagine walking through foam to get to the store. Link the next item by creating the next part of the story, for example, perhaps you clean up the soap with toilet paper, and which you then drop and it rolls across to a pile of potato chips. The sillier the story, the more memorable it will be!

We all have different learning styles, and each of the techniques above have different uses, whether you need to remember facts, lists or numbers. Try them out and see what works best for you.