Memory is the mechanism by which we are able to store, retain,
and recall information. As simple as it may sound, the process is a
complex one which involves many different parts of the brain and serves
us in a wide variety of ways.
As with so many of our other functions, the saying "use it or lose it" applies as aptly to the brain, as with anything else. The more you exercise your brain and nurture it with a good diet and healthy habits, the better you'll be able to process and remember information.
Before we get into how to improve your memory, it would be helpful to understand how it works.
For example here are parts of the brain used for memory:
Memory can be short-term or long-term. In short-term memory, your brain stores information for a few seconds or a few minutes. It is capable of holding, on average, about seven items at a time.
Long-term memory involves the type of information that requires a conscious effort to retain, and then recall. This would include studying for tests, factual data, or personal events; such as the first time you were able to ride a bike, or recalling your favorite movie.
Another type of long-term memory is procedural memory, which
skills and routines that you perform so frequently that they don't
require conscious recall.
It is also a well know fact that people who engage in activities that exercise the brain, such as reading, writing, and playing card games, can delay the rapid memory decline that occurs as we age.
2. Pay attention. It is very difficult to remember something if you've never learned it in the first place. It takes about eight seconds of intent focus to process a piece of information through the hippocampus and direct it to the proper memory center. If you do not concentrate, get distracted easily, or are doing several things at once, your chances of retrieving specific information will be non-existent.
3. Incorporate as many senses as possible. While there are many different learning styles, such as visual, auditory and kinesthetic (touch), no matter which type you are, you can incorporate all of them in the process of trying to remember something. If you're a visual learner you can read out loud, even recite rhythmically to remember better. If you're an auditory learner, create a mental image or look at pictures as you read out loud. Relating information to colors, textures, smells and tastes is also very helpful.
4. Organize Information.A good way to remember new things is to make associations and connect information to what you already know. Building on what you know helps you remember new material. Also, write important things down in notebooks, calendars and post-it notes, then reorganize the information in a comprehensive way in order to retain it.
5. Review frequently and over-learn. Go over what you've learned the same day you learned it, and review it frequently. When you review and over-learn information, it becomes embedded in your memory and therefore, so much easier to recall. It is also much more effective than trying to cram.
6. Use Mnemonics. Mnemonics are a memory tool or technique used for remembering difficult information. They are clues of any kind that help us remember something, usually by associating it with a visual image, a sentence, or a word. For example, "30 days hath September, April, June and November" is a rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month. Another example of mnemonics would be to "chunk" information. Chunking is when you arrange a long list into smaller units or categories that are easier to remember. To remember a long number, you could chunk it into groups of 2, 3 or 4 for easier retention. You can also code and structure information by using vivid mental images. When you make the images colorful or even unusual, they are much easier to recall when you need them.
7. Practice good health habits. Exercise regularly. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders, such as diabetes and heart disease. Poor health, of any kind, contributes to memory loss. Likewise, get plenty of sleep and eat properly. Sleep is necessary for concentration and clear thinking, while good eating habits supply the nutrients needed to nourish your brain.
8. Stay motivated and maintain a positive attitude. When you are positive about learning and experiencing new things, you automatically improve your memory. On the other hand, if you tell yourself you have a bad memory, you will actually impede your brain's ability to remember. Maintaining a positive attitude sets up expectation of success.
By incorporating the above tips and strategies into your routine, you will be able improve your memory significantly. Not only will you learn and retain more in school and at work, you will achieve more satisfaction in your personal and business relationships.