The human brain is not as simple as that of a robot to add a chip and upgrade the memory. The brain is one of the most complex organs in the human body and improving its' memory requires a lot of effort.
True, the ability to remember increases with exercises and good diet, similar to the muscular bodily strength. But a number of other initiatives become imperative to improve memory and retrieval capacity. Even before we delve into the aspect of improving memory, let us know 'what is memory' ?
To put it very simply, memory is the mental activity of recalling information a person may have learnt or experienced. Memory can be short or long term. It may be data about family or friends or job procedures or just studying for an exam.
When we say poor memory, we are indeed referring to poor recollection. Recollection becomes possible only if the contents are retained/ recorded in memory. Unless and until we have assimilated, it becomes difficult to recall. Problems like retention and stress sometimes makes it difficult to recall certain facts. Systematic revision and stress management techniques help to overcome poor memory.
Techniques to improve memory
Simple techniques are often effective to improve memory. Techniques that help improve assimilation also help longer retention, which is an important strategy for recollection.
- Chunking is one of the oldest methods for memory retention. In this, the items to be memorized are broken into small and easily memorizable chunks or groups. This can be adopted for memorizing multi digit numbers like telephone numbers and complicated spellings to memory. Chunks that are broken into smaller items are learned by rote.
- Example, if we take the word 'mathematics', it is divided into mat+he+mat+ics. The word 'together' is thus divided into to+get+her. This technique helps to learn faster. Psychologists researching on human memory opine that short term memory for humans range 5 to 9 items. Therefore chunks should be created within this limit.
Rhyming is another popular and oldest method in memorization. Humans exhibit a natural tendency to remember rhymes and rhythms. One famous example which we learnt in school days and are familiar is 'Thirty days of September, April, June and November, All the rest have thirty-one, February has twenty-eight alone, Except in leap year, then the time, when February days are twenty-nine.'
Mediation or bridging is built in between the items given to be memorized. When word pairs or material that can be reduced to word pairs occur, this technique is used. One example often cited by memory experts is the learning of the Polish capital Warsaw. World War II started with Germany's attack on Poland. Thus, it is arranged as Poland SAW War first. Here, the word pair connected together is Poland and Warsaw.
Bed-time recital technique or learning by rote just before going to bed is another technique. Since the mind is in the process of sleep, the information will be arranged in a systematic and effective way when one is sleeping. Psychologists agree that if one sleeps after thinking about a problem, there is a better chance that a solution is arrived at the next day. Some simple steps for memory improvement are:
- To be in a relaxed mood
- To write down the things that one is supposed to remember on a piece of paper.
- Read it aloud once or twice and recite it two or three times.
- Going to sleep without worrying or thinking about anything.
- Trying by not trying is another method. There are times when we try to recall and are unable to at that time; even if we are sure that we know it very well. There is a block. To handle such situations, keep away from trying to recollect it and do something else; the information, most of the times, automatically pops up into the mind after some time. Persons who are often anxious and stressful in nature experience such tendencies.
Tips to enhance memory
The human brain can be compared to a library that stocks memories instead of books. Different kinds of memories are stored in different areas of the brain. There are times, when the brain, like a poor librarian does not allow retrieving memories when they are needed utmost. Here are some tips that help optimize the storage of memories.
- Depression has to be treated immediately. Inability to concentrate on work may be due to depression. Stress, anxiety and anger eventually eat away the parts of the brain that is responsible for memory.
Depression causes an increase of cortisol levels in the blood stream which in turn elevates the amount of cortisol in the brain. This diminishes certain brain areas, the chief among them being hippocampus, the clearing center for short term memory.
- Exercises such as a brisk walk, not only exercises the body but also the brain. Factors like obesity which is a risk factor for many diseases and conditions including havoc on the brain can be effectively controlled by exercise.
The brain depends upon constant intake of oxygen and nutrients from the blood stream and when these nutrients do not arrive, the brain's ability to work is compromised. Studies reveal that the more physically active a person is, the greater his or her cognitive performance.
- As the saying goes, 'a picture is worth more than a thousand words', visualization and association go together. Visual images help to remember better than words. For instance, when one places eyeglasses on the kitchen table.
When one does so, let him/her imaging that the eyeglasses eating all the food on the table, Later, when one is wondering where the glass is, the brain will use this image in the bank.
- Paying attention is a better chance of remembering. When one needs to remember, paying attention to information becomes imperative. Distractions such as music, television and cell phones can be minimized to focus fully.
- The 'name game' is another memory tip built on many other tips. Pay importance to the name and face of a person when you meet. After learning the name, it can be repeated by saying, 'Nice to meet you, so-and-so'. There are 30% better chances of remembering a name when it is repeated as soon as it is learnt.
- Method of Loci is an earliest recorded mnemonic device that comes from Ancient Greece. The memory device of associating things with a place or location became known as the method of loci.
For instance, each familiar place can be visualized by an association with an item on the list. The list can be expanded with more landmarks as needed and then the route information can be visualized.
- Putting something in the environment and creating a visual reminder is another tip. An object that is slightly out of place can serve as a helpful reminder. For example, if one needed to remember a doctor's appointment, then it can be visualized by a large wrist watch wrapped around the doctor.
Perhaps the most simple memory exercise is to start telling oneself to remember. For instance, if a person's name is just learnt, then he/she can tell self 'remember that'. Mnemonic devices work well if one masters them. There are memory exercises using 'peg words'.
- Walk around the house and pick ten locations or permanent objects in the home or office. Memorize these in some logical order. When one wants to remember a list of things, the best thing would be to associate each item on the list with one of the ten locations or objects. When one needs to consult the list, the best thing would be to walk around the house and 'see' the items on the list.
This images technique was used 2000 years ago by Roman orators who used to place parts of their speech in locations along a garden path and then mentally walk the garden 'picking up' the topics they gave in the speech. And this always worked for them.
Memory exercises are quite easy and can be done anywhere from a home or classroom or even at an elevator.
Memory exercises for children
This is an exercise that improves children's writing skills. A mother can ask her child to take note of everything that she is wearing, be it rings, glasses etc. The kid is asked to write down everything he/she can remember and then leave the room for a couple of minutes. Mother can make minor changes in her appearance and put her hair up or turn the ring and then ask the child to come back and guess what has changed.
Another is the classic table-top game memory. A series of cards are laid face-down on a table. Players take turns turning over any two cards. If the cards match, the player gets to keep those cards and go again. This game can be played with almost any age.
Mnemonic devices help to remember a long list of things by using the first letters of each word in the list and create a new sentence or phrase. For instance, if kids are to be taught to remember the colors of the rainbow, then the name Roy G Biv - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet can be remembered.
Memorizing helps children to use their brain to focus and retain information. It is natural to teach them to spell their names, to know their phone numbers and addresses. They can be gradually made to work on remembering poems, songs and the names from the family trees.
Memory exercises for adults
An adult can keep engaged in creative activities by means of memory games. Such memory games serve dual purpose - making alive the memorizing capacity and sharpening it at once. Memory exercises are also fun and entertainment and they give a much needed relief from regular routines.
Memory exercises are so designed for adults that they will test the knowledge and past memory by fielding questions on different topics such as sports, fashion, accessories etc. Such memory games also stimulate the brain and prevent diseases like Alzheimer's in adults.
Computer games for adults like monster garden and word bubbles helps to increase memory strength. It helps to raise the standards of your spatial memory and it gets tougher as the level increases.
In picture card game, one sees the pictures first and then it is spread in a haphazard way on the floor. She has to pick up a particular card and then find the pair which matches to the picture. This is to be done by memorizing the matching pairs seen earlier.
A crossword puzzle game which is a board game helps to improve long term memory. Scrabble in one of the online memory games which can also be played with other people. Pictionary, trivial pursuit, trivial pursuit pop culture are some other memory games for adults.
A memory game for adult which involves kids should be fun indeed. The kids can question the adult about different topics and one of the members is supposed to write down the scores. While every right answer will get five marks, every wrong answer will lost two marks.
Solving simple and complicated mathematical problems by remembering the formula is another memory exercise. Fun filled riddles can also be best memory games for adults.
Memory exercises for elderly
An active brain function whenever possible can help an aging person from experiencing memory loss. Some simple exercises can help in sharpening memory and keep the communicative juices flowing.
Read out a book and keep the mind from becoming stagnant. Crossword puzzle in the back of a newspaper can do wonders in strengthening the processing part of the brain.
Walking combines physical and mental exercising and she can make mental notes of street signs while walking. A senior can carry audio books or books on tape while taking long outdoor walks or on the indoor track and help keep the brain active.
Music is a great motivator and hearing an old song from years ago helps stimulate the memory to a time otherwise stored away in the proverbial memory bank.
An editorial that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical association shows that age related mental decline is expected to affect 84 million people worldwide by 2040.
According to the Mayo Clinic, forgetfulness is common with aging. Memory diminishes with age as cognitive functions slow down. Proper nutrition, exercise and keeping the mind active with mentally stimulating activities can help to cope with or compensate for changes associated with disorders like dementia.
This is where puzzles play a pivotal role. For instance, cardboard pictures can be pieced together to the crosswords that arrive in the daily paper. These activities can be fun and challenging at once.
Simple math games can help the seniors long out of school to remember fundamentals of arithmetic while also improving the thinking process. Sudoku is a popular number game which can sharpen problem solving skills.
Neurobic exercises help stir nerve cell stimulation and enhances neurotrophin production. For instance, writing with the opposite hand and getting dressed with eyes closed. Doing tasks differently can make it challenging and exciting.
Memory exercises online
The Internet houses the largest collection of brain teasers, riddles, trivia, brain exercises, games and forums. Unique multi player games can keep the user entertained for hours. Mind puzzles, riddles and games can help increase creativity and boost learning. Let her get ready to have her brain tangled by online memory exercises.
As such, there exists a vibrant community of smart folks who use the tons of brain teasers and memory games online. The sites are all interactive and provide easy access for the discerning. And best of all is the fact that a great community of brain teaser enthusiasts are netted together by their common interest.