Take a moment and try to answer the following questions: How many times have you tried to remember where you put your keys, your wallet, or your TV remote? And in some cases, have you forgotten the name of a person you knew only a few minutes ago or your best friend's cell phone number? And did you recently learn something new only to have it completely evaporate from your brain?
If you feel that you often forget things, you’re not alone, because forgetting the things we have mentioned so far isn’t uncommon at all - but there are proven and effective ways to deal with it. We've collected four types of things that we all tend to forget, and each has a memory training method recommended by experts in the field that can help you get started remembering all those little things. In addition, here are 5 tips for daily activities that you can do to strengthen your brain and improve your memory abilities in a simple and proven way.
Do you ever get to the grocery store and find it hard to remember the list of products you have to buy? Or when you land abroad, you discover that you’ve forgotten to take some important items from home? If you do all this, the Loci system, also known as the "Memory Palace," can help you remember lists of different items. The method is very simple – all you have to do to start is sit in front of your clearly written out list and think of a familiar place, such as your home or your childhood room. Then, place the items on your list around the area you imagined, in a completely arbitrary manner.
For example, let's say that we need to remember the following 3 items: toothpaste, mobile phone charger, and a pair of socks. Let's imagine the entrance to our house, and start putting down the items - the toothpaste will be put in the mailbox, the driveway will be loaded with phone charges and the pair of socks put on the entrance rug. As strange and detached from reality the picture you paint in your mind is, the easier it will be to remember, experts, say. When you get to the moment when you need to recall all the items, imagine the place you chose when you were in front of the list and start - mentally - retracing your steps and collecting the items from where you put them. In reality, you will see how miraculously you’ll be able to remember the whole list of items…
Why does it work? According to the experts, visual images and locations, even if they are only in our minds, represent representations that are more easily remembered than random lists of words. A multi-item environment, even one that we create only in our heads, gives our memory something to rely on, so it is easier for it to separate the various pieces of information and retrieve them quickly, without too much hassle.
A recent survey in the US found that more than 50% of Americans can’t speak out any phone number, not even that of their best friends or relatives, without looking at their contacts on their mobile phone. Americans are not alone in this matter - most of us already have trouble recalling sequences of numbers, whether it's our credit card number or the birthdays of friends or distant relatives. To train your mind to memorize all these sequences of numbers so that you don’t have to rely solely on technology, you can try the chunking method: divide the long series of numbers into small series of 3-4 digits in each group and try to give each one some personal meaning.
For the sake of illustration, let's assume that your friend's phone number is 7182541967. To remember it, divide it into groups of 3-4 digits, such as 718-254-1967. Now go a step further and give each chunk a personal meaning, for example, 718 is like July 18th, your spouse’s birthday, 254 when you turned 54 your grandson turned 2, 1967 was the year you graduated high school. You can do the same with your bank password, birthday dates you want to remember, or any other detail that contains a long series of digits. The next time you try to remember the series, start to recall the small groups with the meanings you gave them, and you will see how the entire sequence really jumps out at you.
Why does it work? According to experts, most people in the world can store in their memory a series of up to five digits that appear arbitrarily one after the other, which of course makes it very difficult for us to memorize long sequences. The division of the long sequence limits the amount of information we need to remember, and the personal link organizes it in our brains. So, in the same way, that we wouldn’t have trouble remembering 4 random numbers, we can now remember four sets of numbers without difficulty.
Many times, when we learn a series of random facts that are related to each other, we might realize that after a short time we find it difficult to recall them and perhaps they will even completely be forgotten. For example: can you name the presidents of the United States in order? Or the stages of human cell division? In order to sharpen our factual memory capabilities and begin to remember things we learn, we can use the "mnemonic" method. As part of this method, we will take the first letter of each of the items we want to remember, and from the letters of all the items together we will create a sort of memorable sequence that can be expressed and can hold in our memory the full names of those items.
One of the most well-known examples of using this is in math – “PEMDAS - the initials of the order of operations. Another often used is Roy G. Biv to remember the colors of the rainbow. Try it yourself with various facts you’ve learned and you will certainly see results.
Why does it work? According to the experts, the first letter of each of the items in the series is used by our brains as a hint. The clear order in which the letters appear in the mnemonic device focuses on the possibilities of our brain and helps it to retrieve memories more quickly and accurately. In addition, when we create a mnemonic device, we need to repeat the series of information we’ve learned, isolate their first letters and rearrange them logically - this is a repetitive process that allows us to look at the information again and improve brain performance as well as memory.
In the course of our lives, we meet a large number of new people, some of whom we connect with and keep in constant contact with and others a little less. So how can we remember the names of those we don’t see or keep in touch with as often? The graphic image method can help us with this. How does it work? Very simply - when you come across a person whose name you want to remember, imagine a familiar person with the same name or the name of a particular item whose pronunciation resembles that of the person standing in front of you. Then take one of the visual characteristics of the person whose name you are trying to remember, such as the color of his/her hair, the shape of his/her eyebrows or the dimples that adorn his/her face, and incorporate them in your imagination in a certain situation with the familiar person or item you’ve imagined.
For example, let's say you’re at a party and meet a guy named Ben whose name you want to remember. First, you can imagine Big Ben in London. Then take a look at his outer appearance, what color is his hair? Is it brown? Imagine Big Ben with a brown toupee on it. Although this is a strange visual to imagine, you’ll be surprised at how this will help you recall the name of the person the next time you meet them face to face.
Why does it work? While names are quite easy to forget and faces usually blend with one another, as soon as we associate the name with a visual cue, memory binds the information together, making retrieval easier and more convenient.
Apart from memory techniques experts also suggest taking part in these simple daily activities to improve memory. We picked 5 of these selected tips for you.
1. Food and nutrition - The recommended diet for improving memory capacity includes as many vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, chicken, olive oil and wine as possible. On the other hand, it is recommended to limit the intake of red meat, butter, cheese, sweet snacks, and fried food. Adherence to such a diet will reduce your risk of cognitive impairment by 35%, due to the lean protein, antioxidants, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids absorbed by the recommended foods that help reduce your risk of dementia.
2. Smelling rosemary oil - strange as it sounds, this tip is scientifically backed: British scientists have discovered that smelling aromatic rosemary may improving and preserving the capabilities of long-term memory by increasing the activity of various chemicals in our brains. Drip 4 drops, no more than that, of rosemary oil into a small spray bottle with water, and spray into the air of the room you’re in once an hour to take advantage of its benefits.
3. Read printed books - The fact that reading books contributes to strengthening and improving the brain has been known for many years. However, in the age of technology, it’s important to know that this activity helps only if you’re reading books printed on paper. In a recent study, a comparison was made between readers of printed books and digital readers, and their ability to reconstruct the order of events that occurred in the plot of a book they read. The findings of the study showed that readers of printed books were able to reproduce the plot much better than readers of digital books. The researchers speculate that this is due to the movement of the fingers between the lines, as well as the feeling of paper in hand, which contributes to the ability to remember and reconstruct the details of the plot.
4. Exercise a few hours after learning something new - according to recent studies, vigorous exercise that strengthens our heart and lung endurance, such as running or cycling, about 4 hours after learning new information, may enhance our memory capabilities and activate the brain regions needed to retrieve and recall information. A study on the subject found that intensive training performed immediately after learning will not help improve memory capabilities, probably because the brain needs a preliminary period of time to process and store the information.
5. Go to bed soon after learning new information - if you don’t have the time or energy to exercise, sleep has been shown to encourage brain changes that make our memories more stable and retainable for a long time. Here, too, just like physical activity, timing is very important - you need to reconstruct the information you’ve learned just before you go to bed so that during sleep the brain can process it.