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Monday, January 25, 2010

10 ways to improve your memory

Wouldn't it be nice to just look at a page and never forget what was on there? What if you could never again forget a friend's birthday? The bad news is, not everyone has a photographic memory, otherwise known as eidetic memory. Only a few actually have it, the rest rely on mnemonic devices.

The good news, however, is that everyone can take steps to improve their memory, and with time and practice most people can gain the ability to memorize seemingly impossible amounts of information.

Whether you want to win the World Memory Championships, ace your history test, or simply remember where you put your keys, this article can get you started.

STEPS

Convince yourself that you do have a good memory that will improve.
Too many people get stuck here and convince themselves that their memory is bad, that they are just not good with names, that numbers just slip out of their minds for some reason. Erase those thoughts and vow to improve your memory.

1. Exercise your brain.
Regularly "exercising" the brain keeps it growing and spurs the development of new nerve connections that can help improve memory. By developing new mental skills-especially complex ones such as learning a new language or learning to play a new musical instrument-and challenging your brain with puzzles and games you can keep your brain active and improve its physiological functioning.

2. Reduce stress.
Chronic stress, will affect your health and your memory. The best option is to learn to control stress. Stress will never be eliminated, but it definitely can be controlled. Try to relax, regularly practice yoga or other stretching exercises.

3. Eat well and eat right.
There are a lot of herbal supplements on the market that claim to improve memory, but none have yet been shown to be effective in clinical tests (although small studies have shown some promising results for ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine). A healthy diet, however, contributes to a healthy brain, and foods containing antioxidants-broccoli, blueberries, spinach, and berries, for example-and Omega-3 fatty acids appear to promote healthy brain functioning.

4. Improve observation skills.
Often we forget things not because our memory is bad, but rather because our observational skills need work. One common situation where this occurs (and which almost everyone can relate to) is meeting new people. Often we don't really learn people's names at first because we aren't really concentrating on remembering them. You'll find that if you make a conscious effort to remember such things, you'll do much better.

5. Give yourself time.
Memories are very fragile in the short-term, and distractions can make you quickly forget something as simple as a phone number. The key to avoid losing memories before you can even form them is to be able to focus on the thing to be remembered for a while without thinking about other things, so when you're trying to remember something, avoid distractions and complicated tasks for a few minutes.

6. Create vivid, memorable images.
You remember information more easily if you can visualize it. If you want to associate a child with a book, try not to visualize the child reading the book - that's too simple and forgettable. Instead, come up with something more jarring, something that sticks, like the book chasing the child, or the child eating the book. It's your mind - make the images as shocking and emotional as possible to keep the associations strong.

7. Repeat things you need to learn.
The more times you hear, see, or think about something, the more surely you'll remember it, right? It's a no-brainer. When you want to remember something, be it your new coworker's name or your best friend's birthday, repeat it, either out loud or silently. Try writing it down; think about it. The key lies in "Spaced Repetition" learning.

8. Group things you need to remember.
Random lists of things (a shopping list, for example) can be especially difficult to remember. To make it easier, try categorizing the individual things from the list. If you can remember that, among other things, you wanted to buy four different kinds of vegetables, you'll find it easier to remember all four.

9. Organize your life.
Keep items that you frequently need, such as keys and eyeglasses, in the same place every time. Use an electronic organizer or daily planner to keep track of appointments, due dates for bills, and other tasks. Keep phone numbers and addresses in an address book or enter them into your computer or cell phone. Improved organization can help free up your powers of concentration so that you can remember less routine things.

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