Self Development
Improving Your Memory

by Dr Stanley Hyman
There are many ways to improve your memory. Some of the more obvious ones are Getting enough sleep, eating right, reducing stress and not abusing drugs or alcohol. However, many of the tips offered in this article are memory assisting (mnemonic) methods that you can employ today.
There are many ways to improve your memory. Getting enough sleep, eating right, reducing stress and not abusing drugs or alcohol are important for obvious reasons. However many of the tips I offer in this article are memory assisting (mnemonic) methods that you can employ today.

Concentrate/Pay Attention: Sounds like a no-brainer but for Acquisition or Encoding to take place you must concentrate on what you are trying to remember. Often we are so busy doing something that we are not paying enough attention to encode the information in the first place.

Picture It: Whenever possible create a picture in your mind of what you are trying to remember. Adding a visual sense or image to the information creates more relevance and makes it more likely to get stored.

Make It Relevant: It is easier for Consolidation and Retrieval to take place if the new information is associated with already existing information. Pairing the new information with an image, a joke or even a sound will help.

Use Acronyms: Using the first letter of the words you are trying to remember to make up another word has always been a great way to remember long names or lists of things. For instance the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is NASA, a web log is a BLOG and Information Technology is IT.

Use Acrostics: An Acrostic is text (or a poem) in which the letters (or words) of the Acrostic spell another word. The letters often come at the beginning of the words. For example the Acrostic RANED helps you to remember to: Read A Newsletter Every Day.

Use Rhymes: Who doesn't remember, Thirty days hath September, April, June and ...what was the next one? Rhyming is fun and helps put otherwise mindless or irrelevant information into organized auditory patterns.

"Chunk" Your Information: This means putting information into manageable segments. For example if you want to remember a series of numbers you might turn them into segments of 5 or 7 each. Telephone numbers are mostly 7 digit segments (apart from area codes) so that we can remember them. You can also give them a sort of rhythm as you commit them to memory.

Repeat Repeat Repeat: Repetition is practice and we all know that "practice makes perfect". Repetition sends the target information through the hippocampus (see previous article) thereby making it more likely to Consolidate or get stored in the brain.

Organize It: Organizing information into relevant categories gives it more meaning. A form of organization is a simple outline (like the ones you learned in school) that breaks an idea down into relevant parts. An example might be remembering items on a shopping list in food groups rather than random grocery items.

Make Dramatic Connections: Associating the information you want to remember with different images can help in effectively storing it in your brain for retrieval. For example if you wanted to remember the name, Tom Cruise you might associate him with a cruise ship.

Talking Out Loud: Repeating the information out loud by saying it to yourself or to others creates an opportunity for auditory encoding to take place. Saying it to others is a form of teaching others the information. This is active learning and is very helpful in storing information.

Stan Hyman, LCSW
Life Coach and Psychotherapist

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