How to remember like an elephant!

By April 8, 2013Blog, Memory

No Senior Moments Here

I don’t know about you, but it takes me longer to remember things than it used to!

Is there a way to improve recall?

It’s normal for your memory to slow down a bit as you age. There are neural pathways that connect the part of your brain where memories are stored (the hippocampus) with the part where you’re consciously thinking (the prefrontal cortex). As you age, those pathways naturally get a little bumpier and harder to travel, meaning it can take a little longer to call up a specific fact or name.

Your Mind Thinks in Pictures

Evolution has created a human brain that is amazingly effective in dealing with sensory data. Among the human senses, sight is the most sophisticated and developed of all.  Hence, our brains have become extremely effective in storing and processing images.

Images are your mind’s vocabulary, the building blocks of its language.

The Memory Palace Technique

The same strategies that Cicero used to memorize his speeches, medieval scholars used to memorize entire books. These memory pioneers figured out that the brain is more likely to retain visual or spatial information, so if you want to remember something your best strategy is to transform it into something else so colorful, exciting and different that you can’t possibly forget it.

Connect hard-to-remember facts with some familiar space
One trick, known as the  “memory palace,” is to conjure up a familiar space in the mind’s eye, and then populate it with images of whatever it is you want to remember.

Memory palaces don’t necessarily have to be buildings. They can be routes through a town or station stops along a railway. They can be real or imaginary, as long as there’s some semblance of order that links one place to the next (front steps, door, foyer, etc.), and are intimately familiar.

For the technique to work, the most important thing is to have the place or route 100% imprinted on your mind.

How To Memorize Your Grocery List

Think of a very familiar place, such as your home. Associate each sight you see with an item you want to remember (oranges on the window-sill, milk on the top shelf in the fridge, bread next to the toaster).  This memory palace technique works because you can connect new things to old, well-worn paths in your brain, taking advantage of old memories to create stronger new ones.

What I like about the Memory Palace is that it’s not only extremely effective, but also quite fun to learn and use. Years ago my father had another fun technique for remembering people’s names. Identify their faces with an animal. Unless you call someone a skunk … I guess this could work  because he told me about it 🙂

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