Memory: What Are the Main Memory Tricks?

What can you remember without any doubts? Your Mom’s smile, the first kiss, the birth of your child, your best friend’s first phone number… And what is your new very important client’s name or your new e-mail password? Why can’t you remember that? Why are our memories so selective? What are the main memory tricks? And is it possible for us to learn how to use these tricks and get our benefits?

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.
"The Wonder Years" TV show

In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and subsequently retrieve information. Traditional studies of memory began in the realms of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing the memory. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century put memory within the paradigms of cognitive psychology.

There are several ways to classify memories, based on duration, nature and retrieval of information. From an information processing perspective there are three main stages in the formation and retrieval of memory:



Encoding or registration - processing and combining of received information.
Storage - creation of a permanent record of the encoded information.
Retrieval or recall
- calling back the stored information in response to some cue for use in a process or activity.

Since human memory is such a complex system, it cannot be nailed down to an exact science. In fact, cognitive psychologists working in the field of memory often have disagreements. What has been established is that there are three main types of human memory – sensory, short term, and long term memory.



Sensory memory corresponds approximately to the initial 200 - 500 milliseconds after an item is perceived. The ability to look at an item, and remember what it looked like with just a second of observation, or memorization, is an example of sensory memory. This form of memory degrades very quickly. Sensory memory cannot be prolonged via rehearsal.

Some of the information in sensory memory is then transferred to short-term memory. Short-term memory allows one to recall something from several seconds to as long as a minute without rehearsal. The capacity of short-term memory is typically on the order of 4-5 items, but it can be increased through a process called chunking. The ideal size for chunking letters and numbers, meaningful or not, was three. This may be reflected in some countries in the tendency to remember phone numbers as several chunks of three numbers with the final four-number groups generally broken down into two groups of two. Short-term memory is believed to rely mostly on an acoustic code for storing information, and to a lesser extent a visual code.



The storage in sensory memory and short-term memory generally have a strictly limited capacity and duration, which means that information is available for a certain period of time, but is not retained indefinitely. By contrast, long-term memory can store much larger quantities of information for potentially unlimited duration (sometimes a whole life span). For example, given a random seven-digit number, we may remember it for only a few seconds before forgetting, suggesting it was stored in our short-term memory. On the other hand, we can remember telephone numbers for many years through repetition; this information is said to be stored in long-term memory. While short-term memory encodes information acoustically, long-term memory encodes it semantically.

That is very useful information, but how to remember it? How to use your memory and get the benefits but not the problems with trying to remember your new neighbor’s name?



Here are some memory tricks that can help you to improve your memory. These memory tips are common and easy so it won’t be difficult for you to use them!

Pay attention. You can’t remember something if you never learned it, and you can’t learn something — that is, encode it into your brain — if you don’t pay enough attention to it. It takes about eight seconds of intent focus to process a piece of information through your hippocampus and into the appropriate memory center.



So, no multitasking when you need to concentrate! If you distract easily, try to receive information in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Tell yourself to remember. This signals your unconscious mind to rank this input as more important. Know why you want to remember something, and how you'll remember it.

Code information by using vivid mental images. You can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them. Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones. Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images - these are easier to remember than drab ones.



Involve your senses! Involve as many senses as possible. Even if you’re a visual learner, read out loud what you want to remember. It will be even better if you can recite it rhythmically. Try to relate information to colors, textures, smells and tastes. The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain.

Understand what you are trying to learn. For more complex material, focus on understanding basic ideas rather than memorizing isolated details. Be able to explain it to someone else in your own words.

If you need to remember some facts or objects you can create a story list. Tie the objects together in an imaginative story. Start a vivid story in your imagination, adding each item to another. Say each item while mentally reviewing your "movie,” and you'll remember all the facts perfectly.



Link new data to information you already remember, whether it’s new material that builds on previous knowledge, or something as simple as an address of someone who lives on a street where you already know someone. Relate new information to what you already know.

Find the rhythms! Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!

Repeat things you need to learn. The more times you hear, see, or think about something, the more surely you’ll remember it. 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.



Be humorous! Funny and odd things are easier to remember than normal ones. So add some humor to your memory. Even if you don’t remember something you will have some fun;)

You can use these tricks to memorize some things better, but you should do the next things to make you memory improved in general.

Exercise daily! Yes, yes, yes! Exercise!
Regular aerobic exercise improves circulation and efficiency throughout the body, including in the brain, and can help ward off the memory loss that comes with aging. Exercise also makes you more alert and relaxed, and can thereby improve your memory uptake, allowing you to take better mental “pictures."



Eat right! You probably already know that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and “healthy” fats will provide lots of health benefits, but such a diet can also improve memory. Research indicates that certain nutrients nurture and stimulate brain function. Eat foods containing antioxidants—broccoli, blueberries, spinach, and berries, for example—and Omega-3 fatty acids appear to promote healthy brain functioning. Feed your brain with such supplements as Thiamine, Vitamin E, Niacin and Vitamin B-6. Grazing, eating 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals, also seems to improve mental functioning (including memory) by limiting dips in blood sugar, which may negatively affect the brain.



Manage stress. Chronic stress, although it does not physically damage the brain, can make remembering much more difficult. Even temporary stresses can make it more difficult to effectively concentrate on concepts and observe things. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can damage the hippocampus if the stress is unrelieved. Try to relax, regularly practice yoga or other stretching exercises, and see a doctor if you have severe chronic stress.

Have a good sleep. Good sleep is necessary for memory consolidation. Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea leave you tired and unable to concentrate during the day.

Don’t smoke! Smoking heightens the risk of vascular disorders that can cause stroke and constrict arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain.



Memory, like muscular strength, is a “use it or lose it” proposition. The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information. So keep your brain active. 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.

 
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