Enhancing your memory

GCSEs, A levels, University exams seem to creep up and startle students every year. But although this is a very stressful time in which you need to take in and revise a lot, there is no need to panic. If you need to memorise facts, formulas, names and titles there are ways to improve your memory and make yourself into a brainiac!

Firstly, before starting to train your memory you have to accept that there is no limit to how much information a human brain can hold and also the fact that you yourself are in control of memorising and forgetting one thing or another. And secondly, have the right attitude: if you believe you have a good memory and that you can access any information you have ever heard or read, it will improve. Similarly, negative thinking will reduce your memory's capacity, so only positive thinking allowed!

The journey method

This is a memorisation method that comes from Ancient Greece; it is based on the use of association, location and imagination, and it is very important to involve all of those. If you have ever recalled facts by saying 'in the first place', 'in the second place' you have used a similar method that derived from the journey method.

The key here is to create an imaginary journey, through your house, a garden, town, golf course - whichever you prefer. Once you're on your journey, attach meanings, dates, names etc. to objects. Make them stand out and maybe even look a bit out of place and ridiculous. You have to create associations so that the information you want to remember is associated with something familiar and therefore making it easy to memorise. Use of logic and reason is also crucial as part of using your imagination as you need to make logical connections between the objects/facts. Dominic O'Brien (world memory champion) gives a few examples of how to practice this method here.

In case you need to memorise more than one set of information you can create multiple journeys in different houses, towns or parks. The information will stay in your long term memory for as long as you keep revisiting it and will fade away gradually once you stop. 

The reason this technique is so successful is because it doesn’t involve trying to remember something vague which is difficult but rather something clearly imagined and familiar. A picture in movement and action with vivid colours and potentially an added soundtrack makes memorising a lot easier.

General Wellbeing

In order to help your memory with all the information being bombarded at it, it is also important to keep your brain in healthy condition. First of all, you have to sleep well as it is necessary for memory consolidation, and sleep deprivation compromises your brain capacity. 'Sleep on it' now has a different meaning of memorising what you have learnt during the day. Doing sports is another key step towards healthy mind as it exercises not only the body but mind as well (as per that age-old phrase, ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’). Exercising increases the blood flow to the brain which feeds our brains with oxygen and nutrients. Eating healthy and getting all the vitamins is also very important, particularly vitamins A, C and E which are especially beneficial for our brains. Products to stay away from are saturated fats and alcohol - no binge eating/drinking of those. Staying emotionally healthy is yet another factor to control; stress, anger and anxiety will not only affect your ability to concentrate but will also eat away the brain parts that are responsible for memory.

So staying mentally and physically healthy is also a big step towards a better memory; be happy, do some exercises and eat nutritious food!

Now this will probably not make a Dominic O'Brien out of you but it will definitely help you prepare for your exams. This is also a great training for your brain to help you with your daily routines and to stay mentally fit.

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