Become a memory guru

by Darja Valujeva

The Journey method of memorising important information is something I came across absolutely accidentally and it struck me how simple and absolutely brilliant it is. Sadly the times of me taking exams have passed but I can still use the technique for shopping lists, phone numbers or addresses.

I have always been a big fan of Top Gear and was excited to see that James May has restarted his Man's Lab show which teaches people lost skills. In the first episode of the new series what caught my attention the most is that he was asked to commentate on the Grand National - the most valuable horse race in Europe. In order to be able to cover the race James had to learn 40 horses' names and the colours of their attire. As he only had a few days to prepare for this challenge he asked Dominic O'Brien, the world memory champion, for advice on how to memorise these quickly.

Dominic met up with James in a countryside inn where he explained in practice how to use the Journey method to easily remember information. They explored the back garden and attached horses' names and colours to different places around the garden in a way that resembled the names or the patterns in order to make it easier to memorise. By doing that, James was able to successfully commentate on the race with a little help from his sidekick Rory.

The Journey method itself originated from Ancient Greece and is based on three main features: imagination, association and location. Imagination helps make regular things more memorable especially if a little bit of fantasy is added so that in your mind, the information you need to remember stands out. When it comes to association, we make connections all the time and don't even stop to notice how it works as it is so natural, but we can also create new artificial association in order to make the forgettable information stand out. And obviously, location is the main ingredient in this method where imagination and association come to help. When using this method you attach a piece of information to a particular place and create a sort of informational journey through your house, town or park - any location will work as long as you know it very well. By creating associations between the information and a place it is very easy to revisit it in your mind when you need to access it.

The number of journeys you can create is limitless and you can remember each for a very long time as long as you keep revisiting them regularly. In order to help your brain cope with so much new information you should also focus on healthy wellbeing. Healthy sleeping pattern, no junk food, no binge drinking, exercising and getting all the vitamins will not only boost your mental capacity to remember information but also will make you feel a lot better in general.

Training your memory this way and feeding your brain will also benefit you in the long term as it will stave off the symptoms of dementia and will allow you to enjoy a healthy mind for longer. And of course you will never have to worry about where you have left your car or what you needed to buy in the supermarket!