How to Improve Memory Retention

Have you ever tried to remember just that exact thing at the exact moment and have failed miserably, and often, to your embarrassment? Has your poor retention ever hurt you during that important moment in an exam or during an argument? But it wasn’t always this way, was it?

Don’t worry….You’re not alone!

A huge chunk of the world’s population is treading down this path every single day, and often without themselves realizing. Everybody is just busy surviving; taking care of their work, surviving through the day. Nobody has that kind of time to improve their memory any more! However, with these very simple hacks, you can get the best out of the brilliant creation that your brain is, and slowly start discovering how much power actually resides in you – to memorize, to retain at the right moment, and to do well in life.

First let me tell you about the human brain. The human brain can retain much more information than you think. Also, it is capable of very quickly retaining everything you remember. But like all good machines, your brain needs to be oiled (well not really!) and kept healthy to give the best output. Therefore, the right diet, the right kind of habits and a good deal of exercise would do your brain a lot of good. Over and above, you could use something known as mnemonic devices.

Have you met somebody with an eidetic memory, also known as a photographic memory? A person who seems to remember everything they’ve seen or heard while you can’t seem to remember somebody’s name you met just five minutes ago? You could also be one of the people with very strong memories. 

Let us first go to a stage which I call the preliminary test, which some people don’t really use but it’s important to avoid overcramming your brain. At the first faceoff with the information, always try to determine – do I really need to memorize this information? That will immediately get your brain thinking, and you’re already on your way to memorizing a lot of stuff. If you consider it worthy of being remembered, then we’ll use certain techniques to remember it, and if not, you can really choose to ignore it.

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First, let’s discuss a few things you need to do right so that your brain sharp:

1. Exercise – It’s a no-brainer really. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Exercise is absolutely vital for the brain because it leads to added oxygen intake which is vital for the brain’s health. You must draft out a daily schedule which has a fixed time for exercise in it, and over time you’ll see the effects it’s having on your performance on other activities.

2. Mental activity – Mental activity would include any bit of thinking and trying to solve puzzles, riddles etc. that keeps your brain active. The brain is like muscles, the more you exercise it, the better it becomes. With the introduction of mobile phones and a variety of mentally challenging apps and games, you can very easily keep your mental activity levels high during the day.

3. Meditation – It is yet another part of the mental health that you must pay attention to. Although I have used only the term meditation, it is supposed to encompass all the techniques that you need to do in order to calm your brain and your body and help in building concentration. Once that becomes a part of your daily habit, it is a great asset and often helps in easily remembering and recollecting information.

4. Healthy habits – You should take up healthy habits including reducing smoking and drinking. Also, it is extremely important to have a good sleep. A brain that doesn’t sleep is often working under-capacity and it should always get the adequate rest it needs.

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Now that we’re done with a few habits to improve your mental health generally, let’s dive into the part where you can use certain hacks in order to remember complex stuff much more easily. These hacks are known as mnemonic devices and are pretty useful when it comes to remembering a huge amount of stuff, especially of you’re writing a history exam or something similar. Let’s have a look at a few tricks –

1. Chunking – Have you ever tried to remember a phone number by remembering it in chunks of 3 or 2 numbers? Isn’t that a much easier way to remember a phone number? In the same way, you can use chunking techniques to remember a variety of data. Chunking is really simple – break down the complex information into simple, easy to remember parts. Then remember all the parts and you’re on your way towards remembering your stuff much, much better.

2. Remembering by association – It’s another technique you’ve probably used at some point in your life, often unknowingly. Once you integrate it into your approach and use it consciously, it has the potential to be one of the most powerful mnemonic devices that you have at your disposal. You could visualize something that is related to the information you’re trying to remember which makes it much easier to retain and recollect the information. For example, if you’re trying to remember a certain Mr. Sidebottom, you could conjure up funny images of a person with an outfit that has bottoms on the side. Strange, I know, but it is this very strangeness that will help you remember the information. The element of strangeness gives it a sense of uniqueness, and ensures that you never forget the information.

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4. Acronyms and Rhyming – While studying lengthy lists, you could use rhyming words and make a little rhyme for yourself to remember. Ever wondered how we can remember the lyrics of songs so easily but our lessons take up so much effort? That’s because the brain finds it easier to remember stuff that rhymes. Or you could also use acronyms – for example if you want to remember the names of 4 countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China, then you could use the first letters and have an acronym that says BRIC, which is also the name of an association of the respective nations.

5. Pay attention and Recall – You must pay attention while you’re reading something and learn to focus single mindedly on the task at hand, rather than giving a half-hearted effort. If you focus better, the learning is much better. Moreover, after you’re done with the reading, take five minutes to close your book and try to recall whatever you’ve read. It is a very powerful tool – if you’re able to recall stuff then and there, there is a big chance you will recall it later. Plus once you’ve done the recalling, your brain knows the pathway to recall it – and the next time you do it, it becomes easier.

However, you must always take utmost care to not just practice these habits as a one off – it must become a part of your routine, and that’s when these will really start taking effect. Happy Memorizing!