I woke up this morning and decided to share few nuggets on improving memory. But before I could present my own case I wished to know what others had to say.
So, I pulled my laptop and searched for ‘How to Improve Memory?‘
The results made me say out loud, “How naive and ignorant these people are.”
I found articles like ’10 Foods that increase memory’.
Really? If foods improve memory, most of us would just gorge them down and increase their memory exponentially. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, isn’t it?
Then I found articles talking broadly about tips on improving memory. These tips include exercises, using various tricks to memorize and using some shortcuts to remember. Though these articles are okay they are not significant or vital enough to improve memory.
Therefore, today, I decided to provide one simple method on How to Improve your Memory fast and easy by just using your senses.
But before that, you need to break away some old habits and ideas.
Its like stocking your wardrobe with new clothes. Before you place them you need to throw away your old ones.
The new information (about to be presented) will provide no actionable knowledge if you still believe in the old ones.
With all due respect, let’s start breaking your old beliefs and habits.
Your Brain Is Not Smart BUT DUMB
Most of you are in a shock after reading above statement.
I don’t blame you.
From childhood we are told that we are unique and created in the image of the creator himself.
Moreover, we are taught in schools that we survived using hunting skills (think brain).
One argument put forth is that humans don’t have claws, canine tooth or any other defense mechanism. It’s our brain that has helped us survive.
The reason we survived, all these years, is because we don’t have a natural predator. If not, why would cockroaches survive since the age of dinosaurs.
Yes, we have a gifted brain which has helped us to develop from Stone Age. But not as gifted as you think.
Let me prove it to you.
Since we spoke about stone age, think about a ‘Stone’. How does it look? Shades of grey and black.
How does it feel? Hard.
When you knock on it, do you hear a thud and your knuckles hurt a little? Yes, yes and yes.
Now Imagine that the stone is soft like cake. When you press, it succumbs easily to your pressure. In short you easily squeeze a football sized stone into your palm.
Will you still call it a STONE? Of course not. Either you will dimiss the object as ‘not a stone’ or question your beliefs about stone or your perception about stones.
What just happened?
Your brain has no brain of its own. It uses data from different senses and stores them in groups.
When you were a kid and picked that first rock and asked your parent what it was, they said it was a stone/rock. Your brain perceived the object using various senses.
When you touched it and felt the hardness, your brain stored it as an hard object. When you saw the stone covered lightly in mud and with curved or zig zagged border your brain registered the visual image. When you threw it in the water and heard the plop sound your brain registered the sound.
Your brain stored all available senses registered with stone.
So when you say ‘stone’ or even think about it, your brain recollects all the senses related to stone and replays it.
In a nutshell, your brain is nothing but a storage place with the ability to recollect related information captured through various senses.
note: Don’t overthink and try proving me wrong. I am talking from Memory’s perspective.
Humans have fives sense. The ability to see, hear, taste, feel and smell.
Remove any one of these senses associated with a thing/object/memory and you will start questioning it’s authenticity.
Remove two or more senses and you will be certain that it is not what you thought it was.
Now before I could reveal to you that one simple method of increasing your memory power let me breakdown more truth about the brain.
Brain Is Like A Muscle (Use it or Lose it)
If you recollect your biology class you will remember the phrase ‘use it or lose it.’
It is commonly used to explain muscle’s nature. If you don’t workout/use your muscle you will lose it eventually. The good news, however, is that you can build your muscle at any time in life.
Same is true for your brain. It is just like another muscle in your body. If you don’t use it, you will lose it. That is, if you are not in a habit of replaying or recollecting your memories you won’t have a strong memory.
Therefore, recollecting your memory frequently is a vital requisite to boost your memory.
Note: If you have some childhood memories its because you have recollected it often (more frequent than others).
Interesting Fact: You might think amnesiacs don’t have strong memories. That is untrue.
An experiment was conducted with amnesiac patients. All were given handshakes with a tiny needle hidden inside the palm. When these amnesiacs extended their hands the needle slightly pricked them. They withdrew their hands instantly and refused to extend it next time even after days of the experiment.
This goes to show that their brains are still working perfectly but the bias is on the survival side. Patients suffering from memory loss might have forgotten their past, friends and relatives but when it comes to survival their brain still functions (at least most of the time)
Now that we know that to have a strong memory we must relate the memory with every sense and recollect it often, here comes the easy part…
Story Is The Key To Improve Memory
For some reason our brain is wired to remember stories.
Tell some kids a story and their eyes lit up, their hearing senses are focused on your voice and they literally seem mesmerized under your spell.
The behavior is universal.
Even grown ups fall for stories.
Look at marketing pitches and sales letters. Its filled with stories of how some broke, with no money, made millions or found the secret of making money.
Even the 10 second ads, on the television, tell some stories.
Our brain loves stories.
Therefore, to improve memory you must think in terms of stories.
Look at how stories are told.
The usual format is ‘Once upon a time in a deep, deep jungle there was a lion. He was ferocious and had a thunderous roar (the story teller will literally roar)’
Breaking down the story’s first line the hearer has a sense of time (once upon a time), then he gets into visualizing a deep jungle filled with tall grasses and trees (deep, deep jungle) which triggers visual senses. Add a ferocious lion’s roar, the hearing sense registers the roar.
The story becomes a collective imagination of various senses. Of course how you perceive the story will differ from person to person.
But the point is straightforward. You register memory via your senses and stories help them bring altogether in one place.
How To Use Stories To Improve Memory
Each human is different.
Everone is more inclined to a particular sense when compared to others.
Let me share a real life example of mine.
When I was studying I had a terrible time at grasping what was being taught.
When my professor would lecture about a topic I couldn’t recollect it. But this wasn’t the case with most students. This made me appear as a below average student.
However, when it came to practical studies I topped them all. It was then that I found I was visually perceptive. I started recollecting the class visually and I found it easy to remember.
During examinations, I would recollect the entire page’s image where the answer was located. After that, it was just a matter of copying from my memory.
Important: I just told you a story.
Likewise, you could be a visually stimulated guy like me. Or you could be someone who recollects sounds, taste, smell or kinetic (these people prefer to have first hand experience).
Once you understand in which category you belong to, its just a matter of fact to create stories of your own.
Let’s say you would like to memorize Nuclear Fission from your physics class.
Here’s the gist of nuclear fission: A neutron bombards an atom of Uranium or Plutonium which further breaks into 3 other neutron. These 3 other neutrons again bombards an atom of Uranium or Plutonium each and the process continues until it’s checked or the Fuel is depleted.
Now here’s how I will memorize it (I have already done it while writing).
I am in a large cricket field surrounded by sea. I have one cricket ball in my hand which is tagged as a neutron. There are huge balls of Uranium/Plutonium.
I run and bowl the neutron onto a large bowl of Uranium. I bowl at lightning speed which makes the neutron travel at high speed and collide with the large Uranium bowl.
I zoom out and raise my view so that I am looking at the cricket field from bird’s eye.
The large Uranium explodes and three neutrons swarm out which further explodes three other Uranium balls and chain reaction continues.
Now I could wait for all the Uranium balls to explode or just bring in the sea water onto the field to stop the reaction (sea waters are used as moderators that is why nuclear reactors are built near seashores).
I am a visual guy hence all my stories are visually appealing. This will change on what kind of person you are.
Any way this is the gist of memorizing with stories.
Taking A Step Further To Improve Memory
In the beginning of this post I said that brain is nothing but collection of information captured through various senses.
While creating stories if you use most or all of your senses it becomes stronger and harder to forget.
How you create stories using various senses is up to you. Depends on your creativity you can go crazy.
For example, let’s take my example of Nuclear fission.
I could add the smell of sulphur as soon as I am about to bowl the neutron. Later, I could add the sound of explosion as the neutron bombards with Uranium. To add a touch of sensation I could imagine the neutron as hard as a rock and one which fits exactly between my thumb and fingers.
I could go on and on.
And to take a step further I can add a trigger memory i.e when I recollect a certain word/symbol/sound/memory it will trigger the entire memory.
In this case I could use a trigger image of cricket ball. Therefore, whenever I think about a cricket ball I would automatically recollect the entire memory of nuclear fission.
Why Use A Trigger?
When you have just nuclear fission to memorize, all is good. What if you want to memorize nuclear fusion, Bernoulli’s theorem, laws of thermodynamics, the last war of Napoleon, Civil war, abolishment of slavery, discovery of America and the list goes on.
In such cases triggers work best. You can easily remember triggers and the entire memory can be chained to it. All you have to do is remember the trigger and the rest of the memory gets played easily.
For Advanced Users On Improving Memory Even Further
You have a bunch of triggers and are recollecting memories whenever possible. The only problem, you can’t recollect your triggers in the first place.
Once you start having several triggers for various memories it becomes hard to recollect them.
For them I suggest Memory Palace.
Memory palace, as the name implies, is your imaginary palace.
You store any information you want irrespective of the volume.
For that you need to imagine a palace with infinite number of rooms and floors.
This palace can be of any height, structure or color. Just make sure you like it when you see it. So build as per your likes. You can even name it any way you wish.
For the sake of simplicity we shall call it ‘My Palace’.
Irrespective of the structure this is how you must build it.
First, have a huge door in front. As soon as you open it have three to five other doors leading to rooms.
These doors will be the main categories of your life. Let’s say, name the first door as family, the second friends, the third as work, the fourth as spiritual and the fifth as everything else. It really doesn’t matter how your categorize but you must categorize your main life events within these doors. The more the better.
When you open the door ‘family’ there will be other doors each for a family member. That is, you will store memories of the respective family member within the respective rooms.
Let’s suppose you would like to store your Mom’s memory then you will open the door named ‘Mom’ and store all the memories related to your mother into this room. When you wish to recollect those memories, you simply go to the family door and open the room named ‘Mom’.
Or you can just store the triggers within the rooms.
If you are a student have a door named study. And within that room have each door for each subject. And within that each subject have each door for each chapter or volume depending on how deep you wish to categorize.
Don’t worry about the large number of doors and triggers. It might seem like huge work in the beginning but once you are done, all you have to do is open a door and see the trigger within it. You will remember the entire memory associated with it in a second.
Rinse & Repeat for Better Memory
Try remembering your triggers or the rooms of your Memory palace as often as you can.
Repetition is the key.
Brain is just like any other muscle. Its job is to recollect stored information. If you are recollecting it enough number of times the memory becomes stronger and stronger.
So the final question is…
Do Any Supplements Work? If Yes, Which Ones?
If you are thinking of a pill like the one in the movie ‘limitless’ then the answer is NO.
There are some drugs that do help in improving your memory but the damage is twofold. You are better without them.
There is nothing great in comparison to what nature has to offer.
I recommend only natural supplements.
I know of a plant called ‘Brahmi’ in India. It is very popular among Brahmins (a community) and students.
Homeopathic stores carry wide range of supplements with powdered ‘brahmi’ plant as main ingredient.
However, here in US we don’t have much knowledge about the plant. But some brands carry wide range of herbal combinations that help in improving memory to great extent.
Note: Don’t expect miracles after taking these supplements. These supplements are named as ‘supplements’ because they are meant to supplement not replace.
One such brand is xxxxxx. I have found their blend superior compared to others and work better overall in enhancing one’s memory.
Your brain is a collection of various data perceived through various senses.
To increase memory you must relate the memory using as many senses as possible.
Use stories to increase memory.
Have triggers for each memory.
Use Memory Palace and doors and rooms for each category in your life.
Store your memory palace with full of triggers.
Visit your memory palace as often as possible.
Recollect all stored memory (using triggers) whenever possible to improve memory.