How To Improve Your Memory
by Serge Kahili King
1. LEARN SOMETHING NEW
- It's been pretty well established that one of the best ways to maintain and improve your memory is to keep increasing your knowledge.
- Learning iimproves your memory by keeping your brain active, not only by adding new memories, but also by stimulating old memories and making new connections between what you already know and what you've just learned.
- Reading is a great way to keep learning, especially if what you are reading is interesting to you. And it doesn't have to be limited to non-fiction. I have learned a lot about life, the world, how things work, and different ways of thinking by reading novels.
- Writing is another way to keep learning, especially if your writing requires research or imagination. I write a lot of articles and books, but I also write a lot of stories that will never be published, mainly to learn how to put a lot of possible experiences into words.
- Today we have lots of visual opportunities, like YouTube and Ted Talks for learning a wide variety of new things.
LEARNING A NEW GAME
- Learning a new game that makes you think differently is very good for strengthening your memory. Gloria and I learned new card games, then we learned and played dominoes for a long time, and now we are learning cribbage (and her memory must be better than mine because she keeps beating me at that). One of my grandsons played a massive multi-player online game, and in addition to all the things he learned in the game itself, he "had" to learn how to read and write in order to communicate with the other players.
LEARNING A NEW SKILL
- Learning a new skill is also very good, and it doesn't matter what it is. It could be learning a new language, a musical instrument, how to use a computer, how to read a map or make a new recipe--anything will help.
2. EXPAND AWARENESS
- Expanding awareness means being more aware of what's going on around you. Two ways of doing this are with directional awareness and peripheral vision.
- Directional awareness means looking in directions and at things that you normally ignore. It is so common for people not to look up when entering a room or going for a walk that you often see heroes and bad guys in movies hiding on the ceiling or in a tree. Next time you have an opportunity, purposely make an effort to look up, or to the side, or even behind you. It may feel odd because you're not used to it, but you also might find some nice surprises.
- Peripheral vision involves what you can see beyond what you are looking at without moving your eyes. Purposely doing that is not only good for your memory, but it's a good eye exercise and can help you notice things like movement that could lead you to something interesting or even save your life.
3. PAY ATTENTION
- Almost the opposite of the previous one is paying attention, Sherlock Holmes used this one a lot. It doesn't only mean to look at details, it also means to stir up your memory to try and put what you see into a meaningful context.
SEE WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT
- In a recent novel I read the hero was being taught by a very old dragon to "see what you are looking at." A good example of this is how experienced sailors can look at what the wind is doing to the surface of the water and see what's going to happen in the near future. Another variation is to copy Sherlock and practice thinking like a detective.
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION
- A different aspect of this is that the less attention you give to something, the more quickly you forget it. If you want to remember the names of people you've just met or places you've just visited, really pay close attention to the names and repeat them to yourself several times, along with an image of the person or place if you can. This also helps with preparing for exams. Just reading the material over and over isn't enough if you don't pay attention while you are doing it.
4. SENSORY MEDITATION
- Memory is strongly affected by tension in the body. The more tension there is--on the surface and deep inside--the more it interferes with your ability to remember. The more relaxed you are, the more easily memories come forth when you want them.
SIGHT, SOUND, TOUCH
- There are many, many ways to relax, but one of the most simple and effective is to keep your attention on sight, sound, and touch in your immediate environment without staying focused on any one thing.
- For sight, look at variations of size, shape, color, distance, movement, and spaces between things.
- For sound, listen for high sounds, low sounds, mixed sounds, and sounds within sounds, like like variations in the sounds of wind and waves.
- For touch, be aware of softness, hardness, texture, pressure, and movement or vibration.
- Don't be surprised if you experience deep, releasing sighs and maybe a feeling of pleasure while you are doing this.
5. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE OR ANIMALS
- There is something about connecting with people and animals in a positive way that helps maintain and improve your memory. Perhaps it's a relaxation effect, an emotional effect, or something more mysterious, but it happens.
- The effect seems to be strongest when there is touch and affection involved, as in hugging or petting, but any kind of positive physical contact, like a light touch, a gentle pat, or a simple brush-up is better than none.
- Non-touch connection is better than no connection. A face-to-face conversation, discussion, or teaching situation is very good, but I'm going against the traditionalists to suggest that beneficial connections can even be made by such things as Facebook, texting, radio, television, and YouTube.
6. GET ACTIVE
- Physical activity has been shown to have a good effect on maintaining and improving memory, probably because the movement helps you stay more flexible in mind and body and the increased flow of energy makes recall easier.
- Fortunately, this doesn't mean that you have to start a workout routine or exercise program or jog unless you want to.
- Games like tennis, skiing, badminton, bowling, bicycling, and all athletics and naturally beneficial, but as far as memory is concerned, walking will work just fine.
- Just remember that physical activity uses up water and dehydration inhibits memory skills.
7. PRACTICE REMEMBERING.
- In addition to all of the above, there are lots of other techniques that can enhance memory and here are a few:
- A long time ago I used to show off at the end of a workshop with a group of thirty or forty students by reciting all of their names in the closing circle. I did this by mentally attaching a silly image to each person, associating it with a meaning of their name whenever possible, and reinforcing it frequently during the workshop. This can work with any grouping of things you want to remember.
- When you have trouble remembering the name of something--person, place, or thing--take a couple of deep, slow breaths and while holding the intention to remember, and go through the alphabet in your mind until a letter triggers the memory.
- If the above doesn't work, go through each letter and add one of the vowels to it. This will often work when the above one doesn't.
- Nothing works all the time, especially when there's too much tension in certain parts of the body. This technique works often by relaxing different parts of the body. All you have to do is mentally scan your body while keeping your intention in mind and telling the parts of your body that you are scanning to relax. I like to start with the top of my head and then I go slowly down the back of my head to my feet, start again at the top and go down the left, right, and front. Names will often pop up in the strangest places.
SUPER SPEED READING
- I once attended a workshop that promised to teach you how to read 20,000 words a minute. It was based on the idea that your subconscious can remember much faster than your conscious mind can. No one in the class ever reached 20,000 words a minute, but one 12-year-old girl and I reached 12,000 of remembered content.
- So, to activate your memory without conscious effort, first find some way to relax as much as you can, then, with your full attention on what you are doing, flip the pages of a book with content you want to absorb in front of your eyes at least three times. Then trust that something useful will come up when you need it or want it.
- Practice recalling events in your life in the greatest detail possible, including very early events, mid-life events, and recent events..
I will end with this Hawaiian proverb:
I ka nana no a 'ike. I ka ho'olohe no a maopopo. I ka hana no a 'ike.
By observing one learns; by listening one remembers, by practice one knows.