Thursday, 26 March 2015

Improving Your Memory

by Frederike Rademacher

As many of us know, exams are right around the corner and the pressure of trying to remember up to three years' worth of information is building. We begin to stress out when we cant remember something that we were taught previously. Panic. However, improving your memory intake is a lot easier then it sounds. We often think of our memory as unchanging and stationary in its development, yet just as we are able to improve everyday skills such as maths or sports through practice, we can also improve our memory.

We have two types of memory, long term and short term. We use our short term memory for everyday things like memorising people's names after meeting them for the first time. Research has shown that we are only able to hold about seven pieces of short term information at one time. Overload the short term memory and something must go. Long term memory is used for remembering past events and memories. Long term memory is used for remembering things that aren't needed instantly.

Your body is a temple. So healthy body means healthy brain, healthy brain means better memory. Anything that helps improve your brain's health automatically increases your memory intake; therefore, eating right, sleeping enough and stimulation through brain exercises such as puzzles. If you want to improve memory you need to really want it, concentrate on it to help embed the information you want to remember further.

1.         Focus
We're all guilty of trying to multitask whilst trying to revise that we end up forgetting the most well known aspect of revising: paying attention. Information requires time to engrave itself into our memory, so if it doesn’t make it into your memory recalling it again is close to impossible. If you quit multitasking then focusing becomes all the more easier.
2.         Smell, touch, see, taste and hear  
Although obvious, the more of our senses we involve the easier it is to recall or memorise something. The memory become much more potent; that's why we are able to recall smells from our early childhood and associate them with things that we smell nowadays. So if and when revising for a language, hear the word by repeating it, rewrite it, say it out loud. By doing so you engage multiple senses, increasing memory intake.
3.         Repeat it
 Repetition helps to memorise information, this is known as over learning. Repetition is effective because it allows an individual to emphasis on words or ideas. Yet cramming doesn’t help as we end up overloading the brain with one idea. Remember what I said about short term memory only able to hold seven pieces of information at a time? Well if you try and fill all those spaces with one piece of information then you’re left with no room at all for other information
4.         Segment
How are we able to memorise long phone numbers off by heart? We divide it into chunks that are more easily memorable, even though our short term memory is supposedly only able to hold seven pieces of information. We've been doing this automatically since birth, taking large bits of information and separating them into smaller more manageable chunks. This helps us to focus more on memorising those chunks as separate pieces.

5.         Organise
Even if you are messy, our brains like things ordered and organised. Keeping things organised keeps it in focus; you aren't distracted by the mess of things as everything is direct. This aids the brain to embed the information in the first place.
6.         Mnemonics
This helps us remember things through imagery. By adding in imagery we engage another one of our senses, even being able to visualise things in our head acts as us seeing them. This is great for when trying to memorise long words or equations.
7.         Link Up

By associating different bits of information with each other we form stronger connections that allow us to memorise the information better and how it relates to one another. Research has shown that by making associations you make your memory stronger, especially when you first take the information in. When linking two things together, you increase the memory for both bits of information. I suggest connecting new information with old ones in your mind. 

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