Memory Improvement – Use it or Lose it

We all know now that the brain is an amazing tool and the message has come across loud and clear from the brain scientists that we have to keep using it – or we’ll lose it – so what can we be doing on an everyday basis to keep that brain of ours in tip top condition.

It is fairly common for us to find that we are pretty sure of what we are learning as we are listening to it or reading it. It makes sense and we understand what is going on. However within quite a short time we find that the details have faded from our short terms memories and recalling the gist of our new learning is actually quite hard. The problem is that we didn’t work at ‘filing’ the information as we were getting it. We just acted like a sponge but then the sponge dripped information right out again. What we needed to do was be far more active about sorting the information out as we received it.

For example, when you are learning something new make sure you have a block of paper and several coloured pencils so you can make notes and diagrams as you listen. With the various colours you can begin to colour code the information you are taking in – in other words you are assigning it to different mental files. You can make notes in one colour that are about aspects of the new material that you can easily link with information you already have.

Another colour might be used for any information to do with the history or principles behind the new information.

Yet another colour will be for noted about its main features or characteristics.
Another for how it can be used or what can be deduced from it
Another for what might happen in the future in relation to this topic or information

This way your new information will have been organised as you listened to a speaker or read a guidebook about it.

Now when you review your notes (you do review don’t you? That is another way to keep the memory circuits working and information stored back in long term memory!) you will find it much easier to take in and recall because it is already chunked into logical pieces.

Even if you don’t make notes in this very dynamic way – which admittedly can be hard if you are at a conference and not sitting at a table – you can still use the discipline of thinking about these aspects when you are learning something new. Organising it in your head this way helps a lot. You are attaching it to things you already understand and know about and that makes remembering so much easier. The more you link up a set of new facts or concepts with what you already know the more hooks you will have to pull in the threads of information when you need to recall it. They will sit there in your unconscious until you reach into pull them through to your conscious mind.

There is no one way that is going to be the right way for everyone – each person will have their own strengths and preferred methods for getting their brain in gear. Take some time to work out your best activities and then have fun. The more fun you find doing these kind of tasks the better it will be because the level of a nice hormone called dopamine will rise in your body and you will find that you can think more creatively with this help. It is a win-win situation; you feel good and you learn well. What could be better.