Aren’t you frustrated when you can’t remember an important piece of information, but completely irrelevant memories start to emerge when you least need them? Unfortunately, our minds don’t function under strict instructions. However, there are certain techniques you can implement when you want to enhance your memory functions. Keep reading; we will talk about different types of memory, as well as practices that help you improve them.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Memory
When you store information into your brain, it will either remain there for a very long time, or it will get lost in a hidden mind folder, so you won’t be able to recall it after a short time. Before we can describe the best memory-boosting techniques, we need to understand the concept properly. Among all classifications of the brain’s memory functions, this is the most common one:
- Short-term memory refers to the data that stays in your mind for a very short time before it gets transferred into a ‘long-memory folder’ or you dismiss it for good. This is also known as working memory. You shouldn’t be frustrated at your mind for forgetting some things. Can you imagine the chaos that would occur if you remembered every single detail of your life? Our brains have wondrous mechanisms to get rid of information that’s considered unnecessary.
- Long-term memory refers to the brain’s capacity to store, classify, and recover information for long periods after the initial moment that created that impression. This type of memory function is much more complex than the first one, so we can separate it into two major categories:
- Implicit memory – refers to the memories that don’t need conscious commands to emerge on the surface.
- Explicit memory – the type of stored information you recall through conscious thought. For example, this is the type of memory you need when you are completing a test or writing an academic project. If you can’t remember the information you once read, then your brain probably didn’t store it in a ‘long-term’ system.
Visuospatial Memory – an Important Function We Often Neglect
Through the visuospatial memory functions, people are able to remember the objects they visually perceived in a certain moment of time, as well as the spatial relationships between different objects in the space. Let’s put it in simpler words: this is the type of long-term memory that enables you to distinguish a pyramid from a triangle. Humans have outstanding visuospatial memory systems that store important information without the need for raw repetition.
This vital skill is necessary for developing coordination skills. If, for example, you visit a new city and decide to take a walk, your mind will retain thousands of new pieces of information within minutes. You’ll remember how the houses and streets look, and you’ll probably remember which turns you took, so you’ll know how to find your way back.
This memory function has always been present in humans to a certain degree. Our ancestors did not need to remember many faces, names, numbers, and images. However, they did have good spatial coordination, since they had to find their way back from a two-day hunt. The need for improved spatial memory functions grew with the evolutionary needs of people. Today, our brains lock this type of information in a superior ‘where the things are and how they look’ memory systems.
Not all people have great memory functions of this type. For example, a person who grew up in a very large and densely populated city will have better visuospatial skills than the one who was raised in the suburbs.
Do you know what the biggest wonder about our brain is? It constantly evolves. Depending on our thoughts, as well as the activities we undertake on a daily basis, the brain’s functions either improve or degrade. We all want to improve them, right? Let’s see how!
1. Memorable Visual Images
Let’s say that you are trying to remember textual information by reading it. You’ll require tons of effort to recall the details after a longer period of time. That’s because your mind is focused on words instead of meaning. If, on the other hand, you use flashcards or you watch a documentary show about the concepts in question, you’ll remember important information without significant effort. There are few ways to play the visual trick on your brain:
- Associate the text you read to vivid mental images. Don’t focus on reading… imagine how the information translates to real life. With time and practice, you’ll develop better visualization skills that will lead to improved memory functions.
- Relate different images together. Don’t create random mental images; make sure one relates to the other. Each fact you want to remember consists of multiple aspects. Create a vivid representation that conveys the entire concept.
2. Memory Palace Technique
People have been using this memory-boosting technique since Ancient Rome. This is a trick related to our brain’s visuospatial functions: it’s great at remembering places we’ve seen. First, you pick your ‘palace’ – a place you are very familiar with, such as your home or your favorite cafe. Try to visualize the space, as well as the route that leads to it. Then, you should list the distinctive features, such as the door, mirror, etc.
In order to make sure that the place is completely imprinted on your mind, you should walk through the route, analyze each feature of the space, and write down important information. It’s recommended to look at the feature from the same point of view.
Now comes the fun part: you associate each feature with something you want to remember. For example, let’s say you’re trying to remember the classification of the brain’s memory functions. You pair the front door with short-term memory, the stairs with long-term memory, etc. When you want to recall these concepts, you just think of your ‘palace’ and your mind will magically bring them to the surface. Try it!
3. Spaced Repetition
This technique is based on the spacing effect – a psychological phenomenon that refers to the brain’s function to easily remember information when it’s studied a few times spaced over a longer period of time. This method requires you to space out the repetitions of the information you learned, so your brain will retain it for longer.
For example, if you are trying to memorize a complex definition, space out the reminders: first on few hours, then after a day, after few days, and so on. The space between each reminder is progressively increased.
4. Write Things Down!
Writing makes your mind focused on the information it’s dealing with. When you try to recall a certain piece of information, you might visualize the page of the notebook and you’ll remember everything vividly. You’ll start associating that detail with the other important information you noted down. This technique doesn’t imply to typing!
5. Physical Exercise for Improved Memory Functions!
Your brain needs fresh blood. If you spend all day sitting in front of your computer and eating your meals, you’ll be droopy and tired, so you won’t memorize things easily. Proper physical exercise improves the circulation, reduces inflammation, stimulates the release of good chemicals in the brain, improves your sleep, reduces anxiety, and boosts your mood. All these factors affect the memory functions.
6. Get Enough Sleep!
Yup, we have every right to call this a technique. If you adhere to healthy sleeping patterns, your brain will be ready to deal with the information you throw at it on a daily basis. Sleep deprivation affects your learning and memory capacity by undermining your focus and enthusiasm. When you don’t get the much-needed rest, your over-worked neurons are not able to process information properly, so you won’t be able to recall the information you previously learned.
Now that you know the theory, it’s time to turn it into practice. Go make some memories!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Antonio is a Newark, NJ-based hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world’s brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost.