The brain is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it will be. Before we examine how to improve memory, let’s look at how the brain stores memory. In each of our brains, there are neurons constantly firing back in forth. The more frequently two neurons are fired between each other, the stronger that pathway will be. Consider a hiking path. The more often the path is travelled by hikers, the easier the path is to walk along. Conversely, if the neurons are not being fired as often, they can lose their bond and decline. Our brains are very malleable and are constantly adapting to our needs. Therefore, it is important to strengthen the brain on an ongoing basis.
Where do memories take place?
There is no exact location where memories are stored. The regions in our brain are interconnected and work together to consolidate, store and recall memories. There are two different types of memories: implicit and explicit. Implicit memories, or better known as our unconscious or automatic memories take place in the cerebellum and basal ganglia. On the other hand, the amygdala, hippocampus, and neocortex produce explicit memories which contain our general information memories. By understanding how the brain works as a whole, it will help you increase your memory. There are different tools you can do to enhance your memory these include: visual imagination, spatial awareness, and association, which are outlined in the steps below:
Let’s say you have a grocery list of items to memorize: 1. Iced Tea, 2. Kleenex, and 3. Chicken. Allow yourself to build what is called a ‘memory palace’ in your mind. Imagine yourself before you enter the grocery store visualizing these items interacting. You see an image in your living room of a chicken dancing, some Kleenex on the coffee table beside the cup with iced tea. Sounds a bit ridiculous, we know. However, the more outlandish and hilarious you can make your memory palace, the stronger your memory will become.
This step is much like creating a memory palace, but you will create a story linking all the items together. So let’s create a story with the grocery list. Once there was a chicken running in a race and he wanted so badly to win. The chicken got to the finish line and the ribbon was made of many Kleenex strung together. There was a person giving out new iced tea samples so the chicken waddled over and because he was so thirsty, he sampled 3 glasses.
3) Teach what you are learning to others (or yourself)
As your brain begins to break down the information you are learning, it becomes easier to disseminate and communicate the information out loud. Further, the information becomes something you already know. Once the brain thinks it already knows something, it can increase not only your memory but your confidence on the topic as well.
4) Don’t write out your speech
Contrary to popular belief, don’t write out the entire speech and memorize it word for word. Everyone is bound to make at least one error when they are actually doing the speech. But in reality the audience won’t know the difference. So, just write out the outline or make several key points and practice in front of friends, family or the mirror.
5) Take brain breaks
Clearing the mind is a great way to obtain new information. Physical exercise, watching a funny video, doing yoga, meditating are all great examples on how to slow down the nervous system. If the nervous system is firing too much or too often, it can hinder the space in the brain to create those neuron pathways.
These are just a few key steps and recommendations on how to improve your memory. There are also more in‑depth approaches to examining the brain and how it impacts memory but these tips are a good starting point. We hope they assist you whether you are trying to prepare for a test, helping your child with a public speaking project, or simply trying to increase your memory.