8 Great Tips For Improving Memory

There are many ways in which you can improve your memory and the more you work at it, the better it becomes!

Memory is the mechanism by which we are able to store, retain, and recall information. As simple as it may sound, the process is a complex one which involves many different parts of the brain and serves us in a wide variety of ways.

As with so many of our other functions, the saying “use it or lose it” applies as aptly to the brain, as with anything else. The more you exercise your brain and nurture it with a good diet and healthy habits, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information.

Before we get into how to improve your memory, it would be helpful to understand how it works.

For example here are parts of the brain used for memory:

  • The hippocampus is the primitive structure deep in the brain that plays the single largest role in processing information as memory.
  • The amygdala is an almond-shaped area near the hippocampus, which processes emotion and helps imprint memories that involve emotion.
  • he cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain), depending on what kind of processing the information involves, such as language, sensory input or problem-solving, stores most long-term memory in its different zones.

Memory also entails communication among the brain’s network of improve your memoryneurons, which are the millions of cells activated by brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Memory can be short-term or long-term. In short-term memory, your brain stores information for a few seconds or a few minutes. It is capable of holding, on average, about seven items at a time.

Long-term memory involves the type of information that requires a conscious effort to retain, and then recall. This would include studying for tests, factual data, or personal events; such as the first time you were able to ride a bike, or recalling your favorite movie.

Another type of long-term memory is procedural memory, which involves skills and routines that you perform so frequently that they don’t require conscious recall.

How to Improve Your Memory – 8 Great Tips!

1. Exercise your brain. The best way to exercise your brain is to engage in new experiences or expose it to varied sensory stimulation. When you break with routine or do something that is challenging, you create new brain pathways. An illustration of this would be writing, or dribbling a basketball with your non-dominant hand, or taking a totally different route to work. An example of sensory stimulation, would be smelling a particular fragrance while listening to a certain piece of music. To stir up brain activity in yet a different way, you can pick something usually done by rote, or on automatic pilot, and consciously change the way you go about it.
It is also a well know fact that people who engage in activities that exercise the brain, such as reading, writing, and playing card games, can delay the rapid memory decline that occurs as we age.

2. Pay attention. It is very difficult to remember something if you’ve never learned it in the first place. It takes about eight seconds of intent focus to process a piece of information through the hippocampus and direct it to the proper memory center. If you do not concentrate, get distracted easily, or are doing several things at once, your chances of retrieving specific information will be non-existent.

3. Incorporate as many senses as possible. While there are many different learning styles, such as visual, auditory and kinesthetic (touch), no matter which type you are, you can incorporate all of them in the process of trying to remember something. If you’re a visual learner you can read out loud, even recite rhythmically to remember better. If you’re an auditory learner, create a mental image or look at pictures as you read out loud. Relating information to colors, textures, smells and tastes is also very helpful.

4. Organize Information.A good way to remember new things is to make associations and connect information to what you already know. Building on what you know helps you remember new material. Also, write important things down in notebooks, calendars and post-it notes, then reorganize the information in a comprehensive way in order to retain it.

5. Review frequently and over-learn. Go over what you’ve learned the same day you learned it, and review it frequently. When you review and over-learn information, it becomes embedded in your memory and therefore, so much easier to recall. It is also much more effective than trying to cram.

6. Use Mnemonics. Mnemonics are a memory tool or technique used for remembering difficult information. They are clues of any kind that help us remember something, usually by associating it with a visual image, a sentence, or a word. For example, “30 days hath September, April, June and November” is a rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month. Another example of mnemonics would be to “chunk” information. Chunking is when you arrange a long list into smaller units or categories that are easier to remember. To remember a long number, you could chunk it into groups of 2, 3 or 4 for easier retention. You can also code and structure information by using vivid mental images. When you make the images colorful or even unusual, they are much easier to recall when you need them.

7. Practice good health habits. Exercise regularly. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders, such as diabetes and heart disease.  Poor health, of any kind, contributes to memory loss. Likewise, get plenty of sleep and eat properly. Sleep is necessary for concentration and clear thinking, while good eating habits supply the nutrients needed to nourish your brain.

8. Stay motivated and maintain a positive attitude. When you are positive about learning and experiencing new things, you automatically improve your memory. On the other hand, if you tell yourself you have a bad memory, you will actually impede your brain’s ability to remember. Maintaining a positive attitude sets up expectation of success.

By incorporating the above tips and strategies into your routine, you will be able improve your memory significantly. Not only will you learn and retain more in school and at work, you will achieve more satisfaction in your personal and business relationships.

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Classics and Increasing Brain Power

Reading and learning about Classics can increase your brain power and learning capability as well as expand your cultural literacy.

brain classicsAs a big believer in each of us developing our intellectual capabilities, I recommend classical studies as a way to broaden your knowledge base.

Classics, or Classical Studies, deals with the literature, art, history, philosophy, and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.

Why the Classics? How could reading about classics possibly be of practical use in increasing brain power?

Of course, I’m not advocating enrolling in an intense university program in Greek and Latin, however, I do suggest you consider incorporating more classical reading in your routine.

Here’s why:

    1. Because it’s fun and entertaining and provides a basis for the enjoyment of many movies, comic book heroes and video games that contain references to classical history and mythology e.g. Troy, Gladiator, O Brother Where Art Thou (movies), Hercules, The Fantastic Four (comic book heroes), and God of War (Playstation2), to name a few.

 

    1. It feeds the imagination if you want to be a writer (or aspiring blogger). J.K. Rowling author of the Harry Potter books studied Classics and uses much classical terminology and references in her books. The first Harry Potter book has been translated into both Latin and ancient Greek.

 

    1. It enriches and broadens our understanding of western culture, history and literature giving us an appreciation for where our language and customs originated, as well as a sense of connection to the past.

 

    1. It helps us understand the human condition and ourselves. For instance, Greek mythology was then, and serves today as a study in human nature, the dynamics of the human mind, human behavior, and the forces that drive us. We learn about jealousy, love, grief, narcissism, good and evil. It’s fast tracking for Life 101.

 

    1. The skills and knowledge acquired through the study of Classics are highly transferable to other areas. For example, the ability to deal with precise details, to express yourself, problem solve, think critically and manage your life are all honed and sharpened by having studied Classics.

 

    1. So much of our medical and scientific terminology is rooted in Classics that learning about the Greeks and Romans can facilitate the study of anatomy, astronomy and physics. Many of our modern sciences have Greek names because the ancient Greeks either invented them or made significant contributions to them.

 

Becoming familiar with classical literature gives us perspective and an understanding of European and English literary genres and their evolution. The Greco-Roman influence has had such an enduring effect on every aspect of Western culture including languages, history, philosophy, literature, science, technology and art.

Interesting facts about Classics and Classical Studies:

  • The first written record of Greece and the oldest form of Greek literature is Homer’s Iliad (circa 1000- 900 B.C.)
  •  A book of maps gets its name from Atlas, the Titan who supported the heavens on his shoulders.
  •  The point of vulnerability is an Achilles’ heel, because the mythological warrior Achilles had been magically protected in all but that part of his body.
  •  Our calendar goes back to the ancient Romans and the 7-day-week was introduced by the ancient Hebrews.
  •  The statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was inspired by the statue of the Olympian Zeus by the Greek sculptor Pheidias. The designs on Lincoln’s armrests are a Roman symbol for justice and republican government.
  •  Law schools report that their top students come from math, the Classics, and literature rather than from political science, economics and legal studies as one might expect.
  •  David W. Packard of Hewlett-Packard was a former professor of Greek and Latin, and Chris Martin from the band Coldplay studied The Classics.
  • E.D. Hirsch Jr. who is well known for coining the phrase ‘cultural literacy’ and for his theories on education states that “As a consequence of the fact that we learn most easily when we attach the new to the old, people who already know a lot tend to learn new things faster and more easily than people who do not know very much.”

In other words, the more knowledge and background we have of our world and its evolution in language, history, arts and sciences, as presented in Classics, the better a foundation we have for learning new and current information.

Elements of A Productive Mindset

What is a productive mindset?

mindsetproductive mindset is one that makes the best use of your resources – your time, your energy and your efforts. It is not trying to do everything and be everything, or even doing it in the quickest way possible.

It is making the most and best of what you have while enjoying the process.

In order to make the most of who we are and what we have, there are certain qualities or characteristics that assist us in accomplishing that end.

Here are some of the elements of a productive mindset:

    • Curiosity – The willingness to seek, question, and explore new ideas and concepts. It is the willingness and desire to know and learn new things.

 

    • Desire or Motivation – Cultivate desire. Without desire or motivation there is nothing to drive us to make progress and improve. Inertia is the opposite of desire and a destroyer of progress.

 

    • Vision – To be able to visualize what you want helps you focus on it and gives you an idea of what the outcome would look like. Without that picture in your mind, it would be more difficult to strive for a goal. We’ve all read how men of ‘great vision’ have been able to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

 

    • Critical Thinking – Acquire the ability to assess a situation in an objective manner or to see it how it really is. Look at the pros and cons and be willing to make the appropriate adjustments.

 

    • Self-confidence – The faith and belief that you are fully capable and can do what you set out to. Without self-confidence and faith you cannot reach your full potential.

 

    • Persistence – Most things do not come easily. Be willing to overcome obstacles and adversity. Challenge yourself and persist in order to reach your goals. Do not let circumstances, the opinions of others, or setbacks, thwart your determination to succeed.

 

    • Positive attitude or outlook – Your attitude, be it positive or negative, can make, or break, you. Possessing a positive attitude allows for any possibility, while a negative one defeats you before you can even start.

 

    • Open-mindedness – There is nothing like an open-mind for generating new and innovative ideas. You become receptive to groundbreaking experiences when you are flexible and open-minded.

 

  • Balance – Ultimately, to function well and get the most from life, we must maintain balance. Working towards goals is important, but we must also take time to rejuvenate and recharge. Doing too much, or pushing too hard on any one thing, can lead to burnout and frustration.

By integrating the above elements into our though processes, we not only cultivate a productive mindset, we set ourselves up for reaching our goals more effectively, develop positive habits and we sharpen our minds to function at high levels.

How to Think for Yourself

ThinkingforyourselfDo you think for yourself?

In these times of fast media and ever-growing Internet we are under so many external influences that it can be difficult to know when we are thinking for ourselves.

Unless you are a discerning, very aware person, you most likely don’t even know when your thinking is not your own.

Not that all outside influence is bad or detrimental to forming your own views, but being unable to think for yourself can make you miserable at best, or a puppet of someone else’s programming, at worst.

Admittedly, we are all born into societies or cultures where the norms and customs are already established. For the most part, we have little choice but to conform to what is already in place. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, it can be confining and controlling if we accept everything blindly and never question the status quo.

Does this mean all of your ideas can be original and unlike everyone else’s?

Not at all!

Nor does it require being contrary and argumentative just to be defiant or stand out. To think for yourself means that whatever opinions you hold will be well thought out and come from a position of thorough investigation and thoughtful analysis. It means choosing to not compromise the facts for the sake of consensus or fitting in. It is not unlike critical thinking – it just encompasses a broader scope of choices and decision-making in your life.

 

As an example, how many of us feel the need to keep up with ‘the latest’? We wear clothes, listen to music and follow trends that the media tells us we should in order to be cool. Marketing companies create ads that hypnotize us into a herd mentality as we fall into debt, wear fashions that are unbecoming, and get caught up in a cycle of over-spending, over-consuming and then stressing out over it. Before we realize it, we are living lives designed for us by the powers that be and without our conscious participation.

Another trap we fall into when we don’t think for ourselves is groupthink. Groupthink, a term coined by Irving Janis in 1972, is a psychological phenomenon that takes place within a group of people who try to avoid conflict and reach agreement without critically evaluating options or alternative ideas. The problem with groupthink is that it hinders finding the best solutions, impedes creative ideas and thwarts independent thinking. Wanting to be part of the crowd can certainly have its drawbacks!

So how can you cultivate the ability to think for yourself?

Tips on how to think for yourself:

Develop a strong sense of self. Know who you are, what you want and what is best for you. Do not let others, especially marketing companies and the media, tell you how you should look, feel and act. Do what is best for you. Cultivate your own tastes and enjoy your preferences.

Be well-informed. Gather as much information about a subject as possible before forming an opinion. Build your mental resources by reading, observing, and listening for yourself. Then take time to reflect and evaluate.

Be flexible. Look for solutions and outcomes to a situation from as many perspectives as you can. Determine the pros and cons. Are there other possibilities? Whom might it harm/benefit? What are the potential consequences?

Identify possible biases. Are you being unduly influenced by your culture, upbringing or other people’s opinions? Are you being fair and open-minded? Many times we make poor decisions because we begin with the wrong premise. If we take time to evaluate and judge based upon what we observe first hand rather than what we’ve been lead to believe, we can arrive at a more appropriate and practical conclusion.

Do not buckle under pressure, fear, or guilt. Have the courage to stand up for what you really believe and have deduced yourself. If you go along with the crowd for the sake of keeping peace, avoiding confrontation, or fear of failure, you do everyone a disservice, especially yourself. You may have a brilliant idea, or maybe it happens to be the right thing to do. If no one hears about it, a healthy discussion cannot take place and all possibilities will not be considered. A good idea has the potential to evolve into a better one with input from a variety of sources.

The Benefits of thinking for yourself:

  • You develop self-confidence and trust in your abilities
  • You attain a greater sense of accomplishment
  • You expand your mind and boost your brain power
  • You gain respect from others by standing up for what you believe in and by being original
  • You are more aware and alert to what the media is trying to sell you
  • You are more open to self-improvement and alternative viewpoints
  • You are more interesting to others by expanding their thinking and options

You are NOT thinking for yourself when:

  You let others, the media, or convention sway you from doing what’s right for you.
  You buy into negative, one-dimensional stereotypes based on sex, race or culture.
✓  You do something because it has always been done that way – even if it no longer works.
  You follow old wives’ tales, superstitions or fallacies that defy common sense.
✓  You don’t take time to think things through carefully and fully.

As you may have already concluded, thinking for yourself is not easy. It requires deliberate, mindful and at times courageous application, however the personal rewards are endlessly gratifying.

In the words of John Stuart Mill: “Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.”

Critical Thinking : Problem Solving

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The quote by Jean De La Bruyere: “Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think,” may seem a bit radical, however, according to the premise of cognitive psychology, what you think is what you feel.

While many people believe that your feelings precede, or are independent of your thoughts, the truth is that your feelings are products of your thoughts.

This revelation can be both daunting and liberating.

Daunting because it makes us responsible for our attitudes and liberating because we have the power to choose our perspective, mood and thoughts.

When we are aware that we can choose and direct our thinking, we realize that we have the ability to better control the circumstances of our lives, improve our decision-making processes and generally live more productive lives.

This in no way suggests that we need downplay the many feelings and emotions we as humans enjoy, it’s a simply a way for us to manage and balance them with our cognitive abilities.

We are thinking critically and in a problem solving
mindset when we:

  • Rely on reason rather than emotion
  • Evaluate a broad range of viewpoints and perspectives
  • Maintain an open mind to alternative interpretations
  • Accept new evidence, explanations and findings
  • Are willing to reassess information
  • Can put aside personal prejudices and biases
  • Consider all reasonable possibilities
  • Avoid hasty judgments

Like any other skill, learning to think critically or problem-solve takes time, perseverance and practice. Knowing which steps to take and how to apply them helps us master the process.

Steps to Critical Thinking As It Relates To Problem Solving:

    1. Identify the Problem. The first task is to determine if a problem exists. Sometimes when you think this point through, you may come to the conclusion that there really isn’t a problem, just a misunderstanding. If that’s the case, fine. If not, and you determine that there is indeed a problem, you need to identify exactly what it is. According to Barry Lubetkin, a New York clinical psychologist,  how systematically someone weighs the pros and cons of a problem and how clearly the person can define and state it, is also an indication of highly developed intelligence.

 

    1. Analyze the problem, look at it from different angles. Once you’ve determined the problem, analyze it by looking at it from a variety of perspectives. Is it solvable? Is it real or perceived? Can you solve it alone or do you need help? Sometimes by looking at it from many angles you can come up with a resolution right away. You may also reveal a bias or narrow point of view that needs to be broadened

 

    1. Brainstorm and come up with a several possible solutions. Problems can be solved in many ways. Brainstorm a list of several possible solutions. Put down anything that comes to mind and then go over the list and narrow it down to the best possibilities. Having several viable options leads to obtaining the best results.

 

    1. Decide which solution fits the situation best. Go over your list of possible solutions. Different situations call for different solutions. Quite often what works in one situation, may not work in a similar one. Take time to determine what will work best for the problem at hand. One solution usually does not fit all.

 

  1. Take action. Implement your solution. Every problem has a solution; even if it is to accept the situation and move on. Instead of approaching problems and challenges as insurmountable obstacles, we can view them as opportunities to hone our critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Every problem we are able to resolve increases increases self-confidence and self-worth. Thinking critically not only helps us handle future challenges more skillfully, it also broadens our life experience and helps us gain perspective.

Critical Thinking : How to Reason

Critical thinking is the mental process of analyzing or evaluating information. ‘To reason’ is the capacity for rational thought, or to think logically.

Once you have established a solid foundation or a healthy self-concept, it is important to be able to think critically, or to reason.

Everyone thinks; however, much of our thinking is reactive, biased, uninformed and often prejudiced. More often than not, it is also haphazard and undisciplined.

Critical thinking

Why do we need to think critically?

In order to assess our role in, and the consequences of any actions we take, we must be able to evaluate and determine what is taking place in a given situation.

This requires us to organize our thinking, integrate the information at hand, distinguish between what is fact and what is opinion, and then weigh potential outcomes.

By thinking critically, instead of reacting emotionally to a problem, we employ strategies which:

  • Help us learn from an experience
  • Help prevent it from occurring again
  • Result in a reasonable, effective solution

The quality of life we experience is in direct proportion to the quality of our thinking.

Critical thinking is self-disciplined, self-monitored and problem solving thinking. It promotes open-mindedness, putting things in perspective, and a positive attitude.

When we don’t reason, or think critically, we subject ourselves to fleeting, erratic or unpredictable emotions. Of course, this does not mean we should deny or suppress our emotions, for indeed, they are a vital and significant element of who we are. Instead, we must learn how to make them work for us, not against us.

Critical thinking helps us balance our emotions, which in turn leads to good judgment and making informed, good decisions.

For the most part, critical thinking does not come naturally. It takes effort, training and practice.

As A. E. Mander wrote in his book Logic For the Millions: “Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically – without learning how, or without practicing. People with untrained minds should no more expect to think clearly and logically than people who have never learned and never practiced can expect to find themselves good carpenters, golfers, bridge players, or pianists.”

Tips On Improving Critical Thinking

  • Play strategy games, sudoku and solve crossword puzzles.
  • Reading improves focus, imagination and vocabulary which results in heightened thinking skills.
  •  Engage in healthy debates in class or with your friends. Argue both sides of an argument.
  • As Edward De Bono, the lateral thinking psychologist suggests, use the GBI technique, in which you list the good, bad and interesting points of a position.
  • Look at a problem from as many viewpoints as possible.

 

By Z. Hereford