To improve your memory, understanding how your brain works vastly accelerates your ability. Did you know that you have more than 100,000 chemical reactions going on in your brain every single second? Like a radio, the brain is a transmitter, which sends out measurable electrical wave signals to your organs, endocrine and skeletal system. Surprisingly, the brain continues to send out these signals for as long as 37 hours after death! This perhaps makes sense of ‘phantom pain.’
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Your brain is a mobile chemistry set, generating more than 50 active drugs. There are drugs that are associated with memory, some bring about intelligence while other drugs produce a sedative effect.
Chemicals that improve your memory
Did you know that all memory is state based? In other words, if you feel down, you will release monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A). It’s an enzyme that breaks down chemicals like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine; these enzymes are usually found in people with untreated depression. This makes sense as to why we more easily recall ‘down’ times in our lives when we were low in energy, feeling sad or just simply feeling down.
So in order to improve not only your memory, aim to get into the state that you may have been when taking the information into your mind in the first place. For example; if you were calm when you were studying Neuro Linguistic Programming, get yourself calm and you will more easily recall the information. If you learned about how to anchor (to change your state) where you were highly energised and excited, to recall what you learned, get yourself back into that highly energised and excited state and notice how easy it is to recall what you learned. So to improve your memory, you must create an associated state.
Mindfulness or meditation would make a world of difference
The fascinating thing about our education system is that this scientific fact is not known in educational circles, other than NLP. We continue to deliver lessons in a relaxed environment, yet our children go into exam rooms where they quickly become tense, and we wonder why they don’t do so well. All memory is state-based and we need to keep that in mind when creating exam environments. For example; five minutes of mindfulness or meditation would make a world of difference.
A few tips and tricks to improve thinking and memory…
1. Relax and Remember
To improve your memory, it is useful to get yourself into a state that you can replicate easily. I personally like to get calm, because that’s easy for me. To recall the information again, I recreate a calm state to improve my memory. The moment we get stressed, we release the ‘stress hormone’ Cortisol which is an important in the body. It is secreted by the adrenal glands and is present in the body at higher levels in the morning, and at its lowest at night. Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects, such as for a quick burst of energy for survival reasons and to suppress pain.
- Recall a time that you were blissfully relaxed (in your mind, See it, Hear it and you will likely Feel it)
- Summarise the memory of that blissfully relaxed moment and summarise it in a word or two. Now repeat that word over and over in your head. Now relax and let the memory come to mind. Be patient with yourself and trust that it will come at the perfect time. If you allow yourself to get stressed, you will immediately change your chemistry.
2. Get into E-x-p-a-n-d-e-d Awareness
Look at your computer screen now. How much of it do you actually see as you are reading this information? Can you see all of it? Part of it? Just this word and the next one? Can you see all the way across to your left and right ears? Probably not. Yet this technique, called “expanded awareness” or the “learning state” improves your memory greatly.
The Hawaiian Kahunas taught a way to take in more information and to recall things easily. This ancient method called “Hakalau.” Hakalau, a state of joyful awareness or meditative trance, increases your ability to perceive, enabling remarkable feats in learning and awareness.
- Look forward and pick a spot in front of you about 20 degrees above eye level.
- Focus every part of your attention on this spot while letting your mind relax.
- Slowly expand your field of vision, take in the sides as well as the front, while still focusing in front of you.
- While still looking in front of you. Now place all your awareness on the peripheral portion of your vision – at the sides.
- Stay in this state for as long as you can. Observe any states of heightened awareness or deepened understanding. If you can read books like this or study like in this state, you will improve your recall massively. This is how we teach all our trainings; Neuro Linguistic Programming, Life Coaching, Speaking and Trainers Training classes and our students are amazed at how much they recall.
3. Repeat Colourfully
One of the old rules to improve your memory is rote; repeat, repeat, repeat. However to improve the old model, the brain also responds to novelty so repeating something in a different way or at a different time will make the most of the novelty effect and allow you to build stronger memories. Examples of using repetition include:
- Taking notes in different coloured pens.
- Repeat a name three times after you first hear it. The brain remembers more easily in patterns of three. So if you meet a new person for the first time, say their name three times in conversation. If you can also say it in three different ways, you’ll improve your chances of remembering it dramatically (say it high, say it low, say it quickly, slowly, etc)
- Repeating or paraphrasing what someone says to you. You can start by saying, “If I get you correctly, you (believe/said/think, etc).”
4. Jot and Organise
A day planner or smart phone calendar can help you keep track of appointments and activities and can also serve as a journal in which you write anything that you would like to remember. Writing down and organising information reinforces learning and if you automate your life, you won’t need to improve your memory as devices will do it for you. Though this comes with a warning. If we rely on devices, we are not flexing our memory muscle and if you don’t use it, you lose it.
- Try jotting down conversations, thoughts, experiences.
- Review current and previous day’s entries at breakfast and dinner.
- If you use a planner and not a smart phone, keep it in the same spot at home and take it with you whenever you leave.
5. Visually Enhance
Our eyes are a great sense to use and will improve your memory visually. Learning faces and names is a particularly hard task for some people. In addition to repeating a person’s name, you can also associate the name with an image. Visualisation strengthens the association you are making between the face and the name. Equally, the more animation and detail you add to recalling someone or something, the more easily you will recall it. For example:
- Link the name Sandy with the image of a beach, and imagine Sandy on the beach. If you want to make it even easier to remember Sandy, give her a big T-shirt and put her name on the T-shirt and start by making the ‘S’ out of a snake. You might even have her write her name in the sand next to her.
You can teach an old dog new tricks
Scientists have proved the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” simply isn’t true. The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and change—even into old age. This ability is known as Neuro Linguistic Programming or fashionably known as neuroplasticity. With the right stimulation, your brain can form new neural pathways, alter existing connections, and adapt and react in ever-changing ways.