Memory refers to a mental process that is used to gain, gather, and recover information. The information that is stored in our memory with the help of our senses will be processed by numerous systems all through our brain, and it will be accumulated for later use (Mason, 2003-2006). Gordon and Berger (2003) said that there are two basic kinds of memory: ordinary and intelligent memory. Ordinary memory is remembering specific names of people, time, place, locations of certain things, and things to be done. It is comparatively fragile for it stores information for a few minutes, and that information will soon be forgotten. Thus, it is what fails when we can’t remember something. We are able to recognize it when it works and when it doesn’t because it is a conscious process. On the contrary, intelligent memory is remembering how to do things. It serves as an aid for us to make everyday decisions, and it is the memory that makes us think critically. It enables us to solve problems, to enjoy a good joke, and to boost our creativity. Unlike ordinary memory, intelligent memory is an unconscious process that is why most of us find it hard to use and develop it. (Gordon & Berger, 2003; Radford, 2003)
Why do we forget things?
Forgetting important and useful stuffs is indeed disappointing. Although our brain can store vast number of memories, we still tend to forget things and find them difficult to retrieve. For instance, sometimes we can’t remember the names of people we just met. Perhaps, this is because we are not paying attention. A lack of focus on something important is probably the reason why we fail to store information into our brain. If we really concentrate on something, forgetting will not happen. (Turkington, 2003) Moreover, we fail to remember information because of memory interventions. Sometimes, the acquired information doesn’t just vanish; it can become deteriorated.
The memories that are similar can interfere with each other. For example, the memories of two events that happened in the same place become combined together; as a result, our brain become bewildered, and we tend to have memory lapses. Additionally, as we get older, losing brain cells and connections will happen. The specific cells, where numerous memories are stored, will eventually die as part of aging; and thus, the stored memories will be lost and forgotten. (Eastaway, 2004) Can we make our memory stronger?
Having bad or weak memory skills is perhaps one of the major problems that we encounter in our daily lives. In fact, it is absolutely frustrating to have memory lapses and not having to recall certain things. Nonetheless, there are memory aids and techniques that can strengthen our memory skill, and they can help us to have a better and healthy memory.
Despite the fact that memory lapses is inescapable, memory treatments and methods can somehow sharpen our memory skills. Some of us might think that these memory-boosting techniques are not accurate and are not effective, but it is. They find it that way maybe because they are really not into deep-learning, and they do not focus on what they’re trying to learn. As a matter of fact, remembering is a learned skill, and it can be improved whenever we want to. Since practicing, exerting efforts, and being patient are part of learning, it is substantial for us to do these techniques for a betterment of our memory. (Turnkington, 2003; Eastaway, 2004) To strengthen and sharpen our memory skills, we must pay attention, associate, visualize, and be physically and mentally fit. If we learn all of these techniques, we will certainly make our brain healthy and build a stronger memory. (Turnkington, 2003; Eastaway, 2004)
MEMORY IMPROVEMENT TECHNIQUES
Turkington (2003) stated that paying attention is actually one of the most important things in our lives, and it is a great help in improving our memory skills. Each and every one of us has the ability to pay attention to one thing; it’s just that, some of us fail to stay away from distractions. As part of this strategy, we have to determine first what our priorities are.
It is essential to distinguish which things are worth giving attention to and which can be get rid of. Distractions are everywhere, and they prevent us from doing the things that need to be done. So we must avoid distractions and ignore all unimportant things in order to complete a certain task and to avoid forgetting. With this in mind, we shouldn’t be disturbed by irrelevant things around us because with fewer distractions, it is easier for our mind to focus and work faster. In enhancing our ability to pay attention, we really need to focus consciously. If we can’t focus, we will not remember what we are trying to learn. Moreover, we tend to procrastinate which is not good. For this reason, we need to do the important things now while we still have plenty of time. It’s simple, if we can avoid procrastinating, we won’t forget anything.
In addition to that, we can only concentrate on one thing at any time. Even though we can multi-task, it is still impossible for us to handle different tasks at the same time especially when they both require mental process. Absolutely, we can’t give our full attention to those; as a result, we absorb nothing. Another way that hinders our ability to pay attention is being absent-minded. For instance, when we are about to go to specific place to get something, we suddenly forget what is it that we want to get in the first place. It is commonly happening to us because we sometimes are absent-minded. To cure absentmindedness, we have to be aware of what we are doing. Once we are aware of it, the next thing that we have to do is concentrate on what we are doing.
Of course, we need to focus our mind on our task and be alert all the time. Also, finding motivation and getting inspired help us to sustain our concentration. Being motivated gives us enough energy to accomplish our tasks. It helps us to make our brain work properly. Also, it will broaden our mental perspective if we focus on the positive things that motivate us. With an inspiration, we can easily manage distractions, and we can be able to stay focused. Keep in mind that paying attention is a conscious part of our lives (Turkington, 2003; Eastaway, 2004; Gordon & Berger; 2003).
In order to enhance our ability to pay attention and to remember, we need to create mental connections between our sensations, ideas, and memories. Meaning, we have to make associations for us to remember properly. We all know that memorizing huge amount of information can be a nerve-wracking task. The tendency to forget that information is very high because our brain doesn’t work well at recalling huge amount of information. We cannot deny the fact that the names of certain people, places, and things are hard to recall.
However, there are strategies that we can do for us to be able to remember. Using some mnemonic devices like acrostic, acronym, and method of Loci can help us to improve our attention and memory skills as well. (Eastaway, 2004; Turkington, 2003; Levy, 2006; Smith & Robinson; 2012; Buzan, 2003)
Turkington (2003) mentioned that when using acrostics, we can make a sentence in which the first letter of each word serves as an antecedent of what we want to remember. For instance, we use the sentence “My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos” to remember the eight planets such as Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. With this sentence, it is easier for us to remember the planets in a chronological order. Another device that we can use is acronym wherein we can make a word from the first letters of the words that we need to remember. In detail, we use “ROY G. BIV” to memorize the sequence of colors in the light spectrum such as Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. We can also use the acronym “MCL” for us to remember the school of Malayan Colleges Laguna easily. Also, placing what we want to retrieve in a familiar location can help us to remember well.
This is called method of loci. If we want to recall specific items or people, we have to associate them with places that we know well. It is easier for us to remember things when our memories are associated with places. For example, we may need to buy the list of items that we need in our houses. To remember them, first, we need to visualize our own house (which is very familiar to us), after that, we imagine ourselves walking through the rooms and examining each of them. As we walk through them, we begin to recall the things that we lack of. With this, we can easily remember the items that we need to buy.
Notice that in this technique, it has always something to do with places. This method is more effective for kinesthetic learners. These mnemonic devices help to increase our memory and ability to recall information. Since most of our work involves memorization, it makes sense to use these mnemonic devices so that it will be easy for us to recall information when we need it. It is important for us to know that our ability to remember varies. Some of us think that using acrostics is easier to remember. Some think it is better to use acronyms. This proves that we have different style in terms of recalling information. The only key to using mnemonics is to choose a type of mnemonic that is best for us. (Eastaway, 2004; Turkington, 2003; Levy, 2006; Smith & Robinson; 2012)
After making associations, the next thing we have to do is to improve it. We can develop our ability to associate by visualizing. Turkington (2003) claimed that visualization is a way of making mental picture of things. We create pictures in our mind to see their colors, shapes, and form. It is often referred to as a clear and deep imagining. Each and every one of us has a gift of creative imagination. The only problem is, some of us don’t know how to use and improve it properly. We need to widen our imagination for us to focus and associate consciously. To be able to do this, it is important for us to accept new challenges, to ask questions, and to develop our interests.
It would be better for our brain to explore new ideas especially when it challenges us to think critically. That is to say, we have to look into something that is strange to us. Exploring different new ideas will help us to have a creative imagination. It lets us use our whole brain, and that’s good. If we refuse to try something new, and if we choose to do something that we’ve already know, it will not exercise our brain. We won’t be able to develop our creative mind if we keep on focusing on the same activity that is already familiar to us.
Whereas when we accept new challenges that takes some mental effort, it will expand our knowledge and develop a good memory. As we explore new ideas, it is substantial to involve ourselves in our reading. Visualization must always be present in our reading. As we read, we should imagine ourselves in the place we are reading about or imagine ourselves doing what we are studying. In this way, it is easier for us to make inferences, and thus, we can actually widen our creative imagination.
Also, we should be not afraid to ask multiple questions and be curious about everything in this world. It will help us to expand our imagination because it gives us the opportunity to gain more knowledge. In fact, it would be better if we learn about the amazing wonders here on earth. It is essential to not take everything for granted because if we don’t grab the opportunity to explore them, we will not be able to come up with our own ideas which are very helpful in widening our imagination. Additionally, it will improve our creativity and critical thinking skills. Being curious helps us to become open-minded towards new ideas and information which we can use when we need them. (Turkington, 2003; Smith & Robinson, 2012)
It is also important to develop our interests. As we start to expand our concrete interests, we desire to reach a permanent goal. We should continue to learn more about the things that we are interested in. If something doesn’t work for us; then, we should try another course of movement. With this in mind, we have to have a sense of enthusiasm which will allow us to be more interested about something. Therefore, we will be more likely to continue this, and we will have more experiences which are beneficial to us. In exploring new ideas, it should absolutely be challenging and at the same time, enjoying.
Instead of expecting them to be just a waste of time or insignificant to us, we should be anticipating that these new ideas will be full of enjoyment. As a matter of fact, this will help our brain to process properly. This is a real sense of enthusiasm that we should have. Furthermore, as we involve ourselves with new ideas and challenges, we should think of how to spot favorable circumstances for improvements. With this intention, we should be a good observer. Being a good observer plays an important role in associating and visualizing. Of course, the reason why we expand our curiosity is to find the answers to our questions. To be able to find them, we should do an observation. It is important to understand the things around us because the more we observe them, the more we will conceive them. (Turkington, 2003; Smith & Robinson, 2012; Eastaway, 2004)
Be physically and mentally fit
For us to be able to pay attention, associate, and visualize well, we should be physically and mentally fit. Doing physical and mental exercises will help us to sharpen and strengthen our memory skills. Physical exercise is important to us for it maintains physical fitness and overall health. It is good for our brain because it gives us more energy, increases blood supply and growth hormones, and abates the chances of memory decay. We all know that we cannot avoid tiredness. It hinders our brain to function well. The best way to make it function properly is to have a deep sleep. Exercising daily helps us to relax our muscles and get to sleep which will serve as an aid for us to be able to recall information and to make our brain perform well. Also, regular exercises help us to reduce stress. It is a fact that all of us have stresses that contribute to memory problems. Being physically fit helps us to relieve stress. It improves our mood, and it keeps us from anxieties that make us worry too much.
Specifically, it increases our confidence which enables us to manage stress. (Latham, 2006; Eastaway, 2004) In addition, it is beneficial for our brain to perform mental tasks because it develops our critical thinking skills. If we really want to sharpen our memory, we need to involve ourselves in different mental activities. We can play chess, scrabble, and card games like jigsaw puzzles or bridge. These mental activities can help us to think logically; thus, it will definitely boost our memory skills. The logical puzzle like soduko, for instance, helps us to think critically. It trains our mind to process different kinds of information, details, images and techniques at a fast speed.
As we do the strategies in this puzzle, it helps us to build neural connections into our brain which will help us to sharpen our memory. (Moore, 2006) The most important of all, it is essential to have a good diet for it also help our memory to be alert and active. We should make sure that all vitamins that we need are in our diet. With a good diet, we will be able to concentrate fully and to store and retrieve information. There are specific foods that are healthy to our brain, and they will strengthen our memory. To make our memory stronger, we should consider the following:
* Fishes contains good fats, and they are rich in Omega-3. Eastaway (2004) stated that foods that contain Omega-3 are good for our brain. They prevent us from having Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, if we really want to have a good diet, we should eat oily fishes such as Salmon, Tuna, Halibut, Trout, Mackerel, Sardines, and Herring. * We must avoid eating too much food that contains calories and saturated fats. We shouldn’t eat too much butter, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream because they contribute to the memory problems.
Nevertheless, it is healthier for our brain to eat foods that are rich in unsaturated fats because they improve brain’s learning process, and they abate the risk of having damage to our brain. (Eastaway, 2004; Smith & Robinson, 2012; Moore, 2006) * We should eat more fruits and vegetables because they are rich in Antioxidants which are beneficial to our brain. It protects our brain cells for the possible damage that may happen in our brain. (Eastaway, 2004; Smith & Robinson, 2012; Moore, 2006) * We should eat foods that are rich in Carbohydrates for they help our brain to function and perform well. They make our mind alert and active, and thus it is easier for us to retrieve information. (Eastaway, 2004; Smith & Robinson, 2012; Moore, 2006
Given these points, we should now understand that our memories are our important assets that we should take care of. Knowing how our memories work and how they fail sometimes, we should keep in mind that we have to develop them. We should keep in mind that the ability to remember quickly is very important in our lives. We should also realize that forgetting is a natural part of how our brains work. It is true that our abilities to remember get worse as we get older. However, we don’t have to worry too much because it is possible for us to strengthen and sharpen our memory skills. All we need to do is to practice improving our attention, association, and visualization.
For us to be able to improve them, we should also be healthy, physically and mentally. It should now be clear to us that paying attention, making associations, and visualizing play important roles in improving our memory skills. They are actually the three keys to have a better memory because they are the sources of all of our insights, learning, communications, and connections with others. (Eastaway, 2004) Also, it is better for us to understand that we cannot do these strategies successfully unless we learn them.
Of course, it takes time to learn. If we really want to achieve something, we have to dedicate ourselves to it. We have to give our time and full attention to it. Learn to practice, and practice to learn. Keep in mind that our memories are priceless, and we cannot replace them whenever they fail to function. We really have to protect our memories in order to make them healthier. In short, we have to train our brain to gain.
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