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Read and memorize the following words: Umbrella, Cream, Potatoes.

Now close your eyes and start counting backwards from hundred with a deficit from 7, for e.g. 100-7=93, 93-7=86, and so on until you’ve repeated this exercise four times. Now recall the three words you memorized. If you haven’t successfully recalled all the three words (without cheating), then you might want to give your memory a jog.

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Test your memory. Picture Source- Flickr

The Human Memory is a complex and vast structure which is designed in such a way that it becomes a storehouse of all knowledge and experience procured within the lifetime of an individual. This highly complex structure works at various levels and has distinct functions. Errors in memory come due to various reasons. Psychologists call the different functions of memory as – Encoding, Storage and Retrieval. Lapses in memory can happen at any of the three levels.

If the information entering the memory system hasn’t been encoded properly or stored purposefully the information might get lost and hence may pose difficulties in retrieval. A lot of times, we try hard to remember that one crucial piece of information that someone gave us and except for all other particulars that one piece of information is lost to us. Many of you may have also faced difficulties that are more specialized in nature, for e.g. difficulty remembering names, or difficulty in retaining a sequence of events or directions. The perplexity caused by such forgetting gets tripled when it starts to hamper your academic or professional life.

The good news is that the problem of forgetting, unless due to biological or medical reasons, can be solved using certain techniques and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Here’s a list of simple techniques that help your memory problems:

1. Avoid Multitasking: The general assumption behind multitasking is to ensure a speedy and efficient processing. However, contrary to this assumption, multitasking actually slows you down and makes you more prone to forgetting. You will notice if you are cooking in the kitchen and you go out to receive the phone while making a list of groceries you need to buy in your head, there’s a high possibility that you’ll forget to turn off the stove and end up eating burnt food. You are not a computer!

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Avoid Multi-tasking.Picture Source- Flickr

2. Mnemonic Devices: The term ‘Mnemonic’ means ‘Memory Tools’. It is a tool that we use at the stage of encoding, making the information simpler to be stored in the memory. The three basic principles of Mnemonics are – Imagination, Association and Location.

• IMAGINATION: Creative Visualization is the key to using imagination as a mnemonic device. The stronger your imagination, the more it will be retained. To ensure powerful imagination, a few simple tricks can be made use of. Pleasant, positive imagery which is also vivid and colorful should be used. Using all your sensory faculties to store information helps.
• ASSOCIATION: This is a process of linking one piece of information to the other in order to recall better. One way to do is by using ‘Acronyms’ – where you arrange the first letter of the words in a list to remember in the form of a word, for e.g. FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Another association technique is ‘Chunking’ where in large groups of information can be broken down into smaller chunks, for instance, if you want remember a phone number 8980812345, it would be helpful to break it up into three chunks, 898 – 081 – 2345. Another example of chunking is to create ‘hierarchies’ to learn topics and their subtopics. A powerful association method is to weave a story around the various concepts that need to be remembered.
• LOCATION: It helps not just in contextualizing information but also helps in differentiating one piece of information from the other. For instance, localizing one piece of information to one city in the south and the other in another city in the east.

3. Elaboration and Rehearsal: The information we store first gets allocated in the short-term memory store from where either the information gets lost or gets transferred into the long-term memory store. In order to prevent the information from getting lost, the processes of elaboration and rehearsal can be applied. Rehearsal involves repeating or practicing the information, for instance, repeating again and again the lesson you learnt. The process of elaboration, on the other hand, implies adding meaning to the information that you are trying to learn. Psychologists believe that rote learning in isolation never retains information in the memory if it is not facilitated by first attributing meaning to the content that one is trying to remember.

4. Playing Brain Games: Our brain is plastic in nature, and research suggests that the more we put it use the more it would stretch and prevent degeneration. A number of websites offer a wide variety of brain games that you can play and improve the various areas of memory. A popular show Brain Games on National Geographic is a fun and interactive show wherein people can play while sitting at home and watching TV. Ideally one should engage in these games for a maximum period of 20 minutes and spend no more than 5-7 minutes on each game.

5. You be the Teacher: Albert Einstein once said, “If you cannot explain it to a five-year, you don’t understand it yourself”. Taking cue from this, sometimes it’s a good idea to teach what you’ve just learnt as it ensures that you achieve full mastery over it and retain it in a way that it gets stored in the long term memory store.

6. Master New Skills: Engaging your brain in learning new tasks expands the brain’s capacity and scope. It reduces the risk of stress-related forgetting. This also adds meaning and purpose to any task. It has been proven scientifically that learning tasks that use your gross and fine motor skills help in preventing cognitive impairments. It has also been proved, that learning creative arts like painting, music and other art forms also ensures cognitive well-being.

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7. Lifestyle Choices: Healthy lifestyle choices are a necessary prerequisite to healthy physical or psychological fitness. Accordingly altering your eating habits, sleeping patterns and adding exercise to your routine goes a long way in remaining psychologically fit. Including green leafy vegetables to your diet along with walnuts protects brain health. Exercising stimulates the brain nerves to multiply and hence produce more neuron potential which sparks brain activity. Research indicates that people who get a full right hour sleep are able to infer and create more associations among discrete patterns of information.

Home Page Picture Source- Flickr Free source Source

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