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Everyone Can Be Sherlock Holmes, Build Your Mind Palace For Exceptional Memory

Everyone Can Be Sherlock Holmes, Build Your Mind Palace For Exceptional Memory

Sherlock Holmes has been a household fictional character for decades. Famous for being detail-minded, observant, logical, slightly (or very) sociopathic, Sherlock is also known for his memory technique — his MIND PALACE (or memory palace).

In the BBC crime drama Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) mentioned the word “mind palace” numerous times. He goes there to retrieve memories and information to piece together answers to solve crimes.

In this scene in the episode The Hounds of Baskerville, Sherlock was deciphering what the word “liberty” means.

Sherlock: Get out! I need to go to my mind palace.
Lab assistant: What?
John: He’s not going to be doing much talking for a while, we might as well go.
Lab assistant: (confused) His what?
John: Mind palace.

Then Dr. Watson continued to explain to the lab assistant what a mind (or memory) palace is. A memory palace is a mental map or location that stores past memories, and it allows a person to trace back to information whenever needed without missing any bits. Sounds complicated and abstract, right?

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You may think this is the extraordinary power that Sherlock has, but long before Sherlock was even created the ancient Greek poet Simonides of Ceos invented the memory palace[1], scholastically known as the Method of loci. According to a myth, Simonides was asked to identify the remains of banqueters after the collapse of the hall. He then named each body based on where they sat in the hall. As amazing as it sounds, I’m sure some of you are still judging the idea of a memory palace.

Here is the response to all of the skeptism.

A research study [2] has proven that:

After spending six weeks cultivating an internal “memory palace”, people more than doubled the number of words they could retain in a short time period and their performance remained impressive four months later.

Yeah, so what?

We have all experienced that moment when we are in desperate need of something but we couldn’t find it because our room is too messy. It is the same for our memories. We tend to remember things in a random and chaotic way, so it becomes difficult to “search” and “trace” the memory back.

To easily grasp the concept of the memory palace, you don’t have to be a prodigy or own a specially-functioning super brain to strengthen your memory skills, and here are 4 steps to guide to a better memory:

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1. Create your own memory palace

Your memory palace could be your office, your neighborhood, or even an imaginary fantasyland with unicorns. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are familiar with the place.

For beginners, I would suggest to visualize a place where you come in to contact with every so often, the more frequently the better, like your apartment. (Okay, let’s continue to use an apartment as the example at this point.)

2. Plan a route and follow it

Imagine you are standing at the entrance of your apartment and you plan a route to walk through it. It could be: dining area, living room, bedroom, and last bathroom; or garage, laundry room, dining area, living room, patio. You decide which is the best way for you to walk through the apartment, but once you are set on a route, stick to it!

    The route you take in your memory palace.

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    3. Pay attention (or create) detailed features

    As you “walk” along the planned route, make sure to pay attention to every nook and cranny in the memory palace. Also, note every feature or item in a sequence, like left to right.

    Look at the Van Gogh painting on the wall in the dining area, take note of the antique yellow-ish lamp hanging in the ceiling of the living room, remember the old, dying plant your grandma gave you for Christmas on the patio.

    4. Associate things you want to memorize with your planned route

    Take a shopping list as an example: you need a hat, banana, and vegetables.

    Associate the things you want to memorize with the features in the palace: the hat you need with the Van Gogh painting, then banana with the lamp, and vegetables with the plant.

    If you want to specifically remember something more vividly, exaggerate it in your imagination to make a lasting impression.

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      Associate the features (left) with the items you need to memorize (right).

      Now that you have the route and features, go try it!

      Of course, what I have provided you is a simplified version of using the memory palace. There are people out there who memorize things with a different approach in their memory palaces. Some go above and beyond to create features to remember the 45 U.S. Presidents in order, from George Washington to the incumbent Donald Trump. Some prefer sticking to colors and associate items with them. Some use the linguistic approach to associate things with features that are similar in sound.

      It goes to show you can use the memory palace for anything and everything, and you are not required to stick to the approach I shared. Find the best route for your own memory palace and always practice using it, and I’m sure you can tell people you memorize like Sherlock in no time!

      Reference

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      Frank Yung

      Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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      Last Updated on November 12, 2020

      13 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory

      13 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory

      Life is made up of memories, what you have seen, heard, and done. Every bit of information you take in is only useful if you can remember it at the right time. How can you improve memory and ensure information is there when you need it?

      There are many scientific theories and observations on how memories work. These theories provide us with an understanding of how feelings, routine, context, and recollection affect our memories. Here are some tips backed by scientific insights for improving memory.

      1. Method of Loci

      Method of Loci is a popular mnemonic technique that helps you recollect a large amount of information.[1] It works by utilizing your spatial and navigational skills as you envision your memories as part of a geographical entity. This is the technique that the famous fictional detective Sherlock calls the Mind Palace.

      memory techniques loci

        This method is extremely useful when you are preparing for a speech or an exam[2]. Here is how you can make use of it:

        • Visualize a space you are most familiar with. It could be your home, your favorite park, or your school.
        • Construct the rooms, shelves, furniture, and everything inside it in your mind.
        • Imagine yourself keeping the items you want to remember in each of the rooms or in/on/around specific objects.
        • Next time you want to remember something, walk through room by room to recall what you placed there.

        Repeating this exercise has proven to be a great way to improve memory and remember loads of information with ease.

        You can learn more about this method in this article: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

        2. Acronyms

        Acronyms are proven to be very effective in memorizing a group of words. Research has shown that our brains are better at retrieving things when we associate meaning to them.[3] This is why recollecting a single meaningful word or phrase is easy compared to trying to remember a list of words.

        For instance, to memorize the directions on the compass, you can use the acronym NEWS (North, East, West, and South); or, when you want to remember the Great Lakes basin, you can make us of the acronym HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior), etc.

        Make up your own acronyms to the list of things you want to remember. All you need to do is list the things that you want to memorize and arrange them in an order such that the first letter of each word spells a real word.

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        3. Rhyming

        There is a reason why rhymes are still a popular way to teach kids. Our brains are great at acoustic encoding, which means breaking down sound structures.[4] We can easily remember stuff when they sound similar.

        The peg method can help you out. You first need to memorize the list in the exact order given below:

        one = bun

        two = shoe

        three= tree

        four = door

        five = hive

        six = sticks

        seven = heaven

        eight = gate

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        nine = vine

        ten = hen

        After you have memorized this list, now connect the first word to bun, second word to shoe, and so on. This will help you in making a memorable connection.

        Another way is to construct rhymes on the information you want to remember. For instance, if you want to remember that Mr. Jones runs a real-estate business, you can remember him with a rhyme:Mr. Jones from Homes.

        Although this may seem a bit weird and funny, this method will help you to improve memory overall.

        4. Linking

        This is a useful technique to help you stay sharp in many everyday scenarios, like remembering shopping lists. This is a visualization and association technique where you associate meaning to visual imagery. However, it is important to ensure that the images stored in your mind are as vivid as possible.

        For instance, if you want to remember a set of items, just link them up in a story. Let’s say that you want to remember the South England countries: Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somerset, Surrey, and Wiltshire.

        You can link all these countries in the form of a story to improve memory. An AVON lady is looking for a house. She is sweating and thirsty due to high SUMMER (Somerset). Along the way, she came across a giant CORN (Cornwall), but it is about to WILT (Wiltshire), etc.

        5. Chunking

        Very few people bother to remember phone numbers by heart nowadays. But what if you lose your contacts and need a way to recollect those long numbers? This memory technique will be handy in those situations.

        Chunking is basically breaking down the information into smaller pieces that are easy to remember. Start with a small number, say 379372518. Break it to three chunks 378 372 518. Improve your skills every day by trying to remember more numbers this way.

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        6. Write It Down

        Writing stimulates your reticular activating system (RAS).[5] So whenever you are trying to learn something and improve memory, try writing it down. Review what you have written and test yourself.

        You can also hand draw memory maps to further develop your memorization power.

        7. Be Busy

        Repeat all your brain exercises regularly and keep testing yourself to get better. A recent study revealed that our brain needs to be busy to keep itself fit as well.[6]

        Test yourself repeatedly if you want to retain the correct information for the longest time.

        Take walks or indulge in some physical activities as well. Research shows that healthy people who exercise regularly have better memories than those who don’t.

        8. Give Yourself a Good Sleep

        Sleeping is very much necessary if you want to improve memory. A tired body that lacks sleep will not be able to recollect or retain information effectively. Rest well and make sure your body and mind are rejuvenated every day.

        Furthermore, studies show that a lack of sleep can increase risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease[7]. Do your body and mind a favor and get a good night’s sleep as often as possible.

        9. Eat Healthy

        Try to include more memory-boosting fruits and vegetables into a healthy diet to improve memory. A study conducted by Harvard medical school backs this as well. Scientists believe that the antioxidants and vitamins from vegetables and fruits help to reduce oxidative stress in the brain and help battle age-related memory issues.[8]

        Learn about the brain foods you should include in your diet: 12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

        10. Play Video Games and Brain Training Apps

        Now here is a fun way to improve memory. Playing video games may not seem the best way to study for an exam, but regular video game playing can actually improve certain memory-associated regions of the brain. Studies have shown that video games helps in total knowledge recall and can reduce dementia risk.[9]

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        Considering the benefits, maybe you can make brain training apps a regular pastime or something to do on your breaks.

        11. Think of the Ways in Which Things Relate to You

        According to a recent research, you can boost your memory considerably by contemplating why the information is important to you.[10] This signals your brain to convert the short-term memories into long-term ones, thus helping you remember effortlessly.

        12. Exercise Regularly

        You might not see this coming, but people who exercise daily, whether it be leisurely walking or long-distance running, have better memories when compared to their counterparts who do no physical activity.[11]

        If you’re really interested in learning how to improve memory, shoot for aerobic exercises to reduce cognitive decline and increase blood flow.

        13. Pay Attention to Essence

        Although practice makes perfect, this might not necessarily be true when it comes to boosting memory. Scientists have found that while repetitive practice could help you in remembering things, you might miss out on the bigger picture.[12]

        Do you remember that one presentation when you memorized everything by heart without giving much thought to it? What happened next? Someone interrupted in the middle, and you were not able to recall information after.

        Thus, rote repetition will not do any good. You need to complement repetition through a proper understanding of the finer details.

        The Bottom Line

        Sharpening your memory is not rocket science. All you need to do is follow the fun and simple ways mentioned above to improve memory, and eat right to boost your brain health!

        For more tips on boosting your memory, check out the following video:

        More on How to Improve Memory

        Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

        Reference

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