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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

      More by this author

      Frank Yung

      Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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      Last Updated on October 29, 2018

      What Causes Brain Fog? (7 Things You Can Do to Prevent and Stop It)

      What Causes Brain Fog? (7 Things You Can Do to Prevent and Stop It)

      Brain fog is more of a symptom than a medical condition itself, but this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Brain fog is a cognitive dysfunction, which can lead to memory problems, lack of mental clarity and an inability to focus.

      Many often excuse brain fog for a bad day, or get so used to it that they ignore it. Unfortunately, when brain fog is ignored it ends up interfering with work and school. The reason many ignore it is because they aren’t fully aware of what causes it and how to deal with it.

      It’s important to remember that if your brain doesn’t function fully — nothing else in your life will. Most people have days where they can’t seem to concentrate or forget where they put their keys.

      It’s very normal to have days where you can’t think clearly, but if you’re experiencing these things on a daily basis, then you’re probably dealing with brain fog for a specific reason.

      So what causes brain fog? It can be caused by a string of things, so we’ve made a list things that causes brain fog and how to prevent it and how to stop it.

      1. Stress

      It’s no surprise that we’ll find stress at the top of the list. Most people are aware of the dangers of stress. It can increase blood pressure, trigger depression and make us sick as it weakens our immune system.

      Another symptom is mental fatigue. When you’re stressed your brain can’t function at its best. It gets harder to think and focus, which makes you stress even more.

      Stress can be prevented by following some simple steps. If you’re feeling stressed you should avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine — even though it may feel like it helps in the moment. Two other important steps are to indulge in more physical activities and to talk to someone about it.

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      Besides that, you can consider keeping a stress diary, try relaxation techniques like mediation, getting more sleep and maybe a new approach to time management.

      2. Diet

      Most people know that the right or wrong diet can make them gain or loss weight, but not enough people think about the big impact a specific diet can have on one’s health even if it might be healthy.

      One of the most common vitamin deficiencies is vitamin B12 deficiency and especially vegans can be get hid by brain fog, because their diet often lacks the vitamin B-12. The vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to mental and neurological disorders.

      The scary thing is that almost 40 % of adults are estimated to lack B12 in their diet. B12 is found in animal products, which is why many vegans are in B12 deficiency, but this doesn’t mean that people need animal products to prevent the B12 deficiency. B12 can be taken as a supplement, which will make the problem go away.

      Another vital vitamin that can cause brain fog is vitamin D. More than 1 billion people worldwide don’t have enough vitamin D in their diet. Alongside B12 and vitamin D is omega-3, which because of its fatty acids helps the brain function and concentrate. Luckily, both vitamin D and omega-3 can be taken as supplements.

      Then there’s of course also the obvious unhealthy foods like sugar. Refined carbohydrates like sugar will send your blood sugar levels up, and then send you right back down. This will lead to brain fog, because your brain uses glucose as its main source of fuel and once you start playing around with your brain — it gets confused.

      Besides being hit by brain fog, you’ll also experience tiredness, mood swings and mental confusion. So, if you want to have clear mind, then stay away from sugar.

      Sometimes the same type of diet can be right for some and wrong for others. If you’re experiencing brain fog it’s a good idea to seek out your doctor or a nutritionist. They can take some tests and help you figure out which type of diet works best for your health, or find out if you’re lacking something specific in your diet.

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      3. Allergies

      If you have food allergies, or are simply a bit sensitive to specific foods, then eating those foods can lead to brain fog. Look out for dairy, peanuts and aspartame that are known to have a bad effect on the brain.

      Most people get their calories from corn, soy and wheat — and big surprise — these foods are some of the most common foods people are allergic to. If you’re in doubt, then you can look up food allergies[1] and find some of the most common symptoms.

      If you’re unsure about being allergic or sensitive, then you can start out by cutting out a specific food from your diet for a week or two. If the brain fog disappears, then you’re most likely allergic or sensitive to this food. The symptoms will usually go away after a week or two once you remove the trigger food from the diet.

      If you still unsure, then you should seek out the help of your doctor.

      4. Lack of sleep

      All of us know we need sleep to function, but it’s different for everybody how much sleep they need. A few people can actually function on as little as 3-4 hours of sleep every night, but these people are very, very rare.

      Most people need 8 to 9 hours of sleep. If you don’t get the sleep you need, then this will interfere with your brain and you may experience brain fog.

      Instead of skipping a few hours of sleep to get ahead of things you need to do, you’ll end up taking away productive hours from your day, because you won’t be able to concentrate and your thoughts will be cloudy.

      Many people have trouble sleeping but you can help improve your sleep by a following a few simple steps.

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      There is the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise, which is a technique that regulates your breath and helps you fall asleep faster. Another well-known technique is to avoid bright lights before you go to sleep.

      A lot of us are guilty of falling asleep with the TV on or with our phone right by us, but the blue lights from these screens suppresses the production of melatonin in our bodies, which actually makes us stay awake longer instead. If you’re having trouble going to sleep without doing something before you close your eyes, then try taking up reading instead.

      If you want to feel more energized throughout the day, start doing this.

      5. Hormonal changes

      Brain fog can be triggered by hormonal changes. Whenever your levels of progesterone and estrogen increases, you may experience short-term cognitive impairment and your memory can get bad.

      If you’re pregnant or going through menopause, then you shouldn’t worry too much if your mind suddenly starts to get a bit cloudy. Focus on keeping a good diet, getting enough of sleep and the brain fog should pass once you’re back to normal.

      6. Medication

      If you’re on some medication, then it’s very normal to start experiencing some brain fog.

      You may start to forget things that you used to be able to remember, or you get easily confused. Maybe you can’t concentrate the same way that you used to. All of these things can be very scary, but you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

      Brain fog is a very normal side effect of drugs, but by lowering your dosage or switching over to another drug; the side effect can’t often be improved and maybe even completely removed.

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      7. Medical condition

      Brain fog can often be a symptom of a medical condition. Medical conditions that include inflammation, fatigue, changes in blood glucose level are known to cause brain fog.

      Conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, anemia, depression, diabetes, migraines, hypothyroidism, Sjögren syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Lupus and dehydration can all cause brain fog.[2]

      The bottom line

      If you haven’t been diagnosed, then never start browsing around Google for the conditions and the symptoms. Once you start looking for it; it’s very easy to (wrongfully) self-diagnose.

      Take a step back, put away the laptop and relax. If you’re worried about being sick, then always check in with your doctor and take it from there.

      Remember, the list of things that can cause brain fog is long and it can be something as simple as the wrong diet or not enough sleep.

      Featured photo credit: Asdrubal luna via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Food Allergy: Common Allergens
      [2]HealthLine: 6 Possible Causes of Brain Fog

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