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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

With every advancement in technology, there has been a decline in something else. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the price we pay for convenience. To really show that, let’s take a walk down memory lane before we learn about the memory palace.

How many times have you gotten home from the grocery store to realize you forgot something? What about that new person’s name from work? How about the new words from your language learning class?

While these are all minor inconveniences, all these things have one thing in common: they rely on our ability to memorize things.

There’s nothing wrong with using technology to create lists to help us with our short and long-term memory, but it comes at a price as places, dates, specific items, and more become more difficult to remember without technology as an aid.

Thankfully, the memory palace is here to help. It is immensely powerful in unlocking memories and being able to retain them with ease. By learning what a memory palace is and using the technique, you can change your life and remember more of what you need to.

What Is the Memory Palace?

Another name for this technique is the Method of Loci or the mind palace, though most people will call it the memory palace. It’s a memorization technique that was first developed in ancient Greece. Back then, paper was expensive and limited, so people relied heavily on their own memories to retain and recall information.

You can see an example of how this method works below:[1]

The Memory Palace for a recipe

    Going further into the technique, many people see a memory palace as a metaphor for any sort of place that you can visualize. It’s essentially a place you can go to to recall vivid memories and then apply them in the real world.

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    Does It Really Work?

    Short answer: yes. Extremely well.

    One example to look to is Dominic O’Brien[2]. He was an eight-time world memory champion who used this method. Through this method, he was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence while only having seen each card once.

    That’s 2,808 cards that he memorized.

    Another worth noting is the memorization of Pi.

    While this is a number without end, many people memorize the numbers for fun. But that’s not the case for a man in India.

    On March 2015, Rajveer Meena was able to recite 70,000 decimal places of pi[3]. That feat is only overshadowed by a Japanese man who memorized 111,700 decimals.(The Guardian: He ate all the pi: Japanese man memorises π to 111,700 digits)).

    “But these are all extreme cases,” I hear you saying. Yes, they are.

    But these individuals all started somewhere, and that somewhere is the memory palace.

    As I said, a memory palace is a place to house vivid memories. However, under the right circumstances, you can leverage it for a wide variety of things. One of the most common is obviously to memorize patterns.

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    5 Steps to Build and Use the Memory Palace

    There are many practical methods for a memory palace outside of setting world records. You can use this technique to recall long to-do lists, grocery lists, names, a foreign language and more.

    Here’s how to build a memory palace to use in real life.

    1. Select Your Palace

    Before even starting, you need to have a place in mind that you are familiar with. This technique works best if you can mentally see and walk around the area effortlessly. It’s why I suggest your office, home, school, or a familiar route you walk every day.

    You should define a particular route within your memory palace. It’s helpful to keep the route simple, by going from room to room, for example. Or if you are in one particular room, going around the room to familiar objects.

    2. Identify Distinctive Features

    Once you have a palace, you need to pay especially close attention to the features. For example, if you used your home as your palace, distinctive features could include the front door, basement, kitchen, office, etc.

    If you choose to stick to one room, find distinctive objects. For example, if you want to use your bedroom as your memory palace, you can use your bed, dresser, TV, closet, etc. as the distinctive features.

    The idea behind all of this is to create memory slots. These are clues that will contain a single piece of information to help you jog your memory. By paying close attention to the actions and details around the area, you can create more memory slots.

    3. Imprint Your Palace

    For this to have any effectiveness, you need to have both the place and the route 100% imprinted in your head. For those of you who are exceptional at visualization, this shouldn’t be a huge struggle.

    However, for those who do, consider these tips:

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    • Walk the actual route physically when possible, and repeat out loud the distinctive features when you see them.
    • List the selected features on a piece of paper and mentally walk through them.
    • Always look at the features in the exact same direction.
    • Understand visualization is a skill and takes practice.

    When you think you have your memory palace memorized, give yourself a break and go through your memory palace a little later.

    One study from Purdue University found that quizzes spaced out over periods of time improved retaining information[4]. This same principal applies to the memory palace as you’ll be quizzing yourself later on the sequence of steps you memorized earlier.

    Once the palace is imprinted into your mind, you can then start to leverage your palace.

    For more visualization techniques to practice, check out this article.

    4. Begin Association

    Now that the palace is in your mind, and you can recall the memory slots, you can now start to fill those memory slots.

    All you do is take a known image—otherwise known as a memory peg—and place it with an element you wish to memorize.

    Where exactly do these go?

    These go with the particular features that you selected in the memory palace.

    To see this in practice, let’s go with a simplistic approach. After all, while we can use this palace technique to memorize a lot of information, it’s better to start small.

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    Say you’re memorizing a grocery list. For the sake of the argument, let’s say you chose your house as your palace.

    Need to pick up some apples? Visualize the apples sitting on your bed.

    How about ground beef? Visualize ground beef filling the bathtub.

    All of these things physically wouldn’t happen and can serve as mental cues. They give you pause and remind you to pick up those specific items as you walk through each room of your memory palace at the grocery store.

    5. Visit Your New Palace

    The last step is to spend some time in the palace. If this technique is new to you, going through it once may not be enough for you. That’s not to say you need to do this a lot, but doing quick rehearsals and repeating the journey a few times definitely helps.

    This technique demands a lot of visualization, and rehearsing in of itself is developing those skills, too. The better you are at visualizing, the more relaxed you’ll be, and the easier it’ll be to memorize things in the future.

    And if you want to upgrade your learning ability in addition to building a memory palace, I recommend you take a FREE Learning Fast Track Class offered by Lifehack. It’s a 20-minute intensive class called Spark Your Learning Genius, and will surely upgrade your learning skills right away. Find out more about it here.

    Final Thoughts

    The more we grow older, the more important it is for us to retain memories. If we do not exercise our minds, we risk exposing ourselves to more and more inconveniences.

    Like your body, make a habit of developing your mind. The memory palace could be just the thing you need to get started.

    More Tips on Enhancing Memory

    Featured photo credit: Kat Stokes via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Developing Human Brain: Method of Loci
    [2] Peak Performance Training: Dominic O’Brien
    [3] Guiness Record: Most Pi places memorised
    [4] American Psychological Association: A powerful way to improve learning and memory

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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on January 12, 2021

    Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

    Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

    In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

    Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

    Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

    Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

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    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

    A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

    Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

    “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

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    When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

    The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

    As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

    “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

    Silence relieves stress and tension.

    It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

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    A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

    “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

    Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

    Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

    The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

    Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

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    But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

    Summation

    Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

    Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

    Reference

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