Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 30, 2019

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.

How many times have you forgotten certain items? Or how about that person’s name from work? How about your own cell phone number?

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

Now, you could argue that’s what contact lists and grocery lists are for but, that’s the point here. You’re using your phone for that rather than a powerful technique: a memory palace.

There’s nothing wrong with using technology, but it comes at a price and like many others, they’re noticing it’s hard to remember certain things — places, dates, specific items, and more.

Thankfully, this tried and true method has stood the test of time. It is immensely powerful in unlocking memories and being able to retain them with no issues.

By learning what a memory palace is and using the technique, you can change your life and remember so much.

What’s the Memory Palace?

Before showing the potential of this technique, you need to know what it is first.

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

Going further into the technique, many people see the 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.

Does It Really Work?

Short answer: yes. Extremely well.

One example to look to is Dominic O’Brien.[1] 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.

Advertising

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.[2] That feat is overshadowed by a Japanese man who memorized 111,700 decimals.[3]

“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, the 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.

This works because our brain is wired to associate with things that we see rather than what’s spoken.

Is Sherlock’s Mind Palace Possible?

Another modern day comparison to turn to is Sherlock Holmes’ mind palace. In the TV series “Sherlock,” we see Holmes entering this place time and again. In the show, it’s depicted as an imaginary estate that makes no spatial sense.

The act itself shows this process at work, Holmes entering this treasure trove of memories. It’s an area that he’s familiar with and keeps his memories safe.

It’s definitely something that we all can achieve, but likely not in the same way as how Holmes uses his.

What’s wrong with how Sherlock uses his?

Well, the biggest key to this method is that the place you need to visualize has to be something you are intimately familiar with. The mind palace isn’t so much of a palace as it is something that we are deeply familiar with.

Examples are your own home, office, or the route you take to work.

These are reliable visualizations that even experts use to great degree. Remember the deck of cards I mentioned earlier? Well, one way people memorize the sequence of cards is associating the number and the suit with an object in their house.

Advertising

To memorize several decks, they visualize their house or office and begin to look around the “room” and start listing off the suits based on what they see.

5 Steps to Build And Effectively Use a Memory Palace

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

Here is how it is done.

1. Select Your Palace

Before even starting, you need to have a place that you are familiar with. This technique is only ever going to work for you if you can mentally see and walk around the area effortlessly. It’s why I suggested an office, or your home or a familiar route.

One other thing I’ll suggest is to define a particular route with said palace. While there’s nothing wrong with visualizing yourself in your home for example, the palace could be more effective if you visualized walking around it.

If you have a specific walkthrough in your home, it’ll be easier for you to leverage the second step to this method.

Also, if the examples I suggested don’t strike your fancy, there are other memory palaces you could create as well. Here are some suggestions:

  • A familiar street. Examples are routes you take to work, or maybe a sequence of streets that you’re familiar with.
  • Current or previous school. Visualize what the school looked like and the pathway to your classes, homeroom, hang-out spot, or the library.
  • Place of work. Think of the route from your desk to the water cooler or coffee machine. Or even to the exit.
  • Scenic views. Imagine taking a route through a local park or a path you fondly remember.

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, the first thing you’ll think of is likely the front door.

Take some time to pay real close attention to it but also to ask yourself:

What’s in that first room behind that door?

Take note of everything in that room. Even what you do before hand.

When you approach the front door, do you look to the left or to the right normally?

Do you look down and enter a passcode?

Advertising

Keep in mind those tiny every day details too.

The idea behind all of this is to create memory slots. These are clues that 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.

It’s this reason why I suggested memorizing a particular route through your memory palace. This creates more memory slots for yourself as more rooms open up to you.

3. Imprint Your Palace

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

However for those do, consider these tips. Commit this to memory however you can using these:

  • Walk the actual route physically 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. Sometimes you have to admit that your visualization isn’t good enough. Nevertheless, there are many ways to grow it.
  • When you think you have it 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.

4. Begin Association

Now that the palace is in your mind and you 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 your Memory Palace.

Now here is the fun part. While most people would think to keep this all realistic, that’s not the best idea. In fact, it’s better to go with utterly ridiculous, nonsensical, and extraordinary visualizations.

And that’s not me saying this. In the article Memory Palace Science: Proof That This Memory Technique Works, the writer explains the ‘right way’ is:[5]

“Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical — after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.”

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

Say you’re memorizing a grocery list. For the sake of the argument, you can use your memory palace to transform your house into an unusual “gingerbread house.”

Need to pick up some apples? Visualize your front door as a gigantic apple.

How about bacon or ground beef? Visualize the smell as you enter your home and realize it’s oozing out of the walls.

All of these things physically wouldn’t happen (except for the smell) and can serve as mental cues. They give you pause and remind you to pick up those specific items.

Effective right?

5. Visit Your New Palace

The last step is to spend some time in the place. 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 helps a lot.

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 easier it’ll be to memorize things in the future.

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 many dangers. There are so many conditions that impact older folks and a lot of it stems from our own mind.

So like your body, make a habit of developing your mind. You don’t need to go to the extreme and have a mind palace per se, but it’s a massive step forward to create and to use one.

More About Enhancing Memory

Featured photo credit: Kat Stokes via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Peak Performance Training: Dominic O’Brien
[2] Guiness Record: Most Pi places memorised
[3] The Guardian: He ate all the pi : Japanese man memorises π to 111,700 digits
[4] American Psychological Association: A powerful way to improve learning and memory
[5] Magnetic Memory Method: Memory Palace Science: Proof That This Memory Technique Works

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness Why Am I So Tired Even After Rest? How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

Trending in Learning

1 12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language 2 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory 3 The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice 4 How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You? 5 The Lifehack Show Episode 9: Using Absorbent Learning to Boost Your Knowledge

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 16, 2019

12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language

12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is a big deal.

You’re learning a completely new form of communication, and it enables you to communicate with people you never could have before.

But there’s benefits to learning a language that you might not have expected when you started the journey. I’ve personally experienced this having learned 3 languages in my life (Korean, English, and Spanish).

Think about the effect that losing weight has on someone’s life. While most people get into it for a healthier lifestyle, there can be surprising benefits like increased confidence, being more outgoing, and increased mental clarity.

The same thing can apply to language learning.

In this article, we’ll share the 12 surprising benefits you’ll experience when you learn a language.

1. Learn Anything Faster

Learning a new language is mental agility training at its best. The exercise in cognitive problem solving can without a doubt be applied to almost any problem we want to solve in other areas.

Your memory retention is also improved when learning a new language.[1] Absorbing and retaining more information can significantly shorten your learning curve, because you can spend more time learning new information instead of re-learning something you’ve already learned before.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you learn a new language, not only are you able to learn other languages faster (simply due to understanding the process), but you’ve already retained key skills for learning several other languages without even knowing it.

For example, if you recently learned how to speak Spanish, you’ve automatically entered the world of languages from the latin root, such as Portuguese, Italian, French, and Romanian. In fact, between these languages there are over a thousand words that are exactly the same, if not very similar to each other.

Screen-Shot-2016-03-07-at-8.00.09-AM

    Notice the similarity of the words between these languages.

    Advertising

    2. Improve Your Math Skills

    For those of us who didn’t grow up with natural talents in mathematics, no need to fear.

    A study was done at Massachusetts in 2007, where The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages stated that:[2]

    “Children who study a foreign language, even when this second language study takes time away from the study of mathematics, outperform students who do not study a foreign language and have more mathematical instruction during the school day.”

    In another study published in the University of Michigan’s Language Learning journal (Armstrong and Rogers, 1997), students who studied just one semester of a foreign language for just 90 minutes per week scored significantly higher in maths and language arts.

    If you think about it, it makes sense. Learning a language involves a structural and logical process, which is the same type of thinking that makes you thrive in mathematics.

    3. Become a Better Listener

    This is a skillset that comes in handy for any situation throughout our lives.

    If you’re trying to build a real connection with anyone, there’s nothing better than intentional listening without interruption. This is one of the key elements taught in Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

    When learning a language, there’s no choice but to train yourself to listen carefully, because you’re trying to make out every accent, pronunciation, and tone used by the other person. And if you’re just starting out, you’re forced to listen because you can’t speak the language!

    Most importantly, learning a new language helps you step into the shoes of people different to yourself and see the world in a completely different way— therefore developing empathy for others.

    4. Enhances Your Focus

    In a study, published online in the journal, Brain and Language, individuals who spoke more than one language were observed through an fMRI, while performing word comprehension tasks.[3] This is a far more powerful than the best drugs which only delay the symptoms by 6–12 months.[4]

    Advertising

    The American Academy of Neurology has performed studies showing that speaking more than one language increases the amount of neural pathways in the brain, allowing information to be processed through a greater variety of channels.

    7. Improve Your Native Language

    We discussed how learning one language can help you pick up not only other languages, but familiarize yourself with languages originating from the same root.

    What most people don’t mention enough, is that it can also help you improve your native language.

    According to an Impact of the Second Language Education study, studying a second language alone will significantly improve your first language skills in areas relating to grammar, reading, vocabulary, and speaking skills.[5]

    This makes sense because learning a new language allows you to understand the structures and breakdown of a language, whereas this is something you likely intuitively picked up when you learned your native language.

    8. Increase Your Creativity

    Language learning is a lot like putting together the pieces of a new puzzle.

    You understand several, but not all of the words that are thrown at you, so you have to force yourself to be creative and fill the missing gaps on your own.

    creative-brain2

      This research concludes that bilingual individuals have a more “out of the box” thinking approach than monolingual individuals.[6]

      While most creativity training occurs in waves (meaning on and off), there’s no taking breaks when you’re having a conversation with someone. You either have to force yourself to become creative in your interpretation and speaking skills, or you’ll need to face up to the awkward silence that follows.

      9. Culturally Knowledgeable

      Language learning is not only about communicating in a foreign language, but it’s about experiencing a new culture.

      The first reason is that meeting foreign people is embedded in the core of language learning. In order to practice and improve your new language, you’ll need to work with a language teacher, use conversation exchanges, or attend language meetups. This is similar to how you need to just ride the bicycle instead of watching videos about it: it’s just part of the process.

      Advertising

      The majority of conflicts between people in the world come from a lack of understanding of the other side. Studying a new language not only helps you understand where the other person is coming from, but the cultural knowledge you gain can help others feel more connected to you.

      10. Open up New Career Opportunities

      In the past decade, we’ve experienced a rapidly growing trend of globalization. With the Internet era, there is no such thing as doing local business. Nearly every business that opens up today is an online business, and has the ability to reach a global market in seconds.

      Big corporations are working fast to expand internationally to Asia, Europe, and South America, and understanding a foreign language will in the future likely become as standard as knowing Microsoft Word.

      Irene Missen, a language specialist at a top recruitment agency, Euro London, says that languages can open doors for you, and estimates a language can add between 10% and 15% to your wage.[7]

      When it comes to advancing your career, it’s critical to leave no doors closed. Learning a new language takes time, and it’s far better to learn it before you need it than to be unprepared at your next job interview.

      11. Experience a New Way of Traveling

      This is a big one, and often one that’s hard to understand unless you know another language.

      For example, learning how to speak Spanish before you visit Spain for the first time, will give you an entirely different travel experience versus not knowing the language.

      When you can speak the language of the place you’re traveling to, you’re no longer dependent on the typical tourism tips that you’ll get from Tripadvisor. You can build relationships with the locals, and discover restaurants, hot spots, and excursions that tourism websites will never be able to share with you.

      You get to experience the new culture from the eyes of a local, instead of a tourist.

      12. Deepen Your Relationships

      Almost everyone who comes from a different cultural background can probably empathize with this point. With my limited ability to speak Korean, I struggled growing up with Korean family members.

      Luckily, I was able to improve my skills over time (surprisingly, from learning Spanish). But I constantly see people who struggle to have that connection with their family members, friends, or even life partner, because of this language barrier.

      As we shared in this post, the majority of the world’s problem comes down to communication problems. And there’s no bigger barrier to communication than the languages we are able to speak with each other!

      Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science Direct: Working memory development in monolingual and bilingual children
      [2] Daily News Minder: The benefits of learning a foreign language
      [3] AAAS: Bilingual brains better equipped to process information))

      Results showed that multi-lingual individuals were better at filtering out competing words than one-language speaking individuals. This ability to tune out competing words benefits in blocking out distractions to focus on the task at hand.

      As your listening skill improves, it only makes sense that it enhances your focus as well. Just like learning any new skill, learning a language requires your full, undivided attention. One slight distraction can mean the difference between one meaning and a completely different one.

      Advertising

      Over time, your brain will be trained to maintain this level of focus.

      5. Boost Your Confidence

      When we set out to achieve something and find success, it boosts our confidence levels — no matter how small the progress.

      Even being able to carry a 30-second conversation with a native speaker can make you more confident, because you know it’s something you wouldn’t have been able to do before.

      “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” — E.E. Cummings

      I still remember the “aha moment” I experienced when I was living in Medellin, Colombia. I was living with a roommate who couldn’t speak a word of English when I first moved in. After a few months of using an online app to learn Spanish, I was able to get to a conversation level of fluency. It amazed me how I was suddenly able to speak to someone that I couldn’t have fathomed speaking to before.

      Needlessly to say, as the language barrier disappeared, our positive perception of each other increased dramatically, and so did our friendship.

      This confidence boost only pushed me to learn more, engage with more native speakers, and it translated into more confidence in every aspect of my life.

      Author of Lean Forward, Eric Holtzclaw, states that it is powerful how even a tiny change in perspective can pull you out of a funk and give “you the boost you need to take on that next challenge.”

      6. Prevent Potential Brain Diseases

      Improving our health is something that should be a priority for every one of us, no matter how old we are. Most of us consider improving our health in a few major areas, like our physical appearance. But we tend to miss out on the most important part that runs our entire body — the brain.

      We are nothing without the vital functions of our brain, and we need to prioritize its health like we would with any other vital organ in our body.

      brain-languagemap

        When it comes to the brain, learning a new language can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 4.5 years.((Neurology: Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status

        [4] Alzheimer’s Association: Medications for Memory
        [5] Rype: 8 Science-Backed Benefits of Learning a New Language
        [6] Cerebrum Dana Foundation: The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual
        [7] Guardian: Learning a foreign language: Now you’re talking

        Read Next