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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

13 Simple Memory Tricks To Help You Remember Anything Easily

13 Simple Memory Tricks To Help You Remember Anything Easily

In the age of Google and Wikipedia, it’s easy to dismiss an impressive memory as a useless skill. But sometimes, you won’t have access to the internet. Sometimes, like at an interview or when you’re giving a speech, reading aloud can give a terrible impression.

So, until the time where your speeches are programmed into a chip in your brain, a good memory can be a huge advantage. Here are 13 simple memory tricks to improve your memory:

1. Clench Your Right Hand When Learning, Then Your Left Hand to Remember

As weird as it might seem, a study actually proved this effective in improving short-term memory.[1] When you’re learning, simply clench your right hand into a fist. And then later on, when you have a need to remember, squeeze your left hand.

However, this is only proven to be effective in right-handed individuals. Though they did the same test for left-handed people, those results are reserved for a different study, so stay tuned.

Or simply try it for yourself and see if you experience any significant difference.

2. Coordinate Smells

Smells have been proven to trigger memories better than sound,[2] but any direct application of that fact can be quite tricky.

One idea is to coordinate smells from when you’re memorizing something to when it needs to be remembered. For example, try spraying perfume of a very particular odor on the back of your hand when you’re reading, and then again the same the day of your test, or speech or presentation.

3. Coordinate Positions

If you maintain the same position when you’re trying to remember as you did when you memorized, it is likely that your memories will be easier to reach.[3] While the study focused on autobiographical memories, it should be applicable to more practical situations as well.

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Try studying in one position—for example with your legs crossed at a certain angle—and then remember to answer the test or do the interview in the same position.

4. Chew Gum

There are two theories in place for why this is. One is that chewing leads to increased blood flow to the area, and therefore enables more brain activity.[4] The other is much the same as our previous tricks: that chewing gum becomes associated with the memory and it gets easier to access if chewing gum while recalling it.[5]

Regardless of which you believe, it might be a good idea to pick up a pack of gum before your next big exam. And just in case taste has the same effect as smell, stick with the same flavor for the test as you use when studying.

5. Use the Power of Melody

It’s almost mysterious how much easier it is to remember lyrics than recite the words of a tuneless essay. And this is not something we’re just imagining either. Studies have proven the efficacy of melody when it comes to learning.[6]

While it might seem like a ton of extra work, you can simply piggyback off melodies you already know and love. Perhaps the best are famous classics because they don’t have lyrics that could perhaps be distracting when trying to memorize.

Just make sure you don’t burst into song when you’re remembering!

6. Don’t Do “All-Nighters”

Not only does sleeping improve your memory,[7] mass repetition is suggested to decrease even immediate memorability, not increase it.[8]

It is also proven that distributed practice, where you study for short periods of time spread out over a longer period, works better than massed practice, i.e cramming.[9] So don’t do all nighters. Remember to get your hours of sleep after a day of studying.

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And of course, it’s a great idea to study something a little at a time, a few minutes each day. When you’re learning a language, flash cards or good language learning apps are very convenient for that purpose.

7. Meditate

As it turns out, Buddhists have been on to something in the belief that meditation is a path to enlightenment. In a study, meditating four times per day for 20 minutes increased cognition from 15% to as much as 50%.[10]

So, if you’ve ever wondered about meditation, start doing it. Check out this quick and simple guide to meditation: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

8. Exercise More

If you find some of the other suggestions to be tedious and you would appreciate a more physical approach, you’re in luck. There has been established a clear connection between regular exercise and improved cognitive functions, including memory.[11]

So exercising more wouldn’t only make you healthier, it could also improve your memory.

If you think you’re too busy to exercise, here’re 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

9. Drink Less

Long-term abuse of alcohol has been proven to have severe effects on memory.[12] And while I’m by no means accusing you of being an alcoholic, I think many of us could stand to drink a little less.

And when you add in the time you lose while drunk, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that excess drinking is not the best approach to memorizing anything.

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10. Associate

Tricks that improve memory all seem to boil down to one thing: association.

Up until now, we have mostly dealt with involuntary association, such as remembering better when smelling the same smell, or sitting in the same position. But now it’s time for voluntary association.

There are some areas where this is rather simple:

For example, in language learning, a trick to remember new vocabulary is to associate the new word with a word it sounds like that you already know.[13] If you’ve ever noticed how much easier it is to remember a new word that sounds exactly the same as another one, then you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes, you have to stretch the pronunciation a bit, like with the Japanese word kensaku, which I choose to remember via “Ken sucks.” In my own experience, the more far-fetched and ridiculous the association, the easier it is to remember. (Kensaku 検索 means search, by the way.)

And then there is visual association with new words, something that has become much simpler with many newer textbooks helping with the implementation of visual techniques, perhaps especially so with the Chinese alphabet with the “Heisig” method being fairly well known and appreciated in language learning communities.[14]

The Heisig method uses visual association to help you remember the shape of the hanzi or kanji, for Chinese and Japanese respectively. Some of my friends found it extremely helpful, and others found it lackluster.

11. Bundle Memories Together

Make use of pattern recognition[15] and bundle together a lot of memories into one.

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The simplest aspect of this is perhaps when remembering numbers. This is called the “chunking technique.”[16] If you can bundle them together in a meaningful way that means something to you, it can make remembering strings of numbers a whole lot easier.

In Norway, we bundle phone number digits together in pairs, so you could, for example, think of them as years. (Our phone numbers are 8 digits long.) So, a phone number could be 45 80 90 18. You could therefore use 1945, being the year WWII ended, associate 80 with the ’80s, and 90 the ’90s, then 1918 is the year WWI ended.

12. Write It Out

Maybe it’s the added repetition, or maybe it’s the fact that writing activates completely different areas of the brain and you somehow store the information in more than one place; either way, writing something down makes it easier to remember.[17]

So, if there’s something that’s absolutely vital that you don’t forget, write it out by hand. Better yet, make an actual physical note and bring it with you.

That way if your cellphone malfunctions, or the sound is accidentally turned off, you are more likely to remember in spite of circumstances.

13. Talk to Yourself

You don’t have to do long dramatic monologues with a mirror as the only spectator. Simply say whatever you want to remember out loud. A study showed that it improved memory accuracy by up to 10%.[18] So maybe it’s a habit best practiced in solitude.

Bottom Line

While some of these are tricks, others are about developing and improving your general cognitive abilities. Needless to say, the latter will complement the former, so remember to take care of yourself and your brain if you want to improve memory.

As for the tricks themselves, a combination of many of the tricks are likely to provide the best results, as recreating a complete setting might just be the best way to recollect something.

More About Boosting Memory

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Department of Psychology, Montclair State University: Getting a Grip on Memory: Unilateral Hand Clenching Alters Episodic Recall
[2] Telegraph: Smell and memory: the power of scent
[3] Cognition. 2007 Jan: Body posture facilitates retrieval of autobiographical memories.
[4] New Scientist: Chewing gum improves memory
[5] Nutr Neurosci: Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test.
[6] Orla C. Hayes: The Use of Melodic and Rhythmic Mnemonics To Improve Memory and Recall in Elementary Students in the Content Areas
[7] Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Study Shows How Sleep Improves Memory
[8] Psychon Bull Rev (2011): More is not always better: paradoxical effects of repetition on semantic accessibility
[9] Psychological Bulletin: Distributed Practice in Verbal Recall Tasks: A Review and Quantitative Synthesis
[10] PsyBlog: Cognition Accelerated by Just 4 x 20 Minutes Meditation
[11] The Guardian: Start running and watch your brain grow, say scientists
[12] VerWellMind: How Heavy Alcohol Use Can Damage Memory Function
[13] University of Leicester: The effect of the integrated keyword method on vocabulary retention and motivation
[14] Wikipedia: Heisig
[15] The Atlantic: Using Pattern Recognition to Enhance Memory and Creativity
[16] Lifehacker: Improve Your Memory with The Chunking Technique
[17] The University of Stavanger: Better learning through handwriting
[18] PsyBlog: Memory Improved By Saying Words Aloud

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Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on April 28, 2021

What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

I sometimes think that I will never be a good cook or that I just was not born to be bilingual. Occasionally, I catch my daughter saying that I cannot do it. And I hear people say things such as they are not good at math or not cut out to be in business.

These are all examples of a fixed mindset, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. Fortunately, a fixed mindset does not have to be forever.

What is a Fixed Mindset?

Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the leading experts on mindset and the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Early in her career, she identified two mindsets: growth and fixed. These two mindsets explain why some people face challenges head-on while others are crushed by it.

People with fixed mindsets think that their skills or abilities are set in stone and determined at birth. If you think you are bad at math, not good at sports, or a born musician, you are demonstrating a fixed mindset.

People with a growth mindset think that their skills and abilities can be improved and refined through effort and perseverance. When you take steps to improve yourself and stick with it, you are exhibiting a growth mindset.

False Growth Mindset

Dweck clarified her work by explaining that everyone has a fixed mindset at one time or another about one thing or another.[1] People do not permanently have either a fixed or growth mindset.

I might work hard in the gym to get stronger and more flexible while giving up on my piano lessons because I think I am not a musical person. This example shows that I have a growth mindset regarding my fitness but a fixed mindset regarding my piano playing.

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It is also an oversimplification to say that a growth mindset is just about effort. Dweck explains that effort and strategy are needed for a true growth mindset. It is not enough for me to just keep trying and failing. A true growth mindset involves effort, reflection, reassessment, and then more effort.

Self-awareness is a critical component of a growth mindset because you have to accurately assess your current progress to make appropriate changes toward meeting your goals. Just showing up is not going to cut it.

Fixed Mindset Triggers

A fixed mindset trigger is something that shifts your mindset away from thinking that abilities can be improved to thinking they are fixed or predetermined. Think about what might make you raise your hands in defeat and proclaim you are not good at something and never will be.

The most obvious fixed mindset trigger is someone telling you that you are not good at something. This can make it seem like your ability is set in stone.

Imagine you are trying your hardest in Spanish class, and the teacher offhandedly says, “It is a good thing you are good at math.” That comment can make it seem like you have always been bad at Spanish and always will be, regardless of the effort and determination you bring to the table.

Another fixed mindset trigger is people overreacting to failure. When people make a big deal out of your mistakes, it can seem like you’re just not meant to be pursuing whatever it is you failed at.

Let’s use our Spanish example. Let’s say you are working on your Spanish project—a film. You show it to a friend who starts laughing and points out how you said the word “Bota” instead of “Barco” over and over as the film zooms in on a boat. Instead of thinking about all the Spanish words you got right, your mind might dwell on that one egregious error, shifting you to a fixed mindset about your Spanish abilities.

Finally, people rescuing you from failure can trigger a fixed mindset. Continuing our Spanish language example, if your mom stops letting you do your Spanish homework and starts doing it herself to prevent you from failing, you might start to think that you are not good at Spanish and never have been and never will be.

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How Can You Change a Fixed Mindset?

Dweck talks about process praise as the antidote to a fixed mindset.

Process praise is when you compliment and encourage someone to put in the effort and use strategies and appropriate resources to learn and improve. While praising someone’s abilities often leads to a fixed mindset, process praise contributes to a growth mindset.

So if I want to help someone change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, I should say something like, “You worked so hard on this” or “What could you try to do better next time?” instead of “You are so good at this” or “It is so unfair. Your opponent must have cheated.”

You can try process praise for yourself, too. If you catch yourself making excuses, blaming someone or something else for your failure, or assuming your abilities are fixed, try process praise.

Focus instead on the effort you put in and strategies and resources you used to improve. Dweck recommends being matter-of-fact and not too strong or passive with your process praise. Be direct without being harsh or too accommodating.

Here are 8 other ways to shift from a fixed mindset to growth:

1. Do Not Blame

If you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your failure, stop yourself and refocus on your role in your success or failure.

2. Aim for Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. If you do not give much thought in your role in your success or failure, it is going to be difficult for you to strategize and improve.

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So, ask yourself questions about your effort, strategy, and resources. Could I have practiced harder? Am I using the best schedule for my rehearsals? Is there a better way for me to study before the next test?

3. Avoid Negative, Fixed Mindset Self-Talk

Try to catch yourself when you think in fixed mindset terms. Stop saying that you were not made to do this or were not born to become that. Instead, start focusing on the effort and strategy you put in.

4. Ask for Feedback (and listen to it)

Feedback goes in one ear and out the other when we have a fixed mindset. When people think their abilities are set in stone, they tend to make excuses, get defensive, and place blame when receiving feedback.

Break that cycle and actively seek out feedback. Do not get defensive or make excuses and listen closely to feedback, no matter how harsh. Use feedback to develop a better plan for improving your abilities.

5. Do Not Overreact to Failure (keep it in perspective)

Failure is a natural part of learning and improving, so do not overreact when it happens to you.[2]

Try to keep failure in perspective, so you do not fall into a fixed mindset.

6. Reflect and Reassess

Set aside time to reflect on your progress and plan how to improve. Remember that effort is only one part of a true growth mindset. You also need to refine your strategy.

7. Do Not Compare

When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset. We do not usually see the effort and perseverance others put in, which is why it can lead to a fixed mindset.

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If someone seems naturally smart, you do not actually know how much effort they put on studying. This is why comparing ourselves to others is a fixed mindset trap.

8. Celebrate Effort (process not product)

Finally, celebrate your effort and perseverance. Compliment yourself on how many piano classes you have taken or how you did not give up when Calculus class got tough.

If you get stuck on how good or bad you are, you may find yourself shifting back to that fixed mindset.

Final Thoughts on Changing a Fixed Mindset

It is somehow comforting to know that everyone experiences a fixed mindset from time to time. However, we should not oversimplify shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It takes more than focusing on effort.

Do your best to notice when you start to compare yourself to others, make excuses, blame others for your mistakes, and disproportionately focus on your shortcomings. These are all fixed mindset traps.

Instead, practice focusing on your effort and strategy. How hard did you work? And is it time to switch up your game plan for learning and improving?

It is possible to change a fixed mindset as long as we are open and honest about what we need to do and change about ourselves.

More Tips to Improve Your Mindset

Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

Reference

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