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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

More by this author

Ragnar Miljeteig

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

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

11 Things You Should Minimize for a Better Life

11 Things You Should Minimize for a Better Life

Ever heard the statement less is more? Is that a reality in your life or is that an area you are struggling with? Below are 11 different areas you can look at in your life to start to reduce as you focus on building a better life.

Let’s get to it:

Your Stuff

I call it stuff vs possessions. Stuff is what adds clutter in your life. It could be shoes, curios from the cute store in your town or excess appliances you need to throw out but never do. What is it that is overtaking your house that if you moved away you wouldn’t need it at all? Plan a Sunday afternoon throw out session. If throwing out doesn’t sit right then give it away to goodwill.

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Your Acquaintances

How many people are you interacting with throughout the week that don’t leave you feeling good about yourself? Who inspires you? Spend time with those people. Too often we keep people in our lives that we are no longer a fit for. Having too many old acquaintances adds to the excess in your life. If the relationship isn’t a win-win for you both then take a step back and focus on those that do.

Your Goals

Motivated to write out your list of goal for the next month or 3 months? That is awesome. Just a few works of caution. Don’t write down too many. Often people write down over ten goals. The brain can only remember so much and the reality is you won’t get to them all. I suggest you look at your goals with the mindset of single digits. No more than ten, but ideally less than five. Keep the list focused and realistic.

Your Commitments

A new favorite buzz saying in the self-help world is “No is the new Yes”. Take a moment to think about that saying. If you started saying no more how would your week and life look? Would you have more time to commit to the important goals and people in your life? Start to practice saying No when a request comes your way that you don’t want to do. If that feels too harsh try responding with these words “Let me get back to you”. Go away and come back with a no when you are in stronger mindset to say that.

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Your Multitasking

I am giving you permission to stop multitasking. We used to be told that multitasking was a good practice. We look so busy and aren’t we getting a lot done? In fact, no. Multitasking isn’t possible with the way our brain is wired. We need to focus on one key thing and keep our attention on that item until it is complete.

Your Newsfeed

I consider all the information from the Internet that is being feed into our smartphone, laptop and brain as “the newsfeed.” It doesn’t add to having more knowledge, it adds to information overload. Build time in your day or week when you are completely offline. I recommend turning your wireless off or setting your smart phone to airplane mode.

Your Cards

Open up your wallet and take a look inside. What is in it? For most of us it is more than one store, charge or loyalty card. Too many cards add to extra spending, bills and lack of clarity of where our money goes. Look at what cards you truly need and use. Get rid of the rest (scissors work!).

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Your Mail

Both the old style (postal) and your email inbox are areas to minimize. Look at ways to get off catalogs or reduce the magazine subscriptions as you never read all of them anyway. Figure out what mail, e.g. bank statements, can be changed to digital mail only. Try the same with your inbox. Sites like unroll.me can tell you how many email newsletters you are subscribed to and you can take your name off the list that you know longer need.

Your Sitting Time

Too much time in front of the screen is not good for the posture and health of your body. Try setting a timer so every 50 minutes you get up and stretch or go for a five minute walk. We don’t realize how bad our posture is when we sit for long periods of time. The studies on sitting disease are what led to standing and walking desks to be invented. If your office doesn’t have that get into a regular habit to stand and walk often in your day.

Too much time by yourself can led the mind to wander. When the mind wanders it will often return with negative thoughts and beliefs. While a walk by yourself and some downtime is rejuvenating take notice if you start to feel un- inspired or a little sad and make sure you aren’t spending too much time in your own company. This is especially important for those of us who work from home. Make sure to have people interaction throughout your day.

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Your Lack of Belief

If you want to make a change or achieve a goal in your life you need to truly, 100 percent believe you can. If you don’t believe in yourself then why should anyone else?

The difference between a successful person and someone struggling can be as simple as a mindset switch to believe that they will succeed.

What areas can you minimize to create more happiness, focus and productivity in your life? Implement just a handful from the list and you will find that the mindset of ‘Less is More’ will be what leads you on the path to a better life!

Featured photo credit: Samantha Gades via unsplash.com

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