Memory is one of the fundamental endowments bestowed by nature to the human kind.
Alexandar Smith said “Man’s real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich and in nothing else is he poor.” A little reflection makes the thought clear, our lives are nothing but the sum of our memories. The stronger and deeper the impressions we have in our minds, the livelier and richer the experiences tend to be. Having a stronger memory means living a strong life. Not only that, we can snap back to the days of happiness and glory to bring back the joy to the present moment. That’s something magical.
Pay attention to what’s going on around you every moment and be mindful. Most of all take a snap shot of events. The deeper the impressions the more likely they can be recalled. And cherished.
Centuries ago people realized the importance of memory and developed techniques to train the mind to remember easily and efficiently so when we can recall the impressions fluidly.
‘Mnemonic’ is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are techniques for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall: A very simple example is the ’30 days hath September’ rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month.
The idea behind using mnemonics is to encode difficult-to-remember information in a way that is much easier to remember.
Our brains evolved to code and interpret complex stimuli such as images, colors, structures, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, positions, emotions and language. We use these to make sophisticated models of the world we live in. Our memories store all of these very effectively.
Unfortunately, a lot of the information we have to remember in modern life is presented differently – as words printed on a page. While writing is a rich and sophisticated medium for conveying complex arguments, our brains do not easily encode written information, making it difficult to remember.
This section of Mind Tools shows you how to use all the memory resources available to you to remember information in a highly efficient way.
Using Your Whole Mind to Remember
The key idea is that by coding information using vivid mental images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them.
The techniques explained later on in this section show you how to code information vividly, using stories, strong mental images, familiar journeys, and so on.
You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:
- Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones.
- Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images – these are easier to remember than drab ones.
- Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
- Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
- Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image.
- Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
- Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
- Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively.
Designing Mnemonics: Imagination, Association and Location
The three fundamental principles underlying the use of mnemonics are imagination, association and location. Working together, you can use these principles to generate powerful mnemonic systems.
Imagination: is what you use to create and strengthen the associations needed to create effective mnemonics. Your imagination is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. The imagery you use in your mnemonics can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember.
Association: this is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a way of remembering it. You can create associations by:
- Placing things on top of each other.
- Crashing things together.
- Merging images together.
- Wrapping them around each other.
- Rotating them around each other or having them dancing together.
- Linking them using the same color, smell, shape, or feeling.
- As an example, you might link the number 1 with a goldfish by visualizing a 1-shaped spear being used to spear it.
Location: gives you two things: a coherent context into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another. By setting one mnemonic in a particular town, I can separate it from a similar mnemonic set in a city. For example, by setting one in Wimbledon and another similar mnemonic with images of Manhattan, we can separate them with no danger of confusion. You can build the flavors and atmosphere of these places into your mnemonics to strengthen the feeling of location.