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Have you forgotten things lately? Lost your keys? Neglected to pick up milk after work? If so, you’re not alone! Especially during this oh-so-hectic time of year, our memories can be short circuted with all of the extra tasks we have on hand.

But, there are some simple tips and tricks to help you improve your memory:

Technique 1: Visualize It! – Visualization

When you have an item to remember, “see” it in your mind. The more absurd you make the image the more likely you are to remember it. For example, if you go to the mall and park the car on the level C in space #5, you might imagine that there are 5 Cats waiting in your car for your return. The Cats is for the level “C”; the 5 of course is for the space #5.

Technique 2: Chain It! – Chaining

Chaining is a form of visualizing, but now you might have to remember several items in order. This time you must link the items together by thinking of images that connect them. While a grocery list does not necessarily have to be remembered in order (although it sometimes helps to find things faster), let’s use it as an example: milk, bread, eggs, cheese, orange juice. Now, chain them with images:

  • A carton of milk pouring onto bread.
  • A sandwich (the bread) with raw eggs on it.
  • Eggs stuck in the holes of a Swiss cheese.
  • Pieces of cheese hanging from an orange tree.

Here is a longer list of words to try:

shoe – piano – tree – pencil – bird – bus – book – dog – pizza – flower – basketball – door – TV – rabbit – spoon – eye – chair – house – computer – rock

You may find that bizarre and wild associations are easy to remember.

Technique 3: Place It! – The Method of Loci

Location, Location, Location. Devised during the Roman Empire, the method of loci uses the chaining method with a twist. Now all the items to-be-remembered are linked to specific places in the order you would visit them. For example, you might think of the route you take to school:

  • Your room (you wake up)
  • Your kitchen (you have breakfast)
  • Front door of your house
  • Bus stop
  • Bus seat
  • Friend’s house that you see from the bus
  • Gas Station that you see from the bus
  • Market that you see from the bus
  • School

Now you must link the items that you want remembered to each of these places. You have to remember the places first, of course, but this should be easy. Then chain each item to the places…remember, the more wild your idea the better. Using the grocery store example again: milk pouring on you in your room, bread that you can’t get out of the toaster (kitchen), eggs splattered on your front door, etc.

Technique 4: Chunk It! – Chunking

Ever wonder why phone numbers are really one 3 digit number and one 4 digit number and NOT one 7 digit number. It’s 999-9999, not 9999999. Or what about those social security numbers. It’s 999-99-9999, not 999999999. They are a lot easier to remember in small chunks. Remembering things is easier when they are in pieces.

Technique 5: Acrostic It! – Those Catchy Phrases

An acrostic is a phrase that uses the first letter of a word to remember it. In neuroanatomy, one of the most familiar ones is:

On Old Olympus Towering Top A Famous Vocal German Viewed Some Hops.

“What does this mean?”, you ask. Well, the first letters of each of these words in this little phrase stand for the first letters of each of the cranial nerves, in order:

Olfactory nerve (I), Optic nerve (II), Oculomotor nerve (III), Trochlear nerve (IV), Trigeminal nerve (V), Abducens nerve (VI), Facial nerve (VII), Vestibulocochlear (VIII), Glossopharyngeal nerve (IX), Vagus nerve (X), Spinal accessory nerve (XI), Hypoglossal nerve (XII).

Here’s another one:

My Very Early Morning Jam Sandwich Usually Nauseates People


My Very Excellent Mom Just Served Us Nine Pizzas

These two phrases represent the order of planets from the Sun:

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto

One last one…do you know the order of colors in a rainbow? Just remember this person’s name: Roy G. Biv

R=red; O=orange Y=yellow G=green B=blue; I=indigo V=violet

After you learn some of these methods, try to memorize a list of words. See if you can remember the list the next day. How many can you remember the next week?

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