Posted by: wordsmithsuk | February 19, 2011

How to improve your memory

Shopping this morning in the supermarket I couldn’t help but overhear a fellow shopper saying to her friend ‘It’s not that I don’t recognise people!  More often than not I know the face but I can’t remember the name! It must be my age ..’ It doesn’t matter where you go, people all over the world seem to have caught on to the idea that their memory gets worse as they grow older. But the truth is that people of all ages forget things – even small children and teenagers who ought to be at the height of their mental powers.

It’s no surprise that many of us get very worried about our minor or major memory lapses. How often have you thought or said ‘I’ve a memory like a sieve’ or ‘I forget so many things these days – I must be getting old’.

But the truth is that that your memory, like that of every other human being, is in fact truly magnificent. The tiny percentage of things that you might forget pales into insignificance compared to the hundreds of thousands of things that you do remember – without even thinking about it.

Why do we forget?

If we as human beings have fantastic memories, why is it that we forget? There are four main reasons:

  • Repression
  • Mindset
  • Absentmindedness
  • Interference.

Repression is responsible for a small proportion of our forgetfulness.

The psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that we unconsciously repress memories that cause us pain or anxiety. For example, we often find it more difficult to remember the negative things about our childhood than those aspects that we found pleasant.

Mindset refers to your state of mind, your attitudes, your beliefs about yourself and about the world.

If you truly want to have an excellent memory, you have to believe that you do have the potential to achieve that. World memory champion Dominic O’Brien did not start life with the phenomenal memory he possesses today. He succeeded by applying himself to his task and by developing his natural talents. If, like Dominic, you believe you can improve your memory, and you want to do so, you will.

Absentmindedness is a third very common reason why we forget.

Absentmindedness means that your mind is literally elsewhere when it should be concentrating on the here and now. If you’re not really listening to someone speak, you won’t remember what they say. If you are not concentrating when you read a book or watch a film, you will quickly forget all about them. Similarly you’ll lose your car keys, your mobile phone or your gloves if you are not paying attention when you put them down.

So a lot of ‘forgetting’ is not really forgetting at all – it’s simply failing to lodge things properly in the brain in the first place. You will remember things much better if you train yourself to pay close attention to what you are doing and what is going on around you.

Interference is probably the most common reason for forgetting.

Researchers have found that forgetting occurs because the required memory cannot be distinguished from other similar memories. Large numbers of similar memories become so jumbled up together that they interfere with one another.

It is impossible to remember what you had for dinner on one particular Friday ten years ago because the memories of many similar dinners become mixed up over a period of time. The problem is not so much that you have too many memories, rather that you don’t have enough cues to enable you to distinguish one memory from all the others. But you will remember that particular dinner if there is something associated with it that makes it stand out from the crowd. Maybe it was your 21st birthday, a friend got back from a trip to Australia, you just landed a new job or you won the lottery on that day. Such memories are often knows as ‘light bulb moments’.

How can we remember better?

Well that’s the question I’ve set out to answer in my audio book ‘Memory and Learning for Success’! The trick is to take control, to ensure that important memories can be recalled when they are needed.

In brief we remember:

  • When things are exaggerated, positive or fun
  • When we are interested and motivated
  • When we are really paying attention.

We remember:

  • When information stands out because it is unusual
  • When we can picture what we want to learn
  • When the information makes us feel something.

So to remember things well, you have to make them positive, pay attention and make those memories stand out from the crowd by associating them with something big, bright and positive. And you have to believe that you can do it. Yes you can!

To learn more about your wonderful memory and how to improve it using Mind Maps and lots of other exciting techniques go to my website.

And don’t forget to email me with your tricks and techniques for improving your memory.



  1. […] on this read: On the same subject: Tags: complicated words, difficult words, hangman words, unusual words, words for […]

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