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A Neuropsychiatrists' Tips to Exercise Your Brain
You don’t need to have the kind of photographic memory you see in pop culture in order to have quick, accurate recall. In fact, most people who excel at recalling things in detail aren’t born with some innate ability: they’re just using techniques anyone can use to improve their memory — including you.
These exercises are designed to give you some concrete steps and skills to improve your memory and recall.
Step 1: Activate Your Powers of Observation
The first step in building a solid foundation for memory training is practicing active observation. When it comes to effective learning, one of the most common barriers is that we simply don’t pay attention to new information. Take some time to start honing your powers of observation throughout the day. Use all of your senses to notice various details about the things you want to remember.
Active Observation Exercises
• Go for a walk somewhere unfamiliar. Try to note street signs, major intersections, and other landmarks you pass. Later, close your eyes and mentally walk yourself back there.
• When someone in your household gets ready to leave for the day, remember one article of clothing they’re wearing. Try to recall it before you see them again.
• The next time you watch your favorite show, remember three details about the opening credits. Try to recall those details before you watch on a different day.
Step 2: Create a Mental Snapshot
When you engage in active observation, your brain creates a mental snapshot of the information that’s easier to place in long-term memory storage. These snapshots can be real or imagined — in fact, distorting or exaggerating one or more aspects of your snaps can make them easier to recall later. Let your imagination create an image that gives it personal meaning. You can also create a literal image of a word you wish to remember written out in your mind.
Mental Snapshot Exercises
Close your eyes and try to imagine the first object, person, or animal, that comes to mind in extreme detail — the way it looks, feels, smells, etc.
List three details that you might see in an image of each of the following places:
• At the gym
• At the office
• At the beach
• A car wash
Create colorful, vivid, detailed visual images of the following objects, but alter them slightly so that they become unusual:
Step 3: Connect Mental Snapshots
Combining mental snapshots makes it easier to remember a group of things, like a to-do list, by creating a visual story that cues your brain to retrieve the information together.
You can connect your snaps any way you like, such as:
• Layering images over one another
• Piecing different snaps together into a collage
• Merging or melting images together
• Wrapping images around one another
You can also use this method to create an acronym, using a letter for each item on your list of things to remember.
Connecting Snapshots Exercises
• Take a walk and notice three things that you pass. Use one of the above techniques to organize the information, and try to recall it before you go to bed.
• The next time you go grocery shopping, create an acronym to remember the first three ingredients you need to buy.
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