Improving Your Memory

June 7th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Mind - (1 Comments)

Have you ever been in a situation where you have forgotten the name of a client after you just met them for the first time or returned from the supermarket and forgotten the one item you really needed? Memory lapses are very common and can be very frustrating. The issue is not with storage of the information but rather with retrieval – the information is already in your mind.

Memory is defined as the mental activities that acquire, process, store and recall information. Memory involves three major processes: encoding, storage and retrieval. There are three types of memory: short-term memory (STM), long-term memory (LTM) and sensory memory. Sensory memory is very short-lived, usually lasting up to 4 seconds, and consists of information that first enters your brain via your senses, such as sight, sound and smell. A small proportion of this input passes to your short-term memory for recall. STM is the information that we are actively thinking at a given point in time and usually lasts about 30-40 seconds which is enough time to memorize a telephone number or someone’s name. STM acts as a filter for the input the brain receives from the external world, only passing certain information onto LTM for storage.

Many people find it difficult to remember abstract facts or information. Improving memory involves making the information less abstract in your mind. One way of doing this is to categorize material in a more distinctive way or link the information mentally to a personal experience. For example, we can always remember what we were doing during the morning of September 11, 2001. A more familiar and common way of remembering is practice and repetition, which is commonly used by students but also actors. To memorize their lines, actors tend to read and then re-read the material quickly over a period of four days, approximately five to ten times a day. By the time they have read the material twenty times the lines are stored within their LTM.

When you arrive at a supermarket without a shopping list do you try to recall the name of the items or do you recall the image of the item? Memory recall can be either verbal or visual, therefore memory improvement techniques are grouped into these two categories.

To improve your verbal memory try the following techniques:

  1. Rhymes – It is easy to recall information when placed into a poem or rhyme e.g. “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November…” etc
  2. Acronyms – Devise your own using initials of words that you need to remember. e.g. ROY G BIV is used to remember the colours of the rainbow and their order.
  3. Acrostics – Similar to acronyms but consist of words that allow you to remember other words e.g. “My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas” is used to remember the planets in our solar system and their order.
  4. Stories – Making up a story which contains all the key elements that you need to remember is a great way to remember a list of words, activities or presentation notes.

To improve your visual memory you need to picture images in your mind and develop a visual vocabulary:

  1. Mental images – Forming an image in your mind that captures the vital information is a very powerful way of remembering. For example, if I wanted to remember the following list of nine items: apple, briefcase, keys, umbrella, window, newspaper, tree, pen, car, I would form the following image in my mind – ” I am in a room with a desk and on the desk is an open briefcase with a newspaper next to it. I need to place the apple, pen and keys into the briefcase. Next to the desk I see an umbrella that I need to take with me. From the window in the room I can see a car outside parked next to a tree“.
  2. Grouping – Visual grouping involves associating a random list of items with unrelated objects. For example, if you were going hiking in the mountains, you would remember to take the following items because you would associate them with your trip: an umbrella could be associated with a tree; your hiking boots could be associated with rocks, a hat could be associated with a large flower; and food items could be associated with pine cones or other forest berries.
  3. Visual references – The use of visual landmarks to guide someone to a destination is very common e.g. buildings, intersections, bridges, schools, shopping centres, sports fields, statues, gardens, unique structures or places of business. An extension of this approach is to use visual references as anchors for remembering things. Also called “Method of Loci” this technique was used by ancient orators to remember speeches by associating paragraphs with the mental picture of the different rooms of a familiar building. As the orators visualized a “mental walk” through a building they would recite the paragraphs of their speeches that were associated with each room of the building.

Memory joggers can also assist you to remember specific items:

  • Keep a small notebook with you at all times and write notes to yourself. You can also use your electronic notes function on your phone or 3M Post-It notes.
  • Write lists of items that you need to remember e.g. shopping list, list of travel essentials, holiday destinations list, To-Do list
  • If you need to take something with you in the morning leave it by the door or in your car.
  • If you keep losing essential items such as your keys, decide on a specific location where you will always place the keys.
  • For medication or vitamins taken daily, place the items with something that you will use daily such as your toothbrush or drinking glass.
  • When you put something away or file a particular item, record the item and its location on a log, running list or simple database

What approach do you use to remember important items?

Dr John Kapeleris

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I have mentioned visualization in a few of my previous postings but wanted to write specifically on how you can use the power of visualization to increase your creative thinking and achieve your goals. Visualization is the technique by which you use your mind to actively and intentionally visualize mental images of situations and behaviours that influence your external being.

Visualization is a technique used commonly amongst successful athletes and sports people. For example, a successful golfer spends time to visualize the perfect stroke over and over again. As a result of repetition of the visualization process the golfer improves his or her golf scores. There is no reason why we couldn’t apply visualization techniques to our personal and work lives. For example, Albert Einstein developed his theory of relativity by visualizing what would happen if he travelled through space on the tip of a light beam. Albert Einstein used visualization techniques to contemplate and test different scenarios.

Following are five steps on how to use visualization to influence your life and your thoughts so that you achieve your goals and desires:

  1. Begin with a relaxed state of mind. Find a quiet environment with a comfortable chair, breath deeply and slowly, relaxing all the muscles in your body and slowly clearing your mind to enter your subconscious.
  2. Create your visualization scene. Use your imagination to take yourself to a location or on a journey that you feel comfortable with. The image could be an exotic location such as a tranquil beach, quiet forest or mountaintop where you feel relaxed. The location could also be your own imagined fantasy environment, such as a distant planet or journey through space.
  3. Visualize your problem, issue or opportunity. Once relaxed begin asking questions of the problem or issue you are trying to solve. If an opportunity try to visualize and play out the scene like a movie.
  4. Wait for the answer or solution to appear. Maintain a relaxed state and wait for the images, ideas or solutions that appear as a result of the visualization.
  5. Emerge slowly from your visualization. Come out of the relaxed visualization state recording or capturing notes in your journal or digital recording device.

The above procedure has been proven to work on numerous occasions in business, sport and personal life. If you don’t get the solution to your problem or new ideas the first time then continue to practice using a slightly different approach. Repetition and discipline in using the technique will result in richer and more vivid images that will continue to provide new ideas, solutions to problems and new opportunities.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The subconscious mind is the repository of all your habits, both mental and physical. It contains the basic operating system of our brains and therefore can be updated and reprogrammed.

Your subconscious has no perception of past or future; it only perceives that everything is happening now. Therefore, by convincing the subconscious mind what we want it to perceive, we can change our beliefs, that is, our habits of thought and attitude.

Beliefs are essentially neural patterns in your brain that consist of thoughts that are ingrained in your mind. Beliefs are not necessarily “the truth” but are the perception of our reality. Therefore, our beliefs have the ability to influence our desires. Beliefs tend to be self-fulfilling, that is, if we were brought up as children believing what we were told then our subconscious will continue to believe this as being real. Many of us carry negative beliefs and emotions handed down to us by our parents, teachers and peers. For example, we may have been told that we are not good enough or that we will never amount to anything. Other examples of limiting beliefs include:

  • It will never work
  • I’m not good enough
  • There’s not enough time
  • That’s just the way it is
  • Everything bad happens to me
  • It’s too hard to lose weight
  • Why are you pursuing this type of business?

And my favourite:

  • It’s not fair

What limiting beliefs are holding you back from achieving your goals and objectives along your journey to success? You need to identify what they are as they may be contradicting your goals and objectives.

Successful people are able to overcome their limiting beliefs through reprogramming their subconscious. Reprogramming your subconscious starts with understanding how your reticular activating system (RAS) works. The RAS is like a filter system in your mind that sorts through the large quantity of incoming information and searches for specific data bits that match information patterns already established in your brain. An example of how your RAS works, is when you purchase a new vehicle, let’s say a Toyota, and for the next few weeks you notice every Toyota vehicle on the road, particularly the specific model you have purchased. Your subconscious has been temporarily programmed with the Toyota logo and without you consciously knowing, your RAS identifies vehicles with the Toyota symbol.

To reprogram your subconscious mind you need to implement the following five steps. Beliefs are not easy to change, therefore you need to start immediately and be disciplined.

  1. Create the vision of what you want to achieve. Ensure you have a clear, written vision.
  2. Articulate powerful affirmations to create beliefs that support your vision.
  3. Prepare a portfolio of material in the form of written statements, audio recordings and vision boards (a visual collage of images that portray your vision).
  4. Establish a daily routine (morning and evening) reviewing the portfolio of material to allow the content to be absorbed by your subconscious. Read the written statements aloud, listen to the audio recordings and review your vision boards on a daily basis. It is also a good habit to carry a goal card with written statements in your wallet/purse and review these daily.
  5. Use visualization techniques to create a mental pattern in your mind and imprint your new beliefs that supports your vision.

Remember, the subconscious mind cannot distinguish whether an event is externally real or internally imagined. Therefore, by reprogramming your subconscious and displacing limiting beliefs with positive beliefs that support your vision you can remove the barriers that have held you back.


Dr John Kapeleris

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June 6th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity | Mind - (0 Comments)

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein

Imagination is the ability of the mind to create mental images, sensations and concepts, which helps contribute to the understanding of knowledge and the learning process. Children use their imagination as part of their early learning process to translate stories such as fables and fairy tales into vivid images in their minds. As children we do not have any boundaries or barriers. A cardboard box can turn into hours of fun for a child when they pretend it is a red racing car or a time machine.

When we read a novel our imagination is used to evoke images of the story in our minds, experience feelings of the characters and stimulate our senses. As the text is read our mind translates the words into visual images that essentially creates a fantasy world. The interpretation of the text and words of a novel may be different for each individual because each mind perceives the storyline from a different perspective.

Imagination is strong in children, however, as children develop into adults many lose their imagination.  Unless we encourage imagination in children, this ability will dissipate from lack of use, and it may be difficult to revive in later adult life.

It is easy to forget the power of imagination.  People go about their daily lives on autopilot, accepting the status quo and not challenging their current situation. People spend a large proportion of their time complaining and blaming others for their own undesirable situation, instead of taking action. Everyone has some imagination even though it may have been lying dormant for years. By using our imagination we can begin to visualise the life we desire.

Imagination starts with the word “image”. By combining images we already know, we can create something new in our minds. For example, in the 1800’s the fountain pen was created by combining the image of a quill-pen and the inkwell used as a dipping reservoir. Many new ideas emerge through the combination of existing well-known images, a process called constructive imagination.

Everyone can unleash greater imaginative capacity by developing the right mental attitude and making a concerted effort to play with images to create new combinations and connections. Set aside some time to play and create new worlds through your imagination. Who knows, you may develop the idea for the next blockbuster movie, best selling novel or new product.

What are some examples of how you use your imagination?

Dr John Kapeleris

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