By Punya Srivastava
Have trouble doing so? No sweat. Punya Srivastava noses out ways of amping up your memory power
Newspapers are rife with stories of people who leave behind lakhs of rupees or stashes of jewellery in autos and cabs, and sashay off. Either these people have too much money to bother about a few paltry lakhs, or they have a really poor memory.
A poor memory is a hazardous possession. One walks on egg shells never quite sure when one is going to goof up. Will you forget your wife’s birthday, leave the house without turning off the gas, forget to give the baby her feed, go blank during an exam, or lock yourself out of the house? A poor memory is an invitation for disaster to strike.
But what would you say if I told you that there is no such thing as a poor memory?
You heard that right. The human memory is infinite. Yes, infinite – multiple times the storage capacity of your latest terabyte hard-drive. Mindboggling, isn’t it? But what is even more mind boggling is that we don’t even use 10 per cent of this capacity in our whole lifetime.
According to Paul Reber, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, USA, our brain’s memory storage capacity can be roughly estimated to be around 2.5 petabytes or a million gigabytes. This implies that if a human brain worked like a digital video recorder in a TV, the amount would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows, which is akin to leaving a TV switched on for more than 300 years! And the good news is that the memory storage capacity is ever increasing, all thanks to the exponentially increasing neuro-cells. The human brain consists of around one billion neurons and each neuron forms around a thousand connections to other neurons, resulting in more than a trillion connections. They combine in such a way that each one helps with many memories at a time, and this is what expands the human memory storage capacity. And even though these neurons degenerate with age, the networking between them ensures an intact memory.
Sharpening the memory
“Memory is the combined process of three Rs: Register, Retention and Recall,” says Mithilesh Chudgar, Founder of Centre for Excellence in Performance, Ahmedabad. He has recently come up with Readography ©, a scientifically designed technique which allows students to absorb information from books at an extremely high speed. This technique is based on the basis of research in the fields of brain, memory, learning and peak performance.
So no matter how poor a memory you may think fate has bestowed on you, the truth is you can improve it phenomenally. Each individual on this planet, at any given day, is capable of utilising his or her maximum brain potential. According to Mithilesh, one can boost one’s memory by enhancing registering, retaining and recalling skills.
Register and retention
“In order to register, which is the first step in increasing memory, use different techniques. Try reading aloud, reading in the mind, taking a speed reading course, walking in the room while reading, highlighting key words,” Mithilesh suggests. These techniques are beneficial not only to students, but also to every other person.
Every person learns through three channels of input – auditory, visual and kinesthetic – of which one channel is normally dominant for most people. For example, if a person’s auditory input is stronger than the other two, he or she will best learn through ‘listening’. This can significantly increase the person’s retention skill. Another way of boosting retention is ‘repetition’. This works very well for students particularly. Mithilesh also suggests making mental images and metaphorically linking these images with the concepts or information in order to spike memory power.
One can also learn and practice Mind Mapping, a concept that Dr BK Chandrashekhar, a well known Delhi-based healer and facilitator, swears by. For example, if you wish to remember a to-do list or a shopping list, instead of merely remembering the product names, recall their images in a serial order. For instance, if your shopping list includes eggs, bread, milk, and sugar, retain a memory of French toast, which uses all these ingredients. This would enhance your retention and recall process when you are out in the market.
Dr Vijayalakshmi Panthaiyan, Founder of Alpha Mind Power, Chennai, suggests mindfulness or being in the present as an effective way of retaining whatever input one receives. The effectiveness also depends on the importance one gives to any input. “For example, if we are introduced to a person who is a passing acquaintance, there is every chance one would forget his name. But, on the other hand, if it is a relationship of great importance, then one cannot afford to forget the name and the brain retains it. So, by giving sufficient importance to inputs, we can ensure that we retain them,” she explains. When the mind is filled with too many thoughts, then the inputs are not received and retained well. With practice of meditation, a person finds it easier to be calmer and in the present.
“Constant positive affirmations like ‘I can easily remember everything’, and ‘any information I need is provided to me by my memory easily and effortlessly’ can also significantly help improve one’s retention and recall abilities. Affirmations act like strong commands to the mind, which in turn converts your wish into reality by keeping the brain always fit and fine,” says Sunil Parekh, international success coach and human potential trainer at RISE academy. Practice this every time you leave your home instead of worrying about forgetting important stuff behind.
When you enhance registration and retention, the recollection enhances automatically. Interestingly, there is a seven-second rule that states that if you pay attention to anything that you want to remember for seven seconds, then you’ll be able to recall almost anything that is of importance to you. This would help you recall the last place where you left your spectacles, if they are not on your head already! “Today, the whole world is focussed on enhancing recall, in other words, results. In the Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishna instructs us to focus on work, and not results. When one focusses on enhancing registration and retention, he or she is focussing on work, and not on results. When the quality of work is enhanced, the quality of result is bound to enhance,” observes Mithilesh.
According to Dr Panthaiyan, meditation may help a person improve the quality of brain functioning in many aspects. During meditation, the brain functions at a more powerful level which has a good healing and empowering effect. Experiencing this level every day is beneficial for the brain, and ensures better focus. When you begin the day with a good meditation experience, you will find that throughout the day the brain energy level is more. This makes a person much more powerful and his performance in any aspect of life is seen to be better.
Tackling memory lapses
That memory weakens with age is a belief that most people have. There are people who are 90-plus and still able to remember everything. “Every time you complain ‘my memory is going down’, you reinforce that message in your brain,” says Deepak Chopra in his book, Super Brain.
Sunil Parekh says, “My grandfather was able to remember names, places, events, even at the age of 102. Take care of your mind and the mind will take care of the rest,” Being physically fit is another significant way of tackling memory lapses. “I have found that when a person’s physical fitness level is good, then his brain functioning is also better,” says Dr Panthaiyan. She adds, “This is because exercise improves the secretion of endorphins which gives a person a feeling of euphoria. This again leads to a better functioning of the neurotransmitters in the brain. A study from Stockholm showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.”
Food also plays an important role in sharpening a person’s memory. Food rich in flavonoids like apples, blue berries, red onions, leafy vegetables and omega-3 fats help boost memory.
“Mind control is a subject that needs to be taught to people at a very young age. Keeping the mind fit will ensure that the body is fit, which in turn ensures that one can remain healthy, fit and full of energy and vitality until the last day of his or her life. The memory automatically stays sharp,” concludes Parekh.
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