There is an old story about a man who, in ancient times, came to the court of a King, boasting that he had invented an elixir of memory. After hearing what the man had invented, the King replied, “You haven’t invented an elixir of memory—you’ve invented an elixir of forgetfulness!”
There is an element of unfortunate truth to this. In today’s world, we can write so many things down, and look so many things up, that we just haven’t had the opportunity to practice the skill of committing things to memory. So, when it becomes necessary to memorize a set of things, it can be very difficult. We might try to go at it with some sort of rote repetition, flash cards, or other difficult and boring way of drilling the facts into our head. With enough work and drudgery, this will do the trick. But consider that, to be fluent in a language, one needs to know at least 3,000 words of vocabulary (and considerably more if one wishes to be well-spoken), it is evident that the old ways of drudgery are insufficient. They get in the way of our ability to accomplish all that we would like to.
Fortunately, there are easier, and better ways to commit substantial amounts of information to memory. Rather than working against the mind (by drilling the information in), we can work with our minds. When we work with our minds, they will soak up the information like sponges—making the whole experience faster, more effective and more pleasant. While there are many effective techniques for this, I find that these three are some of the easiest and most effective.
1. Make your exposure to the information multi-sensory. We have a number of ways to take in information, and as individuals, we respond differently to stimuli from different senses. There is, however, one universal truth: the more senses that are stimulated, the more of an impression that stimulation leaves. When you are reviewing the information, don’t just look at it. Say it, listen to it, and perhaps even find a way to feel it. The more senses you engage, the more quickly and effectively your mind will retain the information.
2. Engage the subconscious mind with art or music. The subconscious mind is stimulated by art and music, and it is also where your memories are stored. By using art or music in your memorization exercises, you can open the gateway to your subconscious and dramatically increase your retention. Some ways to do this are: create or listen to the music in song. For example, when I was first learning ancient Greek, I had to learn a new alphabet. I did this easily by finding and downloading the Greek Alphabet Song. In order to learn vocabulary, I would often take a vocabulary word, and write it down on a piece of paper, and proceed to create designs and drawings all around the word, having to do with the meaning of the word. I’d spend two or three minutes with the word, and I’d remember it whenever I needed to use it.
3. Review the information right before you go to bed and again right after your get up. When you sleep, your mind synthesizes information. By making sure you’ve reviewed it right before you go to sleep, you’re putting the information on the forefront of the mind. When you sleep, your brain will be more likely to file that information away into long term memory. When you wake up, and review that information again, you will refresh the memory. These are two powerful steps to getting that information into your long-term memory.
In addition to these three tips, I encourage you to retain a hypnotist or hypnotherapist and to learn self-hypnosis. Hypnosis can be very effective in increasing your ability to learn and retain information. A few simple sessions can drastically improve your memory! There are many other methods for making memorization easier, and I would encourage you to investigate those methods and find what works for you. The most important thing to remember when you’re remembering is: work with your brain, and not against it. Your subconscious is your greatest ally, and boredom and annoyance will just shut your brain down. Make it fun, and find innovative ways to engage your mind. You’ll find that memorizing can become fun and exciting, and I am certain that you will enjoy the rewards you can reap by doing this more efficiently and effectively.
Kyle B. Varner, CHt is a Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing in Annapolis, Maryland. He maintains a blog, http://www.MindChangingHypnosis.com that contains free advice, scripts and hypnotic recordings, as well as a great deal of general information on hypnosis and self-improvement. He also offers online Self-Hypnosis Coaching.