Easy Peasy Ways to Improve Your Memory


“Thirty days has September, April, June and November”. When last did you sing this in your head? Say the truth, you still sang this when you almost wrote June 31 a few weeks ago. What of “State and Capital, Abia – Umuahia, Adamawa -Yola, Akwa Ibom -Uyo”?  Maybe someone asked you where Jalingo was. Rhymes and poems we learnt in nursery school decades ago and can still remember now. Our teachers knew that this was a good way to encode information in our memory.

In medical school, students developed a lot of mnemonics, acronyms and acrostics. For causes of just one disease, there can be a hundred mnemonics, each student having a different one. You should see medical students cramming their own mnemonics. Sometimes, you now enter the exam hall and there is a jam of the different cocktails of acronyms one has crammed. Other times, you might have forgotten the fake deep rhyme you composed to remember the causes of poor wound healing.

In any way, we all need to remember things. Memory is so important, we deal with it every moment we are awake consciously or unconsciously. In fact, sometimes you need it in your sleep to remember that aunty that was chasing you with a knife in the dream. From simple unconscious things like remembering the meaning of the word “remembering” as you read this, to a more conscious task of trying to cram your phone number or an even greater task of preparing for an exam, the memory plays an all important role.

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I want to share a few things that can help improve your memory. I know there are mobile phones and other gadgets that now help to store information, so some of us do not just bother. Sometimes you might just need that address and your phones are dead, or your wife sent you a list of things to buy and you forgot to save the list before ending the chat. Are you in a type of school where unfortunately your understanding is not tested and the best “crammers” get the good grades? Or you just simply want to be better at remembering long numbers like your BVN. These are a few tips.

1.Imagery: I prefer using textbooks and materials with a lot of diagrams and illustrations. It makes me understand better and the reading experience is better, and of course, this helps memory. When you use diagrams, your brain will associate it with what you are reading, which makes what you read stick better and aids recovery of the information. You can also draw in your note pad if the textbook does not provide illustrations for you. Basically, you can get your pencil and draw what you imagine the author is saying.

2.Repetition/Rehearsal: remember “two times two four! Two times three six! Two times four eight! Two times five hen! Two times six hen! Hen times ehn ehn!” We were taught this and more by repetition and rehearsal. The more you rehearse what you want to remember, the better your chances of recollecting the information. With rehearsal, you save a fraction of the time with every repetition. If you spend two hours reading something the first time before you understood, you will spend considerable less time reading it the second time and you have helped yourself store it more. Read – Recite – Check for errors – Read – Recite – Check for errors – Repeat.

3.Association: You see your friend’s boo inside another man’s car and you want to quickly cram the number plate. Don’t just say “EKY 285 YW”. Say “EKundaYo 285 Your Wife or IKOYI 285 Yemisi Williams”. Associating this new information with something that your brain already recognises helps in memory because the brain will form more connections around this new information than simply trying to cram the number. This can work in a variety of ways. John Snow and not any other person discovered Cholera, a water-borne disease many years ago. I remembered this in school because I associated the WATER-borne cholera to SNOW, rain of frozen WATER. Say whatever you like, it sha helped me. Oh, and if you watch Game of Thrones, the odds are that you will NEVER forget who discovered Cholera, because-Jon Snow? Perfect example of the power of association.

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4.Chunking: Has it ever happened when you read out your number to a friend “080 38 34 419”, the person reads it back to you as “08 03 83 44 19”, it takes you three seconds to process that it is still your number? That is because you learnt it in a different chunk from what your friend is calling out. Chunking increases the amount of information that can be stored in our short-term memory. It is easier to remember numbers when they are grouped into chunks that when you try to read them as a whole, that is one chunk – 0803834419.

5.Acrostics: this particular one is my favourite. Sometimes I spend as much time trying to form a poem as I have spent reading the whole material. An acrostic is a poem or poem-like writing in which the first letter or syllable spells out a message. I developed many acrostics in schools, most of which I have forgotten. Some will make you laugh ehn because I was actually saying nonsense but at least it served the purpose. For example, in my 200 level, I formed one to remember the twelve clotting factors in the body (yay medical school!). For Peju Tayo’s Case, Let Sesan And Peju S Please Hear Fola. Peju Tayo is my cousin, she was dating a Sesan then and my middle name is Fola. Ridiculous abi? I know. As I became more experienced, I formed better ones or NOT. LOL.

6. Acronyms: I guess this is simply obvious. The first letter of a sentence or phrase or name is used to form an acronym. APC is for All Progressive Congress and PDP for Peoples Democratic Party. HIV is for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus not Human Immuned Virus please! You can form an acronym too. Maybe you want to quickly store my address in your brain before your phone battery runs flat, just remember Dr. Lash is FRESHFive (5), Raheem Elesho Street, Harvey Road. No, I’m not vain.

There are other ways of improving memory but make do with these ones today. Have you even remembered these ones sef? You see what I did there? You did not? Ahan? Anyway, just do not forget to remember these aids of remembrance which are meant to remind you of how to remember. Thank you for commenting and sharing. Also feel free to ask questions in the comment section. For me, I Can Remember All Acronyms and Acrostics (Imagery, Chunking, Repetition, Association, Acronyms and Acrostics!)

How do you remember? Please share tips!

 About The Author

“Tiwatayo Lasebikan (code name “Dr Lash”) is a medical doctor with training and experience in psychiatry, psychology and counselling. His goal is to help people lead emotionally and mentally healthier lives.

“In Your Mind” is where Dr Lash uses his experience to help people dealing with mental health and other emotional issues. Dr Lash has recognised that there’s a dearth of information on the importance of mental health and he shall use this medium to educate us about mental health issues and how our attitudes, behaviours and thinking affect our emotional well-being.

Dr Lash offers a range of online mental health and counselling services which include relationship counselling, self-esteem and confidence building, stress management, career and work-related counselling, critical events management amongst others. Dr Lash can be reached by email at talktodrlash@gmail.com or via twitter @LashSupport.”

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