Improve Your Memory

How to sharpen your mind and improve your quality of life

How good is your memory? I just read an article the other day that 37 percent of women—or wait, was it 73 percent? Like the old proverb goes, today is the yesterday, no—today is the tomorrow that you put off …. Oh, what did I come in this room for? Does this feel familiar?

Few of us have naturally great memories. Whether it’s retaining tasks or names or an important spiritual principle from the Bible, forgetfulness is frustrating and debilitating and affects your quality of life.

Memory is essential to salvation. Like any parent, God needs His children to remember what He teaches them. With something so crucial, you cannot simply say, Oops, forgot; oh well.

Maybe you never thought of this, but memory is like so many other aspects of this physical creation: God designed it to be improved, but you can do so only through diligentwork. Generally, we only recall those things we have repeatedly studied.

How much easier it would be if you could hear something just once and retain it permanently! But easier isn’t always good for you. God wants you to develop godly character. He created your mind to require consistent, daily study in order to remember and recall. He created your memory to require exercise and discipline in order to become sharp. He wants to see how hard you are willing to work in order to remember things.

Here are five points on how to improve your memory:

1) Remember by being impressed:

Whether something locks into your memory depends on the strength of the impression it makes when you encounter it. It’s like driving a nail into a board. If you tap on it lightly, it will not penetrate and fasten. Something that makes little impression on your mind will fade from your memory. Whatever you want to remember, think of ways to make it leave a stronger impression on your mind. For example, don’t read over that section of the book the same way you normally read. Stop and let the words sink in. Engage them: Ask why the writer or speaker chose to use the word “values” instead of “virtues,” for example. Take notes; allow yourself to be creative. Spend time with your notes; read them out loud to yourself; rewrite them in the form of a test—whatever it takes.

2) Remember by concentrating:

When you study, you won’t remember much if you only read casually and quickly, like you would read a novel. Studies show the act of concentrating releases hormones that set off a chain reaction of signals through memory-forming areas of the brain. When studying, eliminate distractions: Turn off the music; silence your phone; turn off your e-mail. The more you concentrate like this, the easier it becomes, and the better you will get at it. Once you are free from distraction, focus in on the words and their meaning. Actively engage the book, scripture, face, name, conversation or whatever it is you want to remember, and bring your whole mind to bear on that one thing.

3) Remember by meditating:

Think about what you study. Ask yourself how it applies to you and what lessons you should take from it. In studying the Bible, when you read a history, imagine yourself in that situation. When you read a principle of Christian living, ask yourself whether you are obeying it. When you face a decision, think about which scriptures apply to your situation. When you read prophecy, consider whether these ancient words match any modern situations you read in the news. When you have moments throughout the day, think about what you have been studying. Every now and then, resist the urge to turn on the radio as you drive to work or to pull out your phone as you stand in line. Use the time instead to concentrate on things you want to remember. The more you meditate, the more you will remember.

4) Remember by talking:

If you want to remember something, talk to others about it. Share it. A large body of research shows that thinking about or discussing an event immediately after it occurs greatly enhances retrieval ability. This practice can also convert short-term memories into a long-term, more permanent form. So talk with your spouse about what you just read or heard. Bring up the book you read at the dinner-table discussion. Discuss what you remember about the latest news over lunch with others who are interested in the same topic.

5) Remember by repeating:

If you encounter something only once, you are likely to forget it. Go over it again and again, and you will drill it in. In fact, studies show the key to locking things in long-term memory is repetitionat precisely timed intervals. After hearing a lecture, for example, get a first quick review in as soon as possible. Within 24 hours, review it again. This one-day-after refresher is shown to boost memory back to around 95 percent of what you originally knew. Then, do it again a week later—even if only for five minutes. Each time you review and repeat what you need to learn, you make the impression in your mind a little deeper, until it is locked into your long-term memory.

Your memory is an important gift from God. A sharper memory means a higher quality of life now and in the future. So put in some work at sharpening it!