Look at you! Here you are with this brilliant computer in your head, and it is faster and more advanced than any other machine on the planet. This computer has almost unlimited storage space and a lightning fast processor capable of producing reactions faster than you can recognize what you’re reacting to.
You have been collecting data your whole life, and your subconscious mind has been using that information to create beliefs, emotional responses, physical reactions, and automatic behaviors, all to keep you safe and running smoothly. And even as awesome as it is, sometimes those programs become outdated, and things don’t as well as you’d like them to. Like a computer, your subconscious mind can be reprogrammed, updated, and upgraded with new information. It’s not difficult to do, you just have to know how.
Learning and Remembering
Your brain is like a sponge, soaking in information from everything in you and around you. Getting information is easy. All you need to do is encounter it. Learning is adding the new information to your memory, and having it readily available so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.
Somewhere in your mind you have stored everything you have ever learned. Think of your memory like a giant warehouse filled with filing cabinets. Memories are stored in order of impact, or importance. For example, memories that involve a lot of muscles, like riding a bike and walking, or that have a big emotional component, like your favorite childhood toy, are stored in the front of the room, clearly labeled. Memories with little to no emotional or physical impact, like the name of that guy who played that character in that movie, are stored farther back in the warehouse, where it’s dark, and are more difficult to access quickly.
Your brain accesses information by firing, or activating, brain cells. These cells, called neurons, form physical connections to other cells that make the connections faster. These associations are formed automatically and make it easier to access information. So let’s imagine that you have a brain cell that is assigned the color blue. When you think of the color blue, your brain fires off that brain cell, which in turn fires off all the other brain cells that are associated with it, allowing you to think of all the blue things you’ve seen or imagined.
Conversely, When you think of an object, the neuron assigned to that object fires, and fires up all the brain cells associated with it, so you are able to remember what color it is, and where you saw it, and maybe even what you were doing at the time, and how you felt about it. This chain of thoughts happens because all the neurons associated with that object are connected and firing together. These neuron connections, or associations, are like a map to all the information you have stored in that memory warehouse. So, the more connections and associations you create, the more ways there are to get to the information you want to remember, and the easier it is to recall.
A great example of how you can use this to your advantage is by using a defining characteristic of a person to remember their name. Imagine you are at a party, and you are introduced to five people all at once. You will find it easier to remember their names if you can associate their name with something about them. Visual cues seem to work best. As you are being introduced, you could say to yourself “Jenny with the red hair, Bill with the glasses, Tom with the blue shirt, Laura with the green dress, and Ellen with the yellow scarf.” Doing this creates visual cues, like landmarks, that connect more brain cells to the information you want to remember and makes it easier to recall.
There are several ways to make these associations, and they all start with paying attention. Concentration is a critical factor in memory formation. When we multitask we tend to forget information more easily. Have you ever entered a room only to forget why you did? You would be more likely to remember if you weren't simultaneously planning your dinner that night. This brilliant computer you have is amazing, but it can only do so many things at one time. It is also why people who suffer from depression or anxiety have a harder time remembering things, because both conditions interfere significantly with the ability to concentrate.
As we said, learning is adding new information to your memory, and having it readily available so you can use it later on. So, to learn faster, we need to get that information into our memory in a way that makes it easier to retrieve. It helps to remember that memory is tied to our five outer senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and especially sight. Memory is primarily visual. This is true even if you are not a visual thinker or if you have trouble picturing things in your mind. You can use this to your advantage.
Remember the example of remembering people you met at a party? You can take that to the next level by picking out a single defining visual characteristic of each person and connect it to a visual representation of their name. For example, you can remember Mike who has large ears by creating a mental picture of a microphone (a "mike") clearing those big ears. Doing this connects more neurons in your brain, making the connections stronger and the information easier to find because there are more ways to get to it. You get extra points for creating some kind of an emotional connection. You will have a hard time forgetting Mike’s name if you imagine that microphone cleaning big gross gobs of wax out of those big ears.
Do you forget where you left your keys, your sunglasses, or your wallet? The next time you put something down somewhere, pause for just a moment to notice where you've placed it, and then in your mind, imagine it exploding. Blow it up action movie style. You won't forget where you put it.
If you're trying to memorize a large number of facts, it will be easier if you can find a way to relate them in your mind. One way to do this is to imagine a memory tree. Construct big branches first to represent the big pieces of information. Then add leaves to represent the smaller facts and figures. Branches and leaves should carry labels that are personally meaningful to you in some way, and the organization of the facts, or leaves, should be logical. This method uses another handy techniques known as “chunking” Chunking involves breaking down big amounts of information into smaller, easier to remember pieces. We do this a lot with phone numbers, remembering each set, rather than the whole number together. For example, our phone number is 8025660465. As you read it to yourself now, you are automatically breaking it down into smaller pieces. 802. 566. 0464.
Writing out facts in lists improves recall. It works by adding associations of muscle memory and visual cues. It is even more effective if you make the lists actively instead of passively. In other words, don't just copy the list of facts you're trying to learn. Actively recall each item and then write it down again and again.
Take Care of Your Brain
Like anything else that you want to keep working well for a long time, you have to take care of your brain. Sleep allows your mind to have some down time to integrate the things you’ve learned, recharge your batteries, and resolve outstanding physical and emotional issues. Eating well gives you the fuel you need to keep functioning. Play activates your creativity, which makes you a better problem solver. There are thousands of ways to take care of yourself. Do the ones that feel right to you.∎
Karen Gray is a Certified Professional Hypnotist, a Certified Hypnosis Instructor, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (802) 566-0464.
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