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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

Over-learning is a simple technique that helps you improve your memory. Over-learning is the repetitive study of something until it becomes second nature. Even after you think you have learned something, if you continue to study it, you reinforce it in your memory. This practice not only strengthens learning, but it also improves recall speed.

Over-learning is the idea behind flashcards, but it can be useful for more things than just your math quiz. Try something as simple as a list of items on a piece of paper that you carry with you. Read through the list several times a day while waiting for the elevator, at a stoplight, in line at a store, before going to sleep, etc. You will learn these items better and recall them more quickly.

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Earlier we discussed the Link System for remembering lists. This is an extremely effective mnemonic system. Let's practice with this list of 20 words. You may think that it's impossible, in only a few minutes, to memorize a list of 20 words in order, but it's actually quite easy. In an earlier practice we gave you some sample visualizations to make, but it's actual more effective if you make your own, so we're going to leave you alone this time. Using the link system, spend at least 3 minutes visualizing these objects and you should have no problem remembering them.

List:
Drums, Teeth, Belt, Rocket, Sports Car, Tennis Ball, Scissors, Pipe, Nail, Grass, Turtle, Wedding Ring, Earth, Dust, Bed, Plate, Candy, Light Bulb, Business Card, Computer

Now close your eyes and try to recall the entire list. See how easy it was? To prove the effectiveness of this technique, make up a different list and try to memorize it without using the link system. Do you see how hard it is without the link system?

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Visual associations are a key part of many mnemonic systems. At first, making visual associations may feel unnatural, and it may slow you down, but keep practicing. The more you practice forming visual images, the quicker you will get. Creating visual images will always take a little extra time regardless of how fast you get, so it might not be the best strategy to use when the material you are trying to learn is being presented very rapidly. For material that you can learn at your own pace, using imagery will help. Even though it may take longer to go through the material once, you will need fewer repetitions and thus you will save time in the long run.

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Many of our mnemonic systems rely on making visual associations. Visual associations are very effective in recalling concrete material that can be easily pictured in the mind. Abstract material is often difficult to visualize, although the phonetic system does do a good job at making numbers concrete.

For abstract material, verbal associations are much more effective. Verbal associations are things like rhymes, acronyms and acrostics.

You should never rely on one mnemonic system for all of your learning. When you are studying something, try to determine if the material is abstract or concrete and pick a mnemonic system that best suits the material.

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We have written about many different types of Mnemonics and Systems (Peg, Phonetic, Loci, etc). Using a system is a very effective way to study because you can reduce the number of repetitions necessary to learn the material. This gives you extra time to over-learn it, or to learn something else. Over-learning always helps to improve retention regardless of whether you use a mnemonic system.

One thing to keep in mind is that using a mnemonic system does not magically implant the information into your memory forever. It only allows you to speed up the normal process. Thus, you will still need to review the material from time to time if you want to retain the information. The good news is that it is much easier to review material if it has a mnemonic attached to it.

Mnemonics are sometimes taught in the classroom, and sometimes the teacher provides actual associations that you can use. This is good for people who are untrained, but studies have shown that if you create your own associations, you will learn the material more quickly because it will be more meaningful to you.

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