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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!

You may be asking yourself why you should improve your memory and learning skills in this modern age of technology. You could always do a Google search to find information or plug something into your PDA to remember it!

On the contrary, good memory skills can help you in many situations where you don't have access to recording technology. What if you think of a brilliant idea in the shower? Or while driving? Not to mention that memory skills can increase your confidence in public speaking (since you will have the speech memorized), and save you the embarrassment of forgetting someone's name (you can't very well dig out your PDA to remember someone standing right in front of you!).

The other problem with modern technology is that it gives you an excuse to let your mind get lazy and forget something. If all of your passwords, phone numbers, and schedules are in your PDA, what happens when your batteries run dry or you leave it on the bus? It's impossible to leave your brain on the bus, so why not try to get more information into your head?

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Have you ever had the experience where you knew that you knew a piece of information but you couldn't get at it because some other memory was in the way? Maybe you were trying to remember someone's name, and the wrong answer kept popping into your head. This is called blocking and occurs when incorrect information obscures what you are trying to remember. This type of memory problem becomes more common with age.

This usually happens with memories that share the same semantic space in the brain. For example, a grandmother needs to remember the names of all of her grandchildren. Her brain stores all these names in a similar way and uses similar associations to recall them. This is why she may call her grandchildren by the wrong name by accident. The memories of the names are so close together that the wrong answer sometimes gets in the way.

Luckily, a blocked memory can usually be retrieved within a few minutes. It usually pops into your head as soon as you stop trying to remember.

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OK4R is a study system similar to SQ3R that can be used when you are trying to learn material from a textbook. OK4R is an acronym for the steps: Overview, Key Ideas, Read, Recall, Reflect, and Review.

Overview

Read the headings, introduction, table of contents, and summaries to get a general idea about what the text is about.

Key Ideas

Go over the text again and look for key ideas. These are usually located in the first sentence of each paragraph and in diagrams and captions.

Read

Read the material. This is frequently the only step that students perform.

Recall

Close the book and immediately try to recall the main points of what you have read. This will help solidify the information in your mind.

Reflect

We've discussed before how meaningfulness can help improve learning. In this step, try to relate what you have read to things that you already know. Try to find significance in what you have learned.

Review

At a later time, go over the text again to review material and refresh your memory. If you notice anything that you have forgotten, study those parts again.

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One aspect that affects your ability to remember something is how meaningful the information is to you. A doctor is more likely to remember medical facts than a lawyer, who is in turn more likely to remember legal information. What this means is that the more you know about a topic, the faster you will learn additional information. The familiarity and meaningfulness of the information will provide cues to help your memory.

You can use this to help make material that you want to learn more meaningful. If the topic you are trying to learn is unfamiliar, try relating it to something familiar. As you study, see if you can find similarities to something that you are very knowledgeable about. The more familiar things that you can associate with a particular fact, the more ways that you will have to remember that fact.

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There is no evidence that significant learning can occur if you are not consciously aware of the process. Thus, learning while in deep sleep is not possible. Learning when you are barely asleep is possible, but it isn't very efficient because it's difficult to avoid waking up or falling into deep sleep. In any case, learning during light sleep only works for simple facts and the facts must be reinforced while awake.

Some studies show that you remember less if you study shortly after waking up, so it might be a good idea to give yourself some extra time in the morning before doing any memory-intensive tasks. Other studies show that people can remember information better if they go to sleep immediately after studying it. Perhaps this is because the mind continues to process the information during sleep.

Additionally, numerous studies have shown that you cannot remember material if it is presented in a subliminal manner. So, subliminal learning and subliminal advertising is not effective. When it comes down to it, there is no shortcut to learning the old fashioned way.

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