Memory – Encoding – Self-prompting

Friday, March 28th, 2008 at 5:59 pm.
by pre.

The Peg System and Loci System work well, but can be be a bit abstract. It’s not often we need to memorise a phone number or even a list of topics for a speech. People don’t often say “Can you remember this list of words for me” and quite often say “can you remind me to call my mum”

So what technique can you use to remind yourself to do things later? Simple and useful techniques include writing on the back of your hand, tying knots in your hanky, programming your phone to beep at a given hour. All these techniques are good and helpful, and no sane person would do away with them entirely, but we’re not only interested in remembering things, we’re also interested in getting better at remembering things. Teaching your brain to improve. Ideally we want a system we can use which you can practice and therefore improve at each time you do so.

Think for a moment about how your brain works. It’s an associative machine. That’s why the Loci system works: imagining the location reminds you of the things you’ve left in that location. That’s why the peg system works: remembering the encoded word you’ve invented reminds you of the number because you have trained your brain to associate each digit with a letter.

So how can we use association to help us remember to buy some milk on the way home from work?

Visualising Environmental Cues

You need to set up an association in your mind. In the example of remembering to buy milk on the way home from work, you can close your eyes for a few seconds and visualise the route you take home. When you get to the point where you’d have to turn towards the shop instead of towards your house, stop. In your mind, look around, and imagine you see a giant carton of milk falling down from the sky. See yourself ducking to avoid being hit by the six foot high carton as it sloshes noisily on hitting the ground. Imagine it as vividly as you can, so that when you’re actually going home from work, your associative brain will remember seeing that image earlier in the day and pop it back into your consciousness.

The more detail you can imagine seeing when you visualise the environment you want to be reminded to do something, the more vivid, bizarre and unusual you can make the imagined event, and the more times you review the scenario in your head beforehand, the more chance there is you’ll be reminded as desired when you’re actually in that environment.

Another example: To remind yourself to listen to one of our guided meditation files at bedtime, take a moment now to visualise your bed. See it in as much detail as you can, take a second to look around the bedroom, imagine the things you’ll see as you prepare to snooze. Then imagine that, as you lift the covers to climb into the bed, a big spring hidden in the bed is released, and *boing* (imagine the noise, feel the vibrations of the spring), out pops a big pocket-watch. It wobbles backwards and forwards in front of your face for a while, completely stopping you from getting into the bed. You can’t get into the bed until you’ve dealt with the self-hypnosis that the sprung pocket-watch represents.

Replay that in your head a few times. Imagine how you’d react, how you’d feel if it really happened. Try to imagine it as if you’re remembering it, as if it’s happened before. As if it happens every time.

With luck, you’ll now be reminded each evening to listen to one of our audio files as you drift off to sleep. Perhaps the Loci/Peg system files to improve your memory in other ways! Better yet, you have learned a valuable technique on how to encode prompts into your own mind, to better use your memory.

Guided Meditation File 2 – Memory – Encoding
Backing Music “Encoding” By Chemica Solutions
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