Mar 082010

I’ve used several memory tricks over the years for such things as remembering grocery lists. I recently came across one that I hadn’t seen before, even though it’s extremely simple.  I tried out the method (called “linking”) from a website called and found that I was able to easily memorize a list of 20 items that I still easily remember today, about a week later.

To really appreciate the method, you should first try out your powers of list memorization without it. Take the following sample list, look at each item carefully, but only once, and then cover up the list and see how many of them you can remember. If you’re like me, you’ll be rather disappointed. Ready? Here it is:

  1. Phone
  2. Rose
  3. Milk
  4. Paper
  5. Dog
  6. Orange
  7. Baseball
  8. Hamburger
  9. Pants
  10. Cement
  11. Beer
  12. Poem
  13. Fireman
  14. Pencil
  15. Ladybug
  16. Clown
  17. Scotland
  18. Beans
  19. Teacup
  20. Lamp

How did you do? That bad, eh? Ok, now here’s the method. You simply paint a vivid picture of the first item on the list, a phone, and connect it to the second item on the list, a rose. Imagine that you pick up the receiver of an over-sized, old-fashioned phone, and suddenly roses start sprouting out of the ear-piece  at an alarming rate. Let that sink in for a second, and then link rose to milk. Imagine taking a brilliant red rose and using it to stir a glass of milk, causing the milk to turn bright red and smell strongly of roses. Now link milk to paper. You hold a cup made of newspaper and empty gallon after gallon of milk into it.  You get the general idea.

Go over the list again and take a moment with each item to paint a vivid picture linking it to the next item in the list. Make the pictures as memorable as possible. For example, you might:

  1. Exaggerate. Make the item absolutely huge, or impossibly small.
  2. Use color. Make the item a strange, unnatural color
  3. Multiply. Instead of one item, make it an army of them, overflowing everywhere.
  4. Use the senses. Associate loud or odd noises, odors or textures with the items.
  5. Make the picture absurd, violent, crazy or even indecent in some way.

Your mind will find images like the ones above easy to remember. Try the list again. My guess is that this time you will find it relatively easy to remember the entire list. Test yourself again tomorrow and I’ll bet you can still remember the whole list of 20 items.

Obviously this is perfect for such things as grocery lists and to-do items. In the next day or so I’ll share other potential uses.

Do you have any memory tricks you use that others might find helpful? Share them here.

Nov 162009

herbs The book is Herbs for the Mind: What Science Tells Us about Nature’s Remedies for Depression, Stress, Memory Loss, and Insomnia by Jonathan Davidson and Kathryn Connor, both MD’s. I happened across this book in the library while doing some research to help a friend with depression and anxiety. I checked this book out for them, and they loved it.

The book focuses on four particular herbs:  St. John’s wort, Kava Kava, Valerian, and Ginkgo Biloba. What these four have in common is this: They are widely used, they have been extensively studied, they have few or no side effects, and in studies, they have been shown to be at LEAST as effective, if not more effective, than popular prescription medications for various mental and psychological complaints.

Before going further, I should probably draw the readers attention to our disclaimers.  I’m not a doctor, so my opinion is not a medical diagnosis or treatment suggestion. However, Davidson and Connor ARE doctors, and in fact Duke University psychiatrists. Their research is meticulous and cautious. If there isn’t any conclusive evidence that a particular herb helps a particular condition – they say so quite clearly.

But with the evidence in hand, the doctors find great possible benefits in the use of these four herbs. In general, St. John’s wort is well established in treating depression, Kava Kava for dealing with anxiety, Valerian for insomnia, and Ginkgo Biloba for memory loss. These are, of course, generalities. Davidson and Connor go into considerable detail about these particular conditions. They answer extensive questions on what works and what doesen’t, what to expect, what to be cautious about.

They also present information about the physiology of these conditions, the history of the herbs, and their physiological actions. If you are skeptical about the various claims of herbal remedies (and some skepticism is warranted) this is the book for you (or your doctor). Nothing but the facts.

I had to renew this from the library twice to accommodate everyone who wanted to read it, and expect to buy a copy shortly. It’s too valuable not to have in the library.  My friend, by the way, totally ignored all my disclaimers and warnings and started trying Kava for anxiety. She found it to work far better with far fewer side effects than her prescribed anti-anxiety medication.

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