Remembering is the storing and recalling of memories. It’s a biological process that involves dedicated brain structures. When a memory is encoded, it is dismembered and handed off to different parts of the brain for storage. Getting all these pieces back together is an inaccurate process. Hence re-membering is not perfect. Knowing that memories are formed in different categories, and that they move between categories, can help in developing strategies for improving memory and learning.

Utilize Memory Organization

There are two broad categories of memory: nonconscious and conscious and each has subcategories.

Nonconscious implicit memory automatically stores experience and concepts and plays a role unconsciously in affecting perception and behavior. These memories are the basis for forming an individual’s view of society and his or her place in it.

Nonconscious muscle memory plays a role in the mechanical execution of a series of motions, as in riding a bike or playing a musical instrument, learned through repetition over time.

Conscious short-term memory is the working memory. It’s a place for stuff that you need to hang on to for only a short time. Maintaining information for only a few seconds, it enables us to remember a current thought, and so, for instance, take part in a conversation, keep a lecture in context as it progresses, or maintain the thread of a story or movie.

Conscious long-term memory, although stored in our unconscious mind, is memory of the events and facts that we can consciously recall and verbally describe. It includes that of words, symbols, and general knowledge about our perception of the workings of the world.

The brain links information unconsciously, and you can intentionally help to maximize this effect. As you perceive new input, match it as best as possible to material already in your memory by using images, sounds, key words, and concept maps. A vital ingredient for memory is reviewing, and it is effective only when done at specific times after absorbing the information, say, for instance, after one hour, one day, one week, and six months.

Manage Stress for Enhanced Learning

It is the management of emotions that gives learners greater command over their learning. Overwhelming stress has a detrimental effect. Researchers have evidence that high stress experienced by a pregnant woman can distress the fetus, resulting in learning difficulties for the child later in life. Among infants and toddlers, high and chronic levels of stress can make learning more difficult, perhaps even shrinking the part of the brain associated with memory.

Traumatic events and enduring stress can take a toll on a person’s physical and psychological health. The memory and accompanying negative emotions of a stressful incident or condition, at any point in life, can lay dormant for many years. When triggered by some later stressful event, they can evoke negative beliefs, desires, fantasies, compulsions, obsessions, addictions, or dissociations. This toxic brew can inhibit learning and memory and generally fracture human wholeness. Unless the person feels emotionally secure, it is almost impossible for the "thinking" parts of the brain (neocortex and frontal lobes) to function effectively. The metaphor I like to use is that of a clear pool of water with silt resting on the bottom. Imagine a bunch of kids getting into the pool and disturbing the silt. The pool will no longer be clear.

How can we overcome this condition? Here are a couple of suggestions. Take three slow, deep belly breaths. This has an immediate effect of slowing down the physiology and putting you back in balance. Another way to bring calm and balance to a stressful circumstance is to disassociate by imagining yourself in a helicopter, looking down at “you” in your situation. This perspective tends to remove emotion from the mix, and the perspective provides clarity.

Maximize Primacy and Recency Events

Imagine that I recite to you a list of thirty items. I then ask you to write them down after I finish. You would remember things that are:

  • at the beginning of the list
  • unusual
  • repeated
  • at the end of the list

The remembering of the first and last items is helped by what is known, respectively, as their primacy and recency. Every study session has primacy and recency opportunities. If you study for one hour, then take a break, you get one of each. If you study for 25 minutes, take a short break, then study another 25 minutes, you get double the primacy and recency events. How great is that?

Stay Hydrated

If you are dehydrated by only five percent, your cognitive abilities are reduced by 30 percent. Of course, you may not notice this since it happens so gradually. Dehydration not only causes fuzzy thinking, but it is also a major cause of fatigue. When I begin a workshop, I ask everyone to drink some water and then take three deep belly breaths. The moisture coats the air sacs and enables more oxygen to enter the blood. The three breaths take this fresh, oxygenated blood directly to the brain.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life", visit

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Brian Walsh is a clinical hypnotherapist and a specialist in accelerated learning. He helps people in their quest for personal empowerment by promoting brain-friendly strategies using his workshops, videos, teleclasses, books, and his self-hypnosis audio CDs.

He is the author of the bestseller Unleashing Your Brilliance and a contributing author to 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. His website is