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How to improve your memory

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(CNN) -- Akira Haraguchi recited 100,000 decimal places of pi from memory. Think you need to sharpen your powers of recall? Here's how.

Untie that knot in your handkerchief: Only characters from comics do this.You can untie that string from around your thumb as well, as memory experts agree that these physical reminders are not effective tools in jogging the memory.

Mental gymnastics: If you can only remember how days there are in a month by the old saying that begins "Thirty days has September..." then your brain is already familiar with mnemonics, basic aide-memoires that rely on repetition and often simple rhymes. Adding your own imagination to these mental lists or ditties will help make them familiar and so easier to remember. Use humour and the ruder they are the better; things stick better to a dirty mind.

Peg it: If you're not inclined to be lyrical, and have a long list of things to remember, take a tip from memory masters such as Dominic O'Brien the five-time memory world champion and use a technique called pegging -- a way of associating what you need to remember with a set list of simple familiar objects. If its numbers you have trouble remembering, divide them into chunks and visualize an object that each number most resembles.

A journey through your mind: "I get a thrill from discovering the stories within pi," said Akira Haraguchi, the world's keenest devourer of pi. A more powerful way of remembering longer lists in a certain order is to combine the pegged images into a journey. Ideally it should be a journey that is familiar to you, where you can associate the things you want to remember with landmarks along the way. It is probably best if you don't use the journey home after a few drinks on a Friday night.

Tidy up your scatter-brain: Creating mental maps, and pegging things to familiar objects is all well and good if you want to memorize packs of playing cards and long-term will help develop your memory, but how are they going to help if you can't remember if you left the iron on or the where you put your keys? Alone they're not. Get organized, don't put things off and focus -- try not to get distracted by that person next to you trying to remember six packs of playing cards -- this should help if you're a bit absent minded.

Healthy body, healthy mind: As your personal research will no doubt have proved a heavy night out can result in some blanks spots when trying to remember it the following day. In some circumstances this can be a blessing in disguise, but long term blitzing of those brain cells with alcohol is the road to a Swiss-cheese short-term memory. Cutting down on alcohol won't do be enough to help sharpen the mind, eating the right food is important if you want to sharpen your long-term memory. Stock up on antioxidants from fresh fruit and vegetables, vitamin B and Omega 3 fatty acids from fish. All help protect against free radicals that can kill off brain cells.

Relax: There's no need to sit there, face contorted in agonised concentration. Take a walk or do some exercise. A more holistic approach to mind and body helped Clemens Mayer win this year's World Memory Championship. The 20-year-old German law student attributed part of his success to his daily running routine. A relaxing stroll might be enough to jog your memory, although this might be a tricky one to pull off during an exam.


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Have trouble in tests or regularly can't find your keys? Focus, visualize and try and relax

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