The human brain is a remarkable organ in that it is capable of taking in huge amounts of information and stimuli, process and store and brings it up to the fore as and when a necessity is created for that information. With age, brain cells begin to atrophy and die, which is why we suffer memory losses as we grow older and in more acute forms, suffer from diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer's, etc. To keep your brain and memory active, it is important to exercise the brain, just as you would for any other part of your body to stay fit. Think of the brain as a muscle that needs to be stretched and exercised often, the more regularly you exercise it, the more flexible and active it will be. Increasing your memory power is not just extensively learning by rote or constant repetition. While it helps, repetition or rote-learning is best used in conjunction with other memory-enhancing techniques. Some such techniques are described in the steps listed below, which will help you increase your memory power.
Interest and intent. For the brain to retain more memory, it is important that you be interested in that material and also have the intent to study or know more about such information. Interest and intent put together will boil down to better concentration. Often our favorite subjects are those where we have the most knowledge and expertise, so a good way to increase the memory is to recognize what interests you, why and how much.
Basic and selective learning. To begin with, there must be a basic understanding of a particular subject. Think of it as an introduction to a favorite or interesting book. Once you have an understanding of the primary content, it becomes easier to build a framework in which you can begin adding selective knowledge. It is not necessary for you to remember word-by-word the A-Z of a subject. Armed with your basic understanding, select the bits that you feel are important and concentrate on those. You will find that once you are able to separate and distinguish between what is important or not, you are better able to absorb and retain the necessary information.
Visualization and association. These are two of the best techniques used to increase memory power. Visualization refers to the creating of a mental image about a certain object or piece of data. As a very basic and simple example, if you are trying to remember the color red, you could visualize blood, or if it is the color blue, visualize the sky or the sea. Mapping an image to a particular word or reference will help you recall the information at a later point whenever you see that word or image.
Association, on the other hand, involves relating one object to another or one reference to another. For example, when you think of a pencil, you would immediately associate it with paper or eraser or a ruler, because you would use one or all of these objects at the same time you use a pencil. On a more complex scale, word association, such as stringing the first one or two alphabets of every word in a list of words describing a particular topic, will help you remember all the words in the list. For example, the name Roy G. Biv refers to all the colors in a rainbow and is made up of the first alphabet of each of the seven colors which make up the color spectrum - red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo and violet. By making up such words or abbreviations, you are actually letting your brain associate them with that particular subject or reference from which they've been created.
Exercising the brain. When we are younger, most of our waking time is spent on studying or learning and this progressively lessens as we grow older. Since we all cannot be full-time students to keep the brain active, it is important that we look for alternatives which fit in with our lifestyle and schedule, and still help keep the brain active. Examples of such activity, where you not only have fun and relax, but also keep all those nerve-ends and synapses in your brain humming are word or number puzzles - crossword or Sudoku - come to mind, gadgets and toys such as Rubik's cube, numerous questions which are available as mental aptitude tests or games, all help in exercising the brain, so that there is less wear and tear and atrophy of the brain cells.
Increasing your memory power is a combination of several factors, there is no single simple formula which ensures your memory power has increased. You can keep trying several memory-enhancing techniques in different permutations and combinations and settle down with what works for you best. Medical studies over a period of time have proved that keeping the brain active and stimulated at all times is one way of avoiding degenerative diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer's. Now there is no excuse for you not to pick up a pen or pencil and reach out for the day's crossword puzzle in your newspaper. Remember, a fit mind and fit body go a long way to increasing your life span!