Climbing the Stairs of Memory with Nelson Dellis

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Our guest for the week is Nelson Dellis, a memory athlete who happens to be the four-time USA Memory Champion. Founder of Memory League, he talks to us about two of his greatest passions, brain training and mountain climbing, offering some tips on the former.

You Can Train it

Everybody can do it. No matter how bad or average you think your memory is, unlocking its potential is within reach. Because our brains have a knack for memorizing spaces and images, the trick to any memory enhancement technique is visualization and subsequent connection to a word or concept we’re trying to remember.

Make Your Own Palace

To have a good memory is having an interest, and making a necessary effort.

It does take effort, however, and the different kind of it. Take repetition for instance; memorizing through repetition is possible, but an extremely tedious and ineffective chore. That’s why Nelson suggests the use of so-called memory palaces. You need to come up with a real-life space, (your house for instance), with anchor points scattered all around it. Each anchor point should represent a storage space for slotting images that translate back to the thing we’re trying to remember. Organization is the key, and, if you’ve ever wondered, these tidy memory palaces are precisely the thing that memory athletes use to magically recall all those decks of cards.

Good With Names?

Bet you are not. The problem with names is that they are just words, with no inherent meaning attached to them. The trick, or indeed, the mnemonic device for remembering a name consists of attaching our own meanings through mental images. The next time you meet someone and they tell you their name, try to attach a visual cue to it. If you’re unable to do so, then try to break the name up into syllables and then make the mental image from its consisting parts. Nelson uses his own name as an example; ‘Nelson’ irresistibly reminds of ‘nail-sun’ which conjures up the unflattering image. Doing so, try to find a distinguishing feature on the nameless person and ‘pin’ your image to it. You will be amazed at this little ploy’s efficiency.

Every Step Counts

Besides having a way with memory, Nelson is an accomplished mountain climber. His two passions have eventually resulted in creating Climb4memory, a non-profit charity organization that, through climbing, tries to raise both funds and awareness about the Alzheimer’s and the value of brain health.

A Word of Note

We all have an amazing potential for great memory. Good memory is a skill and, as such, it can be learned and perfected. Daily exercises are a great way towards this goal. If memorizing a deck of cards still sounds scary to you, try the, say, vocabulary items instead. Come up with at least 3 memory palaces and store these words where you please. Go on and try it, urges Nelson, you will soon get addicted to it.

Make sure to check out…

Nelson’s Website
Nelson’s Twitter
Climb For Memory
Memory League App
Extreme Memory Challenge; take a free test and help the cognitive disabilities cure research

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