This article has everything you need to know about how to build memory palace.
Do you ever get the feeling that you’re forgetting something? Maybe a word? Or a date you need to put down for your test? Ever felt like there was a word at the top of your tongue but you just couldn’t place or find it?
Or maybe you want to know an insanely huge amount of stuff, you’re just that kind of person who loves to be prepared. Then you definitely need to build a mind palace!
A mind palace, also known as a memory palace, a memory theatre, a memory journey or method of loci (loci being Latin for place), is a memory enhancement strategy. With this strategy, or trick if you wish, you could actually take your mind to greater heights.
The mind palace is a mnemonic device that has been around for a long while. It was actually adopted by ancient Greek and Roman systems. It was used by some of the most prominent leaders of that era. Cicero for example, a Roman lawyer and politician, used this trick to memorize his very long speeches.
In modern times, this technique has also been used multiple times. Sherlock Holmes is one person who makes use of this technique. He used it to solve all his intricate and mind boggling investigations, though it was represented on a very dramatic scale.
Also, Dominic O’Brien, who is eight time champion of world memory did something with this method. He memorized fifty four decks of cards (2,808 cards). He looked at each of the cards just once. He did this using the mind palace method. Yet another person who used this method and made excellent results was a character in Thomas Harris’ novel, Hannibal. Hannibal, a serial killer, stores patients details in his head and uses these details to kill them.
The mind palace is therefore not an actual physical palace. It is a set of rooms that you build in your mind. In Sherlock Holmes, this concept is heavily dramatised as you see Holmes getting into his mind which is an actual room, or house so as to analyze all the details and eventually solve a case. For the average person, this is not quite how the mind palace works.
In order to build up your memory palace and reach full potential with it, the first thing you have to do is dissociate yourself from Sherlock Holmes or any other fictional character that made use of this technique. Remember that their minds were created and shaped by the creators for more dramatic effects.
Yes, your mind is meant to store information and help you give out this information when need demands it. Think bigger scale though. Think of all the potential you could reach with a mind palace. Your memorization skills and sharp thinking would surprise even you. You can make use of the mind palace in a variety of ways. It doesn’t limit itself to studying for an exam. You could use it when preparing for a project, learning a skill, learning a new language or even when memorizing for a speech.
If this is something you have wanted to achieve with no success. Don’t worry. With some practice and planning, you could actually make it work. But first things first. You need to know how to build a mind palace.
How To Build Memory Palace
According to a myth spread by Cicero, the creator and the first person who made use of a mind palace was Simonides of Ceos. He supposedly used this when he attended a banquet that ended up in tragedy. After getting his poem insulted by the host of the banquet, Simonides stepped out to meet two other young men who had called him.
Mysteriously enough, he didn’t see them and as he turned to get back into the banquet hall, he noticed that it was collapsing, with all the other banqueters in it. These ones were badly crushed and their remains were barely identifiable. Myth has it that Simonides was bale to name each of them based on where they had been sitting in the hall.
So the location of these people played a major part in their identification. And so, getting a location would be the first step to use to effectively build up a strong and reliable memory palace.
1. Visualize a room or a set of rooms.
The first thing you should do is pick your location. We advice you to choose a place that is familiar to you, one that you can navigate through even with your eyes closed. This is because, when we know a room, it is easier for us to remember it. And so, you will definitely need to be familiar with it so as to explore it with your mind’s eye.
Size doesn’t matter here. You could decide to pick your commute track; the road from the bus stop to your house; a church; your bedroom even! It’s your choice at the end of the day. Just make sure that you are very familiar with this place. And remember that, the more rooms you have in your mind palace, the more space there is for more memories.
This leads us to the next step.
2. Walk through your chosen location.
Don’t just imagine a static location. This will confuse you. Make your mind familiar with the place you picked. Walk through it a number of times until your mind is completely at ease with it.
Choose where you will start your walk from. You could start from the door, or you could choose to start from the couch, the bed or maybe the bus stop. You could even start from your front porch and go from there.
It is important to recall this route in a particular order because changing or switching it up would just confuse you and mess with your whole memory palace. So, to get it in a particular order in your mind, you could walk through it physically and mentally at the same time, making sure to note where each object is placed. Your journey through your location should be coherent, as this will help to memorize data easily with it later on.
3. Mark each distinctive spot.
This step is just as essential as the others. Make sure you remember every object or spot that will be going into your mental palace. What you are trying to memorize doesn’t matter much in this step. It could be test dates for an exam or a speech. Just note that each piece of information you have to store should correspond to a particular spot in the location or route you’ve mapped out. So the more information you need to remember, the more spots you should add to your mental palace.
This is why you need to be extremely familiar with your location so that you won’t confuse one object or spot with another.
To list out the features or spots, we propose you do this. Start off your mental walk with a distinctive feature in your location. If you picked your bedroom, then you would probably start your walk with your bedroom door. Analyze the room. What feature stands out the most when you get it? It could be the bed that is sitting in the center of the room. Or maybe the full length mirror that has fur covering it.
Make sure to mark each of these features and map out how you will go from one to the other. You could number them if you wish. Or you could write them down on a piece of paper so as not to forget. But remember that each of them is important. This is because they will serve as markers for the information you want to remember.
4. Practice your mind palace.
You are not perfect. And so your memory palace does not have to be perfect off the first try. Revise it as much as possible and stop when you feel comfortable with it.
What you could do is draw out your mind palace and the location you chose for it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure it is coherent enough for you to follow it. Draw it out a couple of times so as to master it. And make sure that each location you are going to use is placed in the correct order so as not to confuse yourself later on.
You could also ask a friend for help. Recite the map you drew verbally. And let them tell you whether your locations are accurate.
That is it! You’ve built your memory palace. Make sure to familiarize yourself as much as you can, so that using it would come naturally to you. This takes us to the next topic: how to use your newly built mind palace.
How to Use Your Mind Palace
Okay you’ve built your mind palace. You’ve set up your spots, mapped out your locations and marked the distinctive features that will serve you later. What is next? How do you actually use this palace? Let’s go through the steps.
What you are doing here is mostly association! That is the main word. You associate everything in the mind palace you built to actual things you want to remember.
5. Associate spots in your memory palace to what you need to remember.
The first thing you should do is build out what you want to remember. You could make a list. Are you writing an exam? An English exam for example? You could write down the names of the characters you want to remember, the main themes in the book you’re supposed to write on.
Make sure that you don’t put a lot of information in one place as you might end up confusing yourself. For example, if your memory place is your bedroom, then when memorizing a speech, the first five sentences could be at your door, the next five on your door knob and so on.
Accumulating many ideas is one spot is never the answer as this is only going to help in confusing you. Also, one thing you could do is place information on your route according to how you would like to memorize it. What way, it will be easier to retain.
If two ideas have to be kept separate from each other, then put them at opposing ends. For example, you could put one theory at the door knob, then put another theory in the bin. That way, you will never put them next to each other. And you will definitely not confuse yourself.
6. Associate symbolic images with ideas.
The next thing you should do is associate. What do we mean by associate you ask? First of all, look at what you have to memorize. Write down the ideas (and the spots you attributed to them), then use visual representation for each idea.
Simply put, associate each of the ideas you need to memorize to a matching image (1). This trick is known as a memory peg. And it is one hundred percent effective as we tend to remember things more when we see them.
So let’s say, you have a chemistry test. You want to remember the first twenty elements of the periodic table. Then, your door knob would be Helium since it is the second element in the periodic table. You could therefore associate the element with balloons, because guess what is used to pump air into them? Helium.
It has been proven that associating an idea we have to a symbol, particularly when it is a visual symbol makes it a lot more easy for us. So make sure to try this.
Add a weird image to the original symbolic image The next step is maybe weird and disturbing. But trust us. It works! You have your location. You have the idea you want to memorize. You have your symbolic image. What you should do now is make that image as disturbing and as grotesque as you can.
So, your first stop is the door. You want to remember that helium is the first element of the periodic table. And the symbol you’re associating to this element is balloons. Picture yourself them in a big balloon, coming to your bedroom door. You could make the balloon really extraordinary, maybe it has unicorn wings. This way, you will be able to jog your memory even more quickly.
Note that you could also use negative images as these work just as well. Just make sure that they have a clear correlation with what you want to recall.
7. Associate other mnemonic tools to your image.
Okay, you have your ideas in place. You know which spot you’re going to attribute to every idea. You know what image you are going to use to jog your memory, and you’ve attached an equally grotesque symbol to it. Now the next step.
This one is not really necessary but we have found out that it does help, especially if you’re the type who needs a lot more motivation to remember things. Or if the information you are trying to remember is longer than average.
8. Associate another mnemonic tool to your symbolic image.
Mnemonic tools are just another name for memory tools. These ones help you to store things in your brain effectively. And when you do this, they help you recall these things when you need them. An example of a mnemonic tool is abbreviations. Making an abbreviation of whatever you need to recall with help you.
Let’s take the example of the periodic table again. You could use the popular rhyme for the first twenty elements.
Hey – Hydrogen
He – Helium
Likes – Lithium
Beating – Beryllium
Boys – Boron
Coming – Carbon
Near – Nitrogen
Our – Oxygen
Field – Fluorine
New – Neon
Nations – Sodium
Manufacture – Magnesium All – Aluminium
Silicon – Silicon
Products – Phosphorus Susan – Sulfur
Cleans – Chlorine
Around – Argon
King – Potassium
Cameron – Calcium
Reciting this and memorizing it would help you.
How to Practice Your Memory Palace
Now you’re done building your palace. You have assembled all the things necessary to efficiently recall a speech you need to say or ace an exam you are going to write. But what next?
This technique is a new one to you. So the best thing you could do is memorize it. Everyday, you could spend at least fifteen minutes going through your memory palace. This is to make yourself even more familiar with your memory palace. Instead of just walking through your day normally, look at the items in your everyday life and associate them to those in your memory palace.
Walk through your memory palace everyday, both physically and mentally. The more you walk through it, the more familiar you will be with it. And the better you will be able to recall your ideas.
When you are done using the information you stored in your memory palace, make sure to clean it! Of course you can have different memory palaces, with different ideas stacked in them.
But you could also clean up one memory palace and put in new ideas. Use the same methods that we mentioned above and effectively store new information in your memory palace! Make sure to clean your memory palace if you feel it is getting too big and too confusing. Just delete data you do not need from it.
Make sure to build new palaces for different topics. If you want to add up new topics to your brain, but you don’t want to to remove the old information, the safest way to do this is to build a new memory palace. Make sure to choose a different place for your new memory palace so as not to confuse yourself.
There is no limit on the number of memory palaces you can build. Just make sure that you are careful about the information you store in these palaces. Because if they are too similar, at the end of the day, you might end up confusing yourself and mixing up your information.
Building a memory palace is a great thing to do. It is fun, educative and it simulates your brain. This method is also very good with helping you store information in your brain. We definitely advice you to try it.
Make sure that you practice practice and practice. Walking through your brain palace, and familiarizing with it, you could store up information in it for a long period of time, just sparking your mind when you need to use it.
You have the right to create as many memory palaces as you want. You can make them as simple or as elaborate as you want to. You could even keep it blank, as it awaits the idea you are going to store there. You could think of it as a bank, just waiting for you to full it up with knowledge.
Make sure that when you are memorizing, don’t try to keep every single thing in your brain. Take the key points and put them in your memory palace. Or you could make a summary then place it in your bank. Keep reminding yourself of the tiny details when you want to recall the idea in question, that way, you’ll spark your memory (2).
You should know that you can use a mind palace for anything. Learning a new language, in memorizing a new recipe, in writing a test or an exam, in memorizing a speech. Just create a blank “canvas” and add in your ideas as you deem fit.
There are obviously other methods to store data and recall it when necessary. But so far, for us, mind palaces are the best. They combine knowledge, fun and activity. It is also not at all difficult to learn.
Mind palaces, in my opinion are the best ways to learn a skill, a language, memorize a speech or your notes. They are effective and what is great is that, you could have multiple mind palaces on different topics. If you haven’t tried it yet, you definitely should.