Category Archives: Psychology

Children now ‘biggest perpetrators of sexual abuse against children’

Children now ‘biggest perpetrators of sexual abuse against children’

Police data shows 52% of alleged offenders in England and Wales are minors – a situation exacerbated by ‘accessibility of violent porn’

Boys are watching violent porn on their smartphones then going on to attack girls, police have said, as new data showed children are now the biggest perpetrators of sexual abuse against other children.

Police data shows there has been a quadrupling of sexual offences against children, in what officers say is the most authoritative analysis of offending against youngsters.

The report from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said the offending by adults against children was usually more serious, but said they were alarmed by the growth of sexual offending by those aged 17 or under.

In one case a child of four was referred to police after allegedly using a smartphone to upload an indecent image of a sibling. Police declined to give any more details.

In 2022 a total of 107,000 reports were made to police in England and Wales alleging sexual offences against children, ranging from rapes and, in a quarter of cases, to the making and sharing of indecent images.

The NPCC said 52% of alleged offenders were children, compared with around one third a decade ago.

Police received reports of 14,800 rapes and sexual assaults against children aged 10 to 17 where the suspect was classed as a child, the overwhelming majority being boys.

Ian Critchley, the NPCC lead for child protection, said: “This is predominantly a gender-based crime of boys committing offences against girls.

“I think that is being exacerbated by the accessibility of violent pornography and the ease with which violent pornography is accessible to boys and, therefore, a perception that is [normal] behavior, and that person can carry out that behavior that they are seeing online in the most violent way against other peers as well.

“Clearly the accessibility to smartphones has just rocketed, not just in relation to 11- to 16-year-olds, but in relation to under-10s as well. That accessibility has really exacerbated that and I think this is a debate that does need to be had in our society.”

A third of attacks take place within the family, the most common setting for abuse, and eight out of 10 victims knew their attacker.

Police said it is estimated as few as one in six offences are reported to them.

Critchley said the clear-up rate – where someone is charged or cautioned – was 12% where a child is physically attacked and 11% for indecent images offences. The clear-up rate for child-on-child attacks is 15% for sexual assault and 12% for rape.

He said offences involving AI were already being reported to police. These include “nudification” where the photo of a person – usually female – is digitally stripped of clothing to make it appear as if they are naked.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) announced it was increasing the capacity and raising awareness of its helpline through which adults can report suspicions about child abuse. The charity last month said it was taking 14 months for a defendant in a child abuse case to stand trial after being charged, placing a greater strain on victims.

Wendy Hart, the deputy director for child sexual abuse at the National Crime Agency, said about 830,000 adults in the United Kingdom are estimated to pose a danger to children. “The severity of offending has increased, as have the complexities faced by law enforcement in tackling it,” she added.

“We are now seeing hyperrealist images and videos of abuse being created using artificial intelligence, for example, while the rollout of end-to-end encryption by technology platforms makes it a lot more difficult for us to protect children.”

Life Is Death, Death Is Life

Life Is Death, Death Is Life

Death is separation of the soul from the physical body. Death becomes the starting point of a new life. Death merely opens the door to a higher and fuller form of life. Birth and death are jugglery of Maya. He who is born begins to die. He who dies begins to live. Life is death and death is life. No one comes, no one goes. Brahman or the eternal alone exists.

Just as you move from one house to another, the soul passes from one body to another to gain experience. Just as a man casting off worn-out garments takes new ones, so the dweller in this body, casting off worn-out bodies, enters into others which are new.

Life is a continuum. Death is necessary for further evolution. Dissolution of the body is no more than sleep. Birth is like waking up. Death brings new life. A man of discrimination is not afraid of death. Death unlocks the door to a wider existence. The soul is a circle whose circumference is nowhere but its Centre is in the body. Death means the change of this center from one body to another.

The supreme soul or paramatman is deathless, decayless, timeless, causeless and spaceless. It is the source and substratum for body, mind and world. There is death for the physical body, a compound of five elements. The eternal soul is beyond time, space and causation.

To free yourself from birth and death, you must become body-less. Body is the result of karmas or actions. If you free yourself from raga-dvesha, or likes and dislikes, you will be free from karma. If you annihilate ignorance through knowledge of the imperishable, you can annihilate the ego. The root cause for this body is ignorance. He who realizes the eternal soul, which is formless and attribute less, infinite and unchanging, frees himself from death.

The individual souls or jivas build various bodies to display their activities and gain experience from this world. They enter the bodies and leave them. The process goes on. This is known as transmigration of souls. The entrance of a soul into a body is called birth. The soul’s departure from the body is death.

Man has always tried to know what happens after the death of an individual. Science has been struggling to unravel the mystery of what lies beyond death. Experiments have yielded many interesting facts. Natural death, it is said, is unknown to unicellular organization. When life on earth consisted of these creatures, death was unknown. The phenomenon appeared only when from unicellular the multicellular evolved.

Laboratory experiments have shown that whole organs such as thyroid glands, the ovary, suprarenal gland, the spleen, heart and kidneys isolated from the body of a cat or a fowl, can be kept alive in vitro to show increase in size or weight due to the appearance of new cells or tissues.

It is also known that after the cessation of an individual parts of the organization can continue to function. The white corpuscles of the blood, if cared for, can live for months after the body from which they were withdrawn has been cremated. Death is not the end of life. It is merely cessation of an individuality. Life flows on to achieve the universal till it merges in the eternal.

Courtesy: The Divine Life Society Trust

The mindset that brings unlimited willpower

The mindset that brings unlimited willpower

Many people believe willpower is fixed and finite. Yet powerful strategies exist that can help us increase it.

We all face demanding days that seem designed to test our self-control. Perhaps you are a barista, and you have some particularly rude and demanding customers, but you manage to keep your poise throughout. Or maybe you are finishing an important project and you have to remain in quiet concentration, without letting your attention slip to other distractions. If you are on a diet, you might have spent the past few hours resisting the cookie jar while the sweet treats silently whisper “eat me”.

In each case, you would have relied on your willpower, which psychologists define as the ability to avoid short-term temptations and override unwanted thoughts, feelings or impulses. And some people seem to have much greater reserves of it than others: they find it easier to control their emotions, avoid procrastination and stick to their goals, without ever seeming to lose their iron grip on their behavior. Indeed, you may know some lucky people who, after a hard day at work, have the resolve to do something productive like a workout – while you give up on your fitness goals and fall for the temptations of junk food and trash TV.

Our reserves of self-control and mental focus appear to be shaped by mindsets. And new studies suggest powerful strategies for anyone to build greater willpower – with huge benefits for your health, productivity and happiness.

The depleted ego

Until recently, the prevailing psychological theory proposed that willpower resembled a kind of battery. You might start the day with full strength, but each time you have to control your thoughts, feelings or behavior, you zap that battery’s energy. Without the chance to rest and recharge, those resources run dangerously low, making it far harder to maintain your patience and concentration, and to resist temptation.

Laboratory tests appeared to provide evidence for this process; if participants were asked to resist eating cookies left temptingly on a table, for example, they subsequently showed less persistence when solving a mathematical problem, because their reserves of willpower had been exhausted. Drawing on the Freudian term for the part of the mind that is responsible for reining in our impulses, this process was known as “ego depletion”. People who had high self-control might have bigger reserves of willpower initially, but even they would be worn down when placed under pressure.

Research shows that even if you're able to harness willpower to resist temptation, you may have less willpower for a task in the future (Credit: Getty Images)

Research shows that even if you’re able to harness willpower to resist temptation, you may have less willpower for a task in the future (Credit: Getty Images)

In 2010, however, the psychologist Veronika Job published a study that questioned the foundations of this theory, with some intriguing evidence that ego depletion depended on people’s underlying beliefs.

Job, who is a professor of motivation psychology at the University of Vienna, first designed a questionnaire, which asked participants to rate a series of statements on a scale of 1 (strongly agree) to 6 (strongly disagree). They included:

  • When situations accumulate that challenge you with temptations, it gets more and more difficult to resist temptations
  • Strenuous mental activity exhausts your resources, which you need to refuel afterwards


  • If you have just resisted a strong temptation, you feel strengthened and you can withstand new temptations
  • Your mental stamina fuels itself. Even after strenuous mental exertion, you can continue doing more of it

If you agree more with the first two statements, you are considered to have a “limited” view of willpower, and if you agree more with the second two statements, you are considered to have a “non-limited” view of willpower.

Job next gave the participants some standard laboratory tests examining mental focus, which is considered to depend on our reserves of willpower. Job found that people with the limited mindset tended to perform exactly as ego depletion theory would predict. After performing one task that required intense concentration – such as applying fiddly corrections to a boring text – they found it much harder to pay attention to a subsequent activity than if they had been resting beforehand. The people with the non-limited view, however, did not show any signs of ego depletion, however: they showed no decline in their mental focus after performing a mentally taxing activity.

The participants’ mindsets about willpower, it seemed, were self-fulfilling prophecies. If they believed that their willpower was easily depleted, then their ability to resist temptation and distraction quickly dissolved; but if they believed that “mental stamina fuels itself”, then that is what occurred.

People with the non-limited view on willpower did not show any signs of ego depletion: they showed no decline in their mental focus after performing a mentally taxing activity

Job soon replicated these results in other contexts. Working with Krishna Savani at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, for example, she has shown willpower beliefs seem to vary by country. They found that the non-limited mindsets were more common in Indian students than those in the USA – and that this was reflected in tests of their mental stamina.

In recent years, some scientists have debated the reliability of the laboratory tests of ego depletion, but Job has also shown that people’s willpower mindsets are linked to many real-life outcomes. She asked university students to complete twice-daily questionnaires about their activities over two non-consecutive weekly periods. As you might expect, some days had much higher demands than others, leading to feelings of exhaustion. Most of the participants recovered to some degree overnight, but those with the non-limited mindsets actually experienced an increase in their productivity the following day, as if they had been energized by the extra pressure. Once again, it seemed that their belief that “mental stamina fuels itself” had become their reality.

Further studies showed that the willpower mindsets could predict students’ procrastination levels in the run-up to exams – those with the non-limited views showed less time-wasting – and their ultimate grades. When facing high-pressure from their courses, the students with the non-limited views were also better able to maintain their self-control in other areas of life; they were less likely to eat fast food or go on an impulsive spending spree, for example. Those who believed that their willpower was easily depleted by their work, in contrast, were more likely to indulge in those vices – presumably because they felt that their reserves of self-control had already been depleted by their academic work.

The influence of willpower mindsets may also stretch to many domains, such as fitness. For example, Navin Kaushal, an assistant professor in health sciences at Indiana University, US, and colleagues, have shown that they can influence people’s exercise habits; people with non-limited beliefs about willpower find it easier to summon up the motivation to work out.

A study by Zoë Francis, a professor of psychology at the University of Fraser Valley, found strikingly similar results. Following more than 300 participants over three weeks, she found that people with non-limited mindsets are more likely to exercise, and less likely to snack, than those with the limited mindsets. Tellingly, the differences are especially pronounced in the evenings, when the demands of the day’s tasks have started to take their toll on those who believe that self-control can easily run down.

Research shows people with non-limited beliefs about willpower find it easier to summon up the motivation to work out (Credit: Getty Images)

Research shows people with non-limited beliefs about willpower find it easier to summon up the motivation to work out

Galvanizing your willpower

If you already have the non-limited mindset about willpower, these findings might be a cause for self-satisfaction. But what can we do if we have been living under the assumption that our reserves of self-control are easily depleted?

Job’s studies suggest that simply learning about this cutting-edge science – through short, accessible texts – can help shift people’s beliefs, at least in the short term. Knowledge, it seems, is power; if so, simply reading this article might have already started to galvanize your mental stamina. You might even enhance this by telling others about what you have learnt; the research suggests that sharing information helps to consolidate your own shift in mindset, a phenomenon known as the “saying-is-believing effect”, while also helping to spread the positive attitudes to others.

Lessons in the non-limited nature of willpower can come at a young age. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania recently designed a storybook to teach pre-schoolers the idea that exercising willpower can be energising, rather than exhausting, and that self-control can grow the more we practice it. Children who had heard this story showed greater self-control in a test of “delayed gratification”, in which they were given the chance to forgo a small treat to receive a bigger treat later on, compared to their classmates who had heard another tale.

One useful strategy to change your mindset may be to remember a time when you worked on a mentally demanding task for the pure enjoyment of the activity. There might be a job at work, for example, that others appear to find difficult but you find satisfying. Or maybe it’s a hobby – such as learning a new piece on the piano – that demands intense concentration, yet feels effortless for you. A recent study found that engaging in this kind of recollection naturally shifts people’s beliefs to the non-limited mindset, as they see proof of their own mental stamina.

To provide yourself with further evidence, you might begin with small tests of self-control that will bring about a desired change in your life – such as avoiding snacking for a couple of weeks, disconnecting from social media as you work, or showing greater patience with an irritating loved one. Once you have proved to yourself that your willpower can grow, you may find it easier to then resist other kinds of temptation or distraction.

You mustn’t expect miracles immediately. But with perseverance, you should see your mindset changing, and with it a greater capacity to master your thoughts, feelings and behavior so that your actions propel you towards your goals.



How do you discipline an in-school overdose?

How do you discipline an in-school overdose?

Perched above a major highway in central Los Angeles sits an unassuming high school where students are all too familiar with the sound of ambulance sirens. This fall, the principal has called an ambulance about five times because of suspected student drug use.

“We’re just extra cautious,” he says.

“Before, if the kid had a migraine, the kid had a headache, the kid looked a little tired. OK, let’s rest. Let’s get you going. Now, let’s check the blood pressure. If it’s high, let’s play the safe side. Let’s just call the ambulance.”

His school is part of a bold new experiment at Los Angeles Unified School District: Instead of the traditional, zero tolerance approach to student overdoses, LAUSD is piloting a focus on rehabilitation. But that effort comes with some stigma, and so we aren’t naming the principal or his school over district officials’ concerns that it become known as a “drug school.”

This pilot project is a response to a growing number of student opioid overdoses on LAUSD campuses. A student died in a school bathroom after a suspected fentanyl overdose in September 2022. After that, LAUSD began stocking naloxone in schools. Since then, the district says it has administered the opioid overdose reversal medicine 55 times.

And the problem goes far beyond LA: In 2021, fentanyl was involved in the vast majority of all teen overdose deaths – 84% – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among adolescents, fentanyl-related overdose deaths nearly tripled from 2019 to 2021, with almost a quarter involving counterfeit pills that didn’t come from any pharmacy.

Today, students caught with illegal drugs at school often face all kinds of consequences – including expulsionsuspension and possibly a criminal charge.

But amid the rise in teen overdoses, school systems across the country – from LA to Portland, Ore., to Prince George’s County, Md. – are beginning to change their approach.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has been a driving force in this shift away from discipline and toward rehabilitation. He says schools “have a moral and professional obligation” to provide students with support, not just punishments.

“We never treat that child, that student, as a criminal element or someone who broke a rule. We ought to address the root causes of the problem rather than focusing on the possible consequence.”

What it looks like to focus on rehab

Medical attention is the top priority following a suspected student overdose on campus, the LAUSD principal says.

“The first concern is: Let’s get you well.”

After a student has been cleared and sent home from the hospital, his school’s efforts shift to getting the student back into the classroom.

Administrators and the school’s psychiatric social worker work with the student’s parents to create a re-entry plan. These plans are tailored to meet each student’s individual needs following an overdose, whether they’re struggling with addiction or accidentally overdosed on a counterfeit pill.

Check-ins with the in-school counselor, therapy sessions and out-patient rehabilitation with the nearby children’s hospital are all available at little to no cost to the student’s family.

And then, the principal says, “when the student does return, it’s a matter of making sure that we’re constantly monitoring.” That’s not just on school administrators and the psychiatric social worker, but also teachers, hall monitors and other school staff.

Sometimes “dailies” are part of a re-entry plan – paper cards that teachers sign each class period to show that the student showed up to class and stayed until the end. Some students are granted cards that get them out of class if they need to go see a counselor or therapist during the school day.

And students aren’t the only ones who need help with re-entry. The school’s psychiatric social worker, who we also aren’t naming, says a big portion of her job in the aftermath of an overdose is talking parents through very tough situations.

“Oftentimes parents have struggles with the idea that their student does have a substance abuse [problem],” she says. She does her best to educate parents on today’s changing drug landscape and how the family can best help their child, including by consenting to rehabilitation services.

The school has partnered with a community mental health organization to provide therapy for students at school. Therapists with the organization stop by every Friday for check-ins with specific students, and to be available for anyone who needs it.

Rehab is an expensive approach that takes a lot of resources

LAUSD isn’t the only district moving toward a rehabilitation model. Administrators at Prince George’s County Public Schools, in Maryland, are also exploring a transition away from zero tolerance. But they cite an important hurdle: It’s expensive. Someone has to foot the bill for the programs, and hire the staff to help parents navigate them.

Richard Moody, the supervisor of Student Engagement and School Support for Prince George’s County, is still trying to figure out how to pay for a rehabilitation model.

“We have a whole list of inpatient and outpatient programs, but a lot of them don’t service adolescents,” he says. Moody also finds that sometimes undocumented students and parents will avoid treatment programs all together for fear of filling out paperwork and putting their names in a system. The principal in LA says that’s a big reason the school decided to provide services on campus.

Like LAUSD, Prince George’s County is hoping to circumvent these barriers by hiring in-house care for students, but Moody says the timeline for that is uncertain.

His district has to rely on grant funding to hire new positions, like in-house substance abuse counselors, but it’s been a months-long wait to hear back on those grant applications.

A fast-evolving crisis meets slow school bureaucracies

The drug landscape may be changing quickly, but school bureaucracies are slow. It can be hard for districts to keep up.

At LAUSD, the principal is taking it day by day. Especially since the rehabilitative model comes with a lot of extra work.

When asked what keeps him going, he says, “The second week of June.” Getting the students to graduation, clean and armed with habits for a healthier life.



Who Benefits from Satsang?

Who Benefits from Satsang?

Satsang is the starting point of the journey of self-realization, yet it is seen that not all are able to benefit equally from it. Pujya Gurudevshri explains how various types of people derive different gains from Satsang.

There are five types of people attending Satsang–deluded, student, seeker, disciple and devotee.

(1)Deluded-He is someone who comes to Satsang without any purpose. Like a stick floating in water ends up on the banks due to the current, he reaches the lotus feet of a saint due to past meritorious deeds. But he has no purpose, no thirst, no choice. If the crowd is going to Satsang, he goes. Due to pressure from friends, spouse, or the family he reaches there. There is no interest in spirituality behind his coming to Satsang. He comes without purpose and so leaves without benefiting from it.

(2)Student – A student is one who has come out of intellectual curiosity. It is as though an itching has arisen! Just as scratching an itch feels good but it does no good, and at times even harms; in the same way, the student gets an intellectual itch – of curiosity, so he arrives at the Satsang. Satisfying this curiosity may seem good but it does not bring any benefit; may even result in loss. He comes to Satsang to gather information. He attends Satsang to increase his memory, enrich his vocabulary, augment his knowledge of logic and examples, nurture his ego, and develop his intellect. Thus, he comes with curiosity and leaves with an enhanced vocabulary, but with no spiritual benefits.

(3)Seeker- A seeker wants to be liberated. He comes to the Satsang to understand how he can become free. He wants to transform his life and experience the Self. He reveres Satsang. His inner state gets elevated, a resolve arises in him and he starts experimenting. But he is unable to put his full strength into it. Just as water does not vaporize until it reaches 100 degrees Celsius, so also, one does not transform without 100 per cent commitment. A seeker of this level cannot muster the courage to reach 100 percent dedication. During the process, he tends to become cowardly. There is a desire for food. To cook food, he lights the fire too. But when a little smoke rises and goes into his eyes, tears flow from the eyes and his spirit loosens. There is no depth-profundity in his effort. He does not remain steadfast in austerities. For some reason or the other, he gives up his efforts. Thus, the seeker comes with the purpose of spirituality alone, but goes away with no benefit other than strengthening the desire for liberation.

(4)Disciple – A disciple is one who is ready to learn the art of self-realization. He comes to Satsang with such eagerness that at any cost, even if he must bear great difficulties, he wants to experience what his Sadguru has realized. He listens to it with single-pointed attentiveness. He becomes very happy on listening to Satsang, a firm determination arises because of which he also undertakes experimental study, and even if there are hindrances, he does not lose patience or courage. Where does this courage come from? From complete surrender ship to the Guru! From his life wandering goes and stability comes, roaming goes and reveling stays. He remains steadfast in obedience to the commands of the Guru. By passing through ordeals he purifies himself. He puts his desires, energy, and life at stake and remains engaged in spiritual practices. Therefore, to enable the completion of his work, for his benefit, when the Guru becomes tough and attacks his ego, he continues to realize his faults and remove them. He knows that the Guru only removes the outer, false veils. A garment is only a covering, and it does not cause discomfort to a person while taking it off. But if there is such an identification formed with it that it has become skin-like, then that person experiences pain while it is being removed. He feels as if someone is scraping off his skin. But these veils have to be taken off – the ‘surgery’ has to be done! When the Guru, like a surgeon, performs this surgery, the disciple cooperates in this work. Thus, the disciple comes with the purpose of purification and therefore gains that kind of benefit.

(5)Devotee – The disciple is one who understands that purification is not possible without putting his life at stake, without obedience to the Guru’s commands. He knows this, believes in it, and acts accordingly. But when some impression latent in his subconscious gets aroused, his ego also arises. There is still the duality – I am the one who is putting myself at stake, who is surrendering; and the one to whom I surrender is the Guru. But a devotee has melted away because of his devotion. Just as ice melts in water, the ego of the devotee has melted away. Just as the river merges into the ocean and has no separate existence, when the ‘I-ness’ melts away the devotee becomes non-dual, the feeling of duality ends. He effortlessly abides in the divine. He does not consider anything as his own, which he can put at stake! He has become completely one with the divine. He had come only for this spiritual purpose, and he gets the ultimate benefit.

The disciple must pass through the purifying ordeals devised by the Guru. While the devotee has not remained, there is no one left to be tested. Seeing the surrender ship of the disciple, the Guru gets ready to carve out an idol out of stone and commences the process of making it. In the process, he also becomes tough at times, but there is nothing within Him except selfless compassion. He is concerned not about the disciple’s mind, but his soul and his spiritual welfare.

A scholar came to Raman Maharshi. He had a huge ego due to his scriptural knowledge. Sitting next to Maharshi, he said, ‘I want to have a little discussion with you.’ Maharshi only said, ‘Meditate.’

He said, ‘I just want to discuss Vedas. I will not talk about any trivial matter. ‘ Maharshi stopped him and said, ‘Meditate.’ The scholar said, ‘But why do you disagree to discuss? The scriptures themselves, in several places, have said to discuss. ‘

Maharshi again asks him to meditate, but he refuses to understand. At last, Maharshi picks up a stick and runs after him, assuming a very angry form. The scholar is running ahead and Maharshi is chasing him! Not only the scholar but even Maharshi’s followers present in the ashram are stunned to see this form of his.

After a while Maharshi returns to the room, puts the stick aside, laughs out loud and says, ‘He gave so much importance to the worthless. His tendency to store intellectual knowledge is of no use. So, to make him understand, it was necessary to show some harshness.’

Thus, the Guru, the embodiment of compassion, even if He has to play a harsh role, He adopts the same and guides the disciple on the path of spiritual welfare. In reciprocation, the disciple’s duty must be to follow the Guru’s commands without delay and with zeal, for Satsang to confer the fruit of self-realization.




How to memorize things fast: 11 memorization techniques

How to memorize things fast: 11 memorization techniques

Use these verbal and visual memory techniques to help you retain and recall information.

Despite taking piano lessons and music composition classes for nearly a decade, I remember very little about how to actually play the piano or how to transpose a song. What I do remember—with very little effort—are the notes on the lines and spaces of a treble clef staff. How? With the help of a mnemonic device (a fancy term for a technique used to boost your ability to retain and recall information).

No matter what you’re trying to memorize—a video script, the periodic table of elements, your grocery list—here are 11 memorization techniques you can use to strengthen your memory for any period of time.

If you want to first geek out on how memory works, keep reading. To jump straight to the memorization techniques, click on any of the links below.

How does memory work? 

In order to truly appreciate the magic—I mean, science—behind memorization techniques, it’s important to understand the basics of how memory works. Since the intricacies of the human brain are well beyond the scope of this article and this writer’s degree in French literature, let’s break it down with a heavy assist from some very smart people.

As neuroscientist Daphna Shohamy explains, “our memory is basically a record in our brain of something that happened in the past.” And according to How Memory Works, published by Harvard University, there are “three main processes that characterize how memory works: encoding, storage, and retrieval.”

  • Encoding refers to how you learn and understand information. When you attach emotions and meaning to this information—referred to as semantic encoding—you’re more likely to remember it and recall it later on.

  • Storage refers to how much information is saved in your brain, where, and for how long. There are two commonly highlighted memory stores: short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM).

  • Retrieval refers to how you access your memories. 

How does memory retrieval work? 

Think of your short-term memory as your brain’s scratchpad. It’s where your brain temporarily stores information (about 15 to 30 seconds) before either dismissing it or transferring it to your long-term memory.

In terms of accessing your long-term memories, your brain has four ways of doing this: recall, collection, recognition, and relearning. How your brain retrieves information depends on the availability of external clues or prompts or the lack thereof.

Now that you understand the basics of how memory works, you can use that information to improve your memory.

Start with mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices are learning strategies used to boost your memory. Whether or not you realize it, you probably use mnemonics in your daily life to help you retain and recall information. I’ll start with some of the most common mnemonic devices before moving on to other memorization tactics.

1. Acronyms and acrostics

You may already be familiar with acronyms and acrostics as a mnemonic device. This method requires you to create a new word or group of words by taking the first letter of each word and putting them together.

For example, to remember the names of the planets in our solar system, you might use this acrostic mnemonic: mvery educated mother just served unoodles. In this example, the first letter of each word corresponds with the first letter of each planet, respectively.

2. Music mnemonics

My partner knows all the words to House of Pain’s Jump Around—yet he can’t remember what I asked him to pick up from the grocery store an hour ago. Why? Because it’s easier to remember a catchy song than it is to remember a long string of meaningless words or letters, such as a grocery list yelled to you while you’re halfway out the door.

The next time you need to remember something, try pairing that information with a tune you’re already familiar with. And if you just so happen to need help memorizing the periodic table of elements, look no further than the periodic table song.

3. Rhyming mnemonics

Similar to music mnemonics, rhyming mnemonics take advantage of catchy beats and patterns created by ending each line with a rhyme to help you retain information. Here’s a rhyming mnemonic I still use to this day to help avoid spelling errors: “I before E except after C.”

Sadly, clever rhymes don’t come naturally to me. If you’re in the same boat, here’s a little trick: let AI-powered tools like ChatGPT do the heavy lifting for you.

4. Chunking

Have you ever repeated a phone number out loud by grouping numbers together? For example, “six, four, seven, triple five, eleven, twenty-one” (instead of “6-4-7-5-5-5-1-1-2-1”). This is chunking. It’s another mnemonic device that involves grouping individual pieces of information—like long strings of numbers—into larger, more memorable groups.

And chunking isn’t just limited to aiding the memorization of numbers. Another practical application of chunking would be grouping items on your grocery list by aisle. Or if you’re learning a new language, grouping new vocabulary words together by category.

5. Create a memory palace

The memory palace technique, also known as the Method of Loci, is another popular mnemonic device. This technique involves mentally mapping out a physical space you’re familiar with (a memory palace) and “placing” images representing the information you’re memorizing in various spots or loci. (Loci is the plural form of locus, which means “place” or “location.”) When you need to recall that information, simply visualize your memory palace and retrieve it.

Here’s how to create and use your own memory palace:

  1. Choose your memory palace. Select a space that you’re incredibly familiar with (e.g., your childhood home or the route you take to work), and create a mental map of it.

  2. Identify distinct loci throughout your palace. Mentally walk through your palace, and pick different locations where you can “place” unique images (more on that in step 3). For example, the door to your coat closet, the lamp in your living room, and the dog bed in your guest room.

  3. Assign images to specific locationsLet’s say you’re trying to remember this grocery list: milk, chocolate chip cookies, and bananas. Place images of each of those items at your chosen locations. Or, to make it more memorable, create vivid images representing each item and place those at different locations. The more animated and outrageous, the better. For example, you could picture a waterfall of milk pouring over your closet door, your living room lamp teetering on top of a mountain of chocolate chip cookies, and a dog juggling bananas while standing on its bed.

While this technique may sound absurd, it does work. Just take it from five-time USA Memory Champion Nelson Dellis, who uses the memory palace technique to help him quickly remember a full deck of cards, in sequence.

Recite what you know

Reciting information is a useful way to memorize something fast because it forces you to actively engage with the information (as opposed to passively taking everything in), which, in turn, increases your ability to remember and recall it later on. Here are some practical ways to add reciting to your memorization toolkit.

6. Write it down

While typing your notes might be faster and more convenient, especially if you have to take in a lot of information, there are advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way (i.e., taking pen to paper).

In a 2014 study, researchers Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer examined the effects on learning and retention when students took notes by hand versus on a laptop. In terms of generative note-taking (e.g., “summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping”), students who took notes by hand had better retention and understanding of the material compared to those who took notes on a laptop.

Why? The researchers suggest two possible reasons. First, there are fewer possible distractions, such as checking emails or social media, when writing notes. Second, generative note-taking encourages students to reframe the information into their own words, which aids in encoding.

7. Use spaced repetition

Spaced repetition is a memorization technique that involves reviewing the same information at increasing intervals until that information is embedded into your long-term memory. If you’ve ever tried to learn a new language using apps like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, you’ve used spaced repetition.

Here’s a simple way to apply this technique. Let’s say you’re learning another language and you need help remembering new vocabulary. Write the word in your native tongue on a flashcard. Or, to make it more fun, sketch an image of the word. Then review the flashcards daily. As you become more consistent recalling your new vocabulary words, you can increase the time between reviews from daily to weekly to monthly.

If you need to create a lot of flashcards, you can also use apps, like Quizlet, to do the heavy lifting for you.

Use storytelling and linking

Tapping into the power of imagery and storytelling can significantly boost your memory because it encourages you to establish stronger connections with the information you’re trying to remember. Here are some practical ways to do this.

8. Make visual connections

The use of visual stimuli is a common method used to learn and recall information. Here are some strategies you can use to enhance your visual memory.

  • Turn the sound of names into images. If you have difficulty remembering people’s names, try connecting their names with an image. For example, if a stranger introduces himself as Mike, you might picture him holding a microphone.

  • Animate the images. Similar to creating visuals for your memory palace, the more animated and vivid you can make your images, the better. Doing this creates stronger connections in your brain between the word and the image. Continuing with the name train, let’s take the name Melanie. For this, you might visualize the person dressed in a gi, crushing a melon against their knee. (I bet you won’t forget that visual anytime soon.)

9. Share what you’re learning

Let’s say you’re going to a dog training seminar. Your best friend has a dog, and they want you to share some of your key takeaways after. So you furiously scribble down notes, ask questions, and scribble some more. This goes to the heart of the Protégé Effect, which suggests that people put in more effort to learn information when they know they’re going to teach it to someone else.

Then when you share your key takeaways, you’re likely to explain the concepts you learned in your own wordsYou’ll probably even demonstrate a few of these lessons while explaining the concepts, which will make it more meaningful. And these acts—paraphrasing and adding meaning to information—all help with encoding.

Take care of your body

Turns out, taking care of your body also takes care of your brain. You’ve heard these tips before, but here’s how your physical well-being can improve your memory.

10. Get more sleep 

As a shock to no one, there’s a direct relationship between sleep and productivity—and that productivity extends to our ability to take in new information.

As much as possible, try to get your recommended six to eight hours of deep sleep—the knocked-out-cold kind—every night. This will help “reset” your brain, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world—or, at least, more information.

11. Move your body 

Just as sleep is important for both your physical and mental health, so, too, is that other pillar of health: exercise.

Moving your body regularly at moderate intensity—whatever that looks like to you—can directly and indirectly boost your memory. Indirectly, it can reduce anxiety and stress, and improve the quality of your sleep. Oftentimes, problems in these areas contribute to cognitive impairment. Directly, it improves the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain. This blood flow keeps your brain functioning properly, which includes processing and storing information.

Bonus: offload the stuff you don’t need to memorize 

Adult human brains can store the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes of memory. So, in theory, you have the capacity to memorize…everything. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to.

Instead, use the memorization techniques listed in this article to help you recall the information that you might need at the drop of a hat, like your emergency contact’s phone number. Or the password to your password manager. Everything else? Use a note-taking app to take a cognitive load off.