How to Get a Photographic Memory

Three Parts:Memory HelpLifestyle ChangesMemory Strategies

An eidetic, or photographic, memory involves being able to recall images, names, words, and numbers with extreme precision. Having a strong memory relies on neuroplasticity of the brain, or the brain's ability to reorganize itself over time by breaking and forming new connections. While some lucky people are naturally born with an extremely sharp memory, others struggle to remember what they ate for lunch the day before. While you may not be able to train yourself to have a completely photographic memory, there are certain things you can do to significantly improve your ability to recall information. Read on to learn how.

Memory Help

Part 1
Lifestyle Changes

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    Tackle depression. Many people who suffer from depression describe memory loss and difficulty focusing as one of their main symptoms. Anxiety, depression, anger, and other stress-inducing conditions increase cortisol levels in the brain, which can lead to cell damage to the hippocampus, the area in the brain responsible for memory retention.[1]
    • Every case of depression is different, and may call for a different treatment option. For some, talk therapy may be enough, while for others, medications like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be necessary to restore normal brain function.[2]
    • There are many ways to alleviate anxiety and stress. Spend more time doing activities that you enjoy, especially those that involve being outdoors. Take up activities that promote mindful awareness, like yoga or tai chi.
    • Another way to help alleviate anxiety and depression is to socialize more often.[3] Reach out to friends, family members, and loved ones and avoid spending too much time alone with your thoughts.
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    Keep your mind active. Your brain is like the muscles of your body; the more exercise you give it, the better it will perform. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in their daily routines that they can go days with their brains performing on "auto pilot." Try to incorporate some of the following brain-stimulating activities into your week:
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    Get more exercise. Physical activity increases blood flow to every part of your body, including your brain.[4] This can help get more oxygen and essential nutrients to your brain so that it will perform better. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week.
    • It's important to spread out your exercises throughout the week so that you are regularly increasing blood flow to the brain. Even if you don't have time for a formal workout, everybody has time to squeeze in at least a brisk 10 minute walk.
    • Make small lifestyle changes to increase your mobility, like choosing the stairs over the elevator.
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    Drink in moderation. Excessive drinking can block key receptors in the brain that are necessary for memory retention, and may release a steroid that interferes with learning and memory.[5] There is some evidence, though, that drinking in moderation can actually protect your memory in the long run. One French study found that in people surveyed over the age of 65, those who drank moderately (1 to 2 glasses of wine per day) were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than nondrinkers.[6]

Part 2
Memory Strategies

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    Minimize distractions. For many people, forgetfulness is not a memory issue, but a result of being too distracted to effectively learn the information in the first place. When possible, try not to multi-task and instead focus all of your attention on completing one activity at a time. Though it's tempting to take care of several things at once to save time, you will be more likely to retain the information if you do each one individually, saving you time in the long run.
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    Use image associations.[7] One way to help you remember something, whether it is the title of a book or where you left your keys, is to take a moment to visualize the item at hand. For example, if the object is a book called "A Thousand Splendid Suns," take a moment to visualize what a thousand splendid suns would look like. Having the image imprinted in your mind can help you recall the title of the book later.
    • Similarly, if you place your car keys down on the kitchen counter, try to imagine your keys doing something silly in the kitchen like cooking or eating the fruit in the fruit bowl. When it comes time to look for your keys later, you'll be unlikely to forget that silly image you created in your head.
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    Repeat names. Many people struggle to remember the names of people they have just met, even after only 30 seconds. This is likely because we tend to focus so much on ourselves (how we look, whether we're being polite, etc) that we neglect to listen to the other person's name. This can be especially difficult if you are being introduced to several people at once.
    • One way to combat this is to repeat the person's name right after meeting him or her: "Nice to meet you, so and so." If you didn't hear the name properly or couldn't catch how to pronounce it, be sure to clarify this right away to avoid having to ask again later.
    • Another way to remember names is to associate the new name with somebody you already know by that name. If you don't already know anybody by that name, then try to think of a character in a book or film with that name. Making this kind of association can help you recall the name later.
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    Employ "chunking." Chunking is a psychological term for a memory retention technique that involves clumping numbers, words, or items on a list together to help remember them.
    • If you are trying to remember items on a grocery list, then try clumping them together in different categories like fruits, vegetables, frozen items, condiments, meats, etc. Alternatively, divide grocery lists into potential meals; for example, you could group lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, goat cheese, and vinegar into one "chunk" called "salad items."
    • The same can be done by dividing sets of numbers into smaller sections; this will come in handy when trying to remember your credit card number, social security number, or a telephone number. For example, instead of trying to remember the following sequence: 77896526, you could break it up into 77-896-526. Repeating the number back to yourself will be a lot easier if you do it in smaller sections.


  • Many people are worried that they suffer from memory loss, when in fact, they were too distracted at the time of learning that they failed to properly absorb the information in the first place. Remember that just because you saw or heard something once, doesn't necessarily mean that you were focusing closely enough to permanently store it in your memory. The best way to combat this is to be fully present when learning new information.
  • If you suffer from severe anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor before trying to diagnose or treat yourself.

Article Info

Categories: Memorization Skills