Natural Ways To Improve Your Memory, with Jim Karol

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

“Ultimate Memory Magic” author Jim Karol has spent years refining his technique to help him achieve near-superhuman memory. But you don’t need to have a superbrain to drastically improve your own memory. In the second episode of a series with Jim, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the practical tips you can introduce into your life today to help you begin to remember things more clearly and easily.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like Brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Welcome back. We're with our friend, Jim Karol, and we're having so much fun talking about Memory Magic, his new book. So, Jim, we were just talking about how to make this stick. So for those of us who this isn't our business, memory's not our business, you're in it all day, you do brain stuff all day. I do nutrition and stuff like that all day. So that stuff we know really well.
But when you're doing something new, how do you make it last? How do you make it stick? How do we give our listeners the tips so that, because I know when I did it, we just talked about this in the last episode, it worked really well. Then I got really busy, stopped doing some of the tips, and then it started to disappear. And I notice when I went back and started to work on it again, it came back. But what would you tell them so they don't feel bad when they don't remember it four months later or six months later? What do they need to do?
Jim Karol: Okay, that's a good question, because even myself, I'm supposed to be the man with the world's greatest long-term memory, and my stuff will disappear if I don't practice it at least maybe two or three times a year. And I call it memitation.
Tana Amen: That's good.
Jim Karol: Not meditation, memitation. I'll sit on my couch like this, and I'll close my eyes. My wife will be sleeping. It's 11 o'clock at night. You mentioned the presidents. Say, for example, I'll review the presidents in my head. I'll go, "Washington..." I don't talk out loud, obviously. It'd look crazy. I do it into myself. I'll go, "Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan." And I'll do all of this, and then it's done. Then I'll go, "Well, let's do the two letter Scrabble words, [inaudible 00:02:25].
I can't even keep up with my brain. That's how fast it recalls. So if you rehearse it every once in a while after about maybe three or four rehearsals, it'll stick forever like it is for me now. Like right now I'll never forget the president's, the states and capitals, the countries and capitals, the Scrabble words because I rehearsed it so many times with my memitation program and it's really cool. And the memitation, it's a dark room, you relax, do your breathing exercises and then you just recall it. Like yourself, you said you memorized the countries and the capitals, the states. Just pick one of them and you'd be surprised how that relaxes you. Now, Daniel could probably explain what's happening better than I can. As a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I'm assuming that when you relax and you're reviewing this information, it actually puts me to sleep, Daniel. What is that all about? It's almost like the old [crosstalk 00:03:23]
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well it soothes you. But for the average person, working their brain actually grows their brain. And I'm certain when you were 49 and really struggling with heart disease, your brain was probably not very good. But by exercising, increasing blood flow with new learning, you started to grow it. And I think you and I would both agree that everybody has this ability to varying degrees obviously, but once you start nurturing it, it grows. And that's what you saw and you talk about it in Ultimate Memory Magic, your new book. And you and I talked about it in our course at Amen University. But let's help people start at the beginning. If someone goes, "I want a better memory." What are the first couple of things they can do today?
Jim Karol: I would say the most important thing to have a better memory is to increase your focus, to work on your focus first. Because without focus, there is no memory. And for example, like I myself, I was traveling with a gentleman named Tony Dottino. He was the founder of the USA Memory Championships. He's older than I am. I'm 66, he's 70. We're in Orlando and we went to Universal Studios to eat dinner. So as he's parking the car, I'm on the phone with my wife, Lynn. "Oh my gosh. We're back down at Universal Studios." And because the last time we were there with the four kids, we had a great time. Tony's on the phone with his girlfriend, right? And he parked the car, we go and we ate dinner, walked around Universal Studios. We come out. Neither one of us knew where we parked the car. [crosstalk 00:05:20].
He said, "Well, you should know. You've got the world's best memory." I go, "Well you're the USA Memory Championship founder." And we're arguing for an hour. [crosstalk 00:05:27]
Tana Amen: So I'm not the only one. I feel so much better.
Jim Karol: Well it's not your memory though, it's focus. We weren't focused. I'm on the phone, he's on the phone. With these cell phones it's easy to loose focus [crosstalk 00:05:40]
Tana Amen: This is important. I just want to reinforce this because we have a lot of people calling in. They're really scared because they forget where they put something or like this happens once or twice. They forget where they parked their car and they freak out. So sometimes it is a matter of memory. But what I'm hearing you say, and you actually taught me this before, sometimes it's a matter of being present, being focused.
Jim Karol: Exactly.
Tana Amen: So you have to figure out which one it is. Like are you distracted cause you got way too much going on and you're distracted by your devices [crosstalk 00:06:08] or are you actually in trouble?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well we're not working our memories as before because everything's on Google and many people don't even remember their own phone number because you don't have to say it anymore. Once it's programmed, you don't get it. Where before I had 30 or 40 phone numbers in my head. [crosstalk 00:06:30] Now I have yours and mine and that's it.
Tana Amen: Right, and when you and I went to school, we had to memorize mass amounts of information. We had to go to the library and pull books when we wanted to do papers. I mean it was like learning a new language. Now people, like really most of the stuff they need to know is just in there, it's like right here. So they don't have to memorize as much. They may have to memorize it for a test, regurgitate it, and then it's just right here. So it's a little bit different now.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now in our course Jim, we talk about you want to have good habits, good brain habits, because then that supports your ability to memorize, right? So exercising that obviously helped you, helps you. Eating right, sleep, but then, okay... Step number one is you have to pay attention. So our ADD people have more trouble. So get that treated. You have to pay attention. What's step number two?
Jim Karol: Well, I like to call it, it's all about ESPN. Okay. E for exercise. Not only your body but your brain, which in my opinion is just as if not more important. So E for exercise brain and body. S for proper sleep. Sleep is so important. I can't emphasize it. I mean I hear a lot of people. "I could go with three hours of sleep a day." Oh yeah. Well it's going to catch up with you. And as Daniel knows you've got the lymphatic system that cleans out your brain. You got a lot of stuff going on when you have a nice sleep. It's very important. And plus you wake up more energized and focused and it actually is good for your longterm memory. P for ESPN is in my opinion, the most important thing of all. Positivity. Positive thinking, positive memory, hanging out with positive people. That is so important. Positivity is so important. And then the N, I'm sure you're really into this one, nutrition.
Tana Amen: Yep.
Jim Karol: Nutrition is the key.
Tana Amen: I like that, ESPN.
Jim Karol: Because all those things really mean a lot. They really do. ESPN.
Tana Amen: Yeah, it's good. I like that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. So then step three, because people want the goods because on the Brain Warrior's Way podcast they hear about ESPN all the time.
Jim Karol: Oh really?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, you have to start somewhere. And I think you started with-
Tana Amen: Presidents.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Presidents. And yeah, it was actually fun watching you do that and you memorized [crosstalk 00:08:53] them like over three days. And you were amazing.
Tana Amen: It actually was a little less. It was actually not as hard as I thought. So I was reinforcing it over three days but it happened pretty quick. [crosstalk 00:09:00]
Dr. Daniel Amen: But how did you memorize-
Jim Karol: Well, how did you do it? Yeah, I want to know. [crosstalk 00:09:03]
Tana Amen: So for me, one of the tips you gave me, you gave me a whole bunch of different strategies. What I did is I picked furniture in my house. So I attached them to different, because for me, when I walk in my house, I know my house so well. So depending on where like different pieces of furniture, different rooms, different things like that. So that just for some reason that clicked in my head. This is like whatever. So, that's how I did it. It was just really easy for me to do. I know other people can use like body parts, so you know, whatever.
Jim Karol: That's actually a very famous memory technique that was developed by the ancient Greeks to know like the furniture in your house and then just make associations. So associations is one of the big memory tools.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Exactly.
Jim Karol: Correct?
Tana Amen: Right. So like the entrance is Washington, duh. I mean, you know what I'm saying? And you just go like, because that's number one is when you first enter. So that's the easiest one. And then just from there I would pick things that made sense to me. So that's how I did it. I memorized it really quickly and it was great. But I'm thinking that even for someone with ADD, this is a really good thing because what do you need when you have ADD? You need focus. So this helps you too. It's fun and it helps you focus.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And gives [crosstalk 00:10:21] you the confidence.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And one of the reasons you feel good when you do it is because your confidence grows. And as your confidence grows, it relaxes people. They're not as stressed when they're confident [crosstalk 00:00:10:33].
Jim Karol: And your self esteem builds up. What I have discovered from focus, I mean we talked about in the Master Memory Course, focus with a deck of cards. But since then I'm doing things with focusing. Like if I'm driving down the street and I see a stop sign, I read signs as I'm driving, like STOP. To me instead of seeing STOP, I quickly translate it into numbers. Nine, zero, five, six. Nine because the S is the 19th letter of the alphabet. I always drop off the first digit. T is the 20th letter in the alphabet. I drop off the two so it's a zero. O The 15th and I look at the five. And then P is 60. And this is what I do and what it does is it trains your focus, trains you to focus [crosstalk 00:11:21]. Like here, Dr. Amen. Amen would be one, three, five, four. It's like really cool. Daniel would be four, one, four, nine, five, two. See, I have to focus.
Tana Amen: So that makes you think.
Jim Karol: Yeah, it does. It does. That's something I just came up with it and it's really working and I've been telling the wounded warriors about doing this, or even something as simple as just reciting the alphabet backwards. You have to focus like, Z, Y. Anything that gets that noggin to think and focus is good for you.
Tana Amen: It also [crosstalk 00:11:58] clears your mind from whatever you were thinking about previously when you have to do that. It's like a new exercise. It's like if I was saying about something negative or something really intense and I do an exercise like that, it sort of lets go of what you were focused on [crosstalk 00:12:10].
Jim Karol: Exactly. [crosstalk 00:12:11]
Dr. Daniel Amen: So when we come back I want to talk a little bit about your work with Wounded Warriors. We're with Jim Carroll, the author of a new book, which I wrote the forward for, Ultimate Memory Magic. It's available now nationwide on Amazon. I was in a Barnes and Noble last week and I texted you a picture in Newport Beach. He also has a course on Amen University. If you go to Jim Karol's Memory Master Course, he and I did it together where we talk all about these techniques in great detail. So stay with us. We'll be back shortly.
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