How to Improve Your Sense of Direction
Did you know?
A quarter of the cars on the road right now have GPS systems.
This should mean it’s almost impossible for someone to get lost, right?
Wrong! People still get lost all the time. In survival situations, you need to be able to get around without your phone, GPS or any other technological advantage and know which way to go. What would you do if your phone died and your only source of direction was through the phone? Would you be lost?
Would you know how to get to safety?
This article is going to help you improve your sense of direction and improve your chances of getting to safety.
There are a lot of factors that determine your directional skills. It has been proven that directional orientation is an acquired ability. This means you’re in luck!
Whatever your current aptitude, even the stubborn men out there like myself, you can learn how to improve your sense of direction.
Here’s how you can improve your sense of direction.
While you will need to get out of your house for further improvement, it all starts at home. Here are some tips on how you can start in your home, starting today.
- Eat well – Foods rich in antioxidants like blueberries and pinto beans have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain. This helps with improving memory-related tasks like remembering directions.
- Exercise – Aerobic exercise likewise increases blood-flow to the brain. Numerous studies show that the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for memory, including spatial memory — is larger in individuals who exercise regularly.
- Rest Up – Keeping well rested is one of the most important things for all aspects of your life, not just for improving your sense of direction. It helps your brain to more effectively take in and store spatial relationships.
- Study Maps – Yes, studying maps can actually help improve your sense of direction. By finding and studying a map of your route (even day to day routes) you can visualize your route and note features that you will encounter on your route and how they’ll be in relation to one another.
- Find North – Keeping the cardinal directions in mind at all times is important. Know which direction your home faces and then use that to orient yourself inside it. Which direction do you face when you do the dishes? What about when you watch TV or sleep? Do you know?
- Play Games – Games are one of the best ways to train our brain for anything. Activities that require you to exercise your spatial awareness, Tangrams or Pentominoes can help improve your ability to intuitively understand how distances relate to one another.
Out and About
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the car or out in natures hiking on trails, here are a few things you can do when you’re out and about that will improve your sense of direction.
- Visualize – Visualization is one of the first steps you’ll always want to take. Whether you are thinking about driving somewhere or walking down trails, you’ll want to visualize the route you’ll take in as much detail as possible, before you start. Picture specific landmarks and where they are in relation to one another. When you begin traveling, compare what you see with what you’ve visualized. Is your memory accurate? It will get better with time.
- Pay Attention to the Time – Check out the time before you begin and continue to take note of the time as you pass specific landmarks and once again when you reach your destination. This will help you get a feel for relative distances This will be helpful if you find you’ve missed a turn or went too far. You’ll have a more accurate idea of how far back you’ll need to go.
- Verbalize What You See – Verbalizing anything helps to solidify the information in your brain. Say each landmark out loud while you pass it to reinforce where it is in your mind.
- Make Up a Story – Stories are one of the best ways to get our minds to remember information. Connecting landmarks in a story form (even if it’s made up and crazy) can help you to better remember the information.
- Think Big – When you are going somewhere, try to get a birds eye view of the route on a map. Basically you want to recognize where you are on a map. Relate your position to a fixed frame of reference so you can better acquaint yourself with your surroundings. Always think in the cardinal directions.
- Take a New Route – Most of us have habits of going one specific way every single day. Our route to work likely hasn’t changed, the same as we don’t usually change the way we go to our family or friends’ houses. Switch up your normal route and imagine different routes on a map, even if its just taking a parallel street a block or two away. This will help you with orienting yourself better.
- Get a Different Perspective – Many times we’ll forget where we parked our car in parking lots. We tend to blame this on getting older, however there are ways you can improve this. As you walk from your car to your destination, turn around and look back at it every 10 seconds or so. This will help you solidify in your memory where your car is, along with familiarizing yourself with what you’ll be seeing on your return trip. For longer distances like hikes, just increase the interval between backward glances.
- Don’t Panic – Panicking happens. It’s important to stay calm when these situations occur. People tend to move quicker when their anxious, and that will potentially get you more lost than you already are. If you find yourself lost, remember STOP: Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.
If you are someone who has lived your entire life confused about directions, don’t worry.
It’s never too late to start working on your directional senses. Take the time and practice these activities and develop the habit of awareness. Practice this and apply it in your day to day life. You’ll notice that the more you practice this skill, the better you will get at determining directions.