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Why is it that some of us know instinctively where to go and others wander around without a clue? Some researchers believe the answer lies deep within the brain, embodied by an actual “sense” of direction than can be resurrected and trained. As we know, humans’ sense of direction and ability to navigate has been a crucial survival tool for us. However, there are still some people who habitually get lost in parking garages and spend a lot of time staring at street signs with an exasperated look. I am always one of these guys, so I have unintentionally started finding how to improve the sense of direction, since the first time I got confused about street signs and got lost in some tunnels. Here are some tips from my research on how to improve your ability to figure out where you are and how to get to your intended destination.

The first thing you need to do is to stop relying too much on the GPS. Some neuroscientists believe that as we become increasingly dependent upon that gadget on the dashboard to tell us where to go, our ability to form mental maps increasingly may atrophy. Actually, sometime it is really scary as it seems, from my personal experience, I always put on GPS to go somewhere even though sometimes I know where exactly the these places are. And there was one day, my GPS accidently cut off on me and left me in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, I called my friends and picked me up. So, try turning your GPS off at least occasionally and using your own senses, memory and imagination to get to where you are going.

Secondly, you need to start looking at what is around you. People have become so accustomed to using GPS and following lists of directions that we often ignore our surroundings, which deprives us of the visual data that we need to form associations and mentally map our surroundings. So one of the best ways to improve your sense of direction is that try to notice and remember features of the environment from now on, such as distinctive buildings, trees, monuments, landscaping, and this will eventually help you to form a more detailed mental picture.

Finally, you have to train you brain. According to Ausim Azizi, the neurologist in Temple University, he says that there are two modes of mental navigation—utilizing landmarks to memorize directions, and calculating distances, such as remembering to go 50 yards to the north and then 50 yards to the east. However, he best way to improve your navigational abilities is to practice using both of these methods at once. He suggests picking a landmark, looking at it, and then locating it on a map, so that you can calibrate your ability to calculate distance as well.

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