It is normal to forget someone’s name, where you parked your car, and why you walked in here.
The sellers of online services think it is a wonderful idea to offer a free month because most of us forget to unsubscribe before we have a year’s subscription added to our credit card bills.
Do you know that surgical instruments get left inside patients too often? How could that happen? If the surgical team does not use a checklist for every operation every time, something important will be forgotten.
I have just finished reading Lisa Genova’s 2021 book, Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting. I highly recommend you read this book – you will find it fascinating and reassuring. Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist who has written a number of best-selling novels. Still Alice is her first and most famous.
If you are concerned about Alzheimer’s, read her chapter starting on page 175. In the meantime, here are my notes on her book.
If you want to improve your memory and reduce your risks of poor health, make any and all the adjustments you need to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep consistently. To quote from Lisa Genova’s book:
“During deep sleep, your glial cells flush away any metabolic debris that has accumulated in your synapses while you were in the business of being awake. Deep sleep is like a power cleanse for your brain. One thing they clean away is amyloid-beta – it is sticky, if not cleared away, it accumulates. A single night of sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in amyloid in your cerebral spinal fluid. If you continue to get insufficient sleep, amyloid will continue to accumulate night after night, and you will be closer and closer to the dreaded tipping point – a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
Sleep science data is very clear on this connection between sleep and health. Every night, your sleep processes actively fight off heart disease, cancer, infection, and mental illness. The vitality of every organ system in your body – including your brain – is improved when you get enough sleep, but your health and ability to remember are drastically compromised when you don’t. Sleeping less than seven to nine hours a night poses a real risk to your health, both the next day and over a lifetime. Sleep is a mighty superpower.”
Besides protecting your health, a good night’s sleep also locks in what you learned and remembered during the day and substantially boosts your muscle memory from about 4% without enough sleep to 20% in speed and 35% in accuracy. If you are learning how to do things, regular practice will only do so much. Regular sleep really boosts your improvement.
Memory can be classified into three chunks. Our semantic memory remembers information, our episodic memory remembers what happened, and our muscle memory remembers how to do things.
When we want to remember, we need to do the following:
- Pay deliberate attention to what it is we want to remember
- Keep that attention focused
- Block out distractions
- Turn off phone & social media
- Turn off email
- Wear noise-reducing headphones
- Stop any multitasking
- Repeat, rehearse, and/or make notes
- Create meaning
- Imagine a visual image as a cue – ridiculous, vivid, funny, sexy
- Put your image in a familiar location – kitchen, bathroom, own bedroom
- Use stories, diary, photos, drama
- Test regularly that your cues produce the memories you want
- Check after 10 minutes
- Check after a night’s sleep
- Check after a week
- Check after a month
- Check after 3 months – then it will be solidly in your long-term memory
Support Your Fantastic Long-term Memory
Remember the best days of your life, let the negative stuff fade.
- Learn the ABC’s of Rational Thinking
- Practice, practice, practice one small change at a time
- Keep learning new things – languages, music, activities, new research, new books
Decrease Your Chronic Stress
Remember your subconscious and long-term memory gets hooked into habitual thoughts.
- Consider a best-case scenario, rather than a worst-case scenario. People often imagine the worst-case scenario, which hardly ever happens.
- Learn to worry productively.
- Check out Internet Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (iCBT) online – provided by most benefit plans and free in Ontario and Manitoba.
- Get a good night’s sleep – 7 to 9 hours each night.
- Exercise – your phone will probably count your steps; set a goal and keep track.
- Practice compassion for yourself.
- Try yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.
- Keep a journal and include what you are grateful for.