If you are like me and most other baby boomers you obsess a lot about memory loss. Sometimes it simply gets frustrating, such as when trying to recall details from books or scenes from movies recently seen. All this frustration has lead me to organize a refresher course for myself on how memory works, with the hope that in understanding memory, I can improve my own. One thing I know for sure is that memory is fickle and unpredictable. We never know how much we will remember and when we will remember certain things and not others. It’s important to know that memory is deeply tied to concentration.
Basically, we only remember so much. We all have selective memories and typically we do not remember what is uninteresting or unimportant. Our emotional states have a distinct affect on our memories. According to a recent study at Penn State University Erie, the brain has an override system that ‘trashes’ information which it finds outdated. While learning new information, if new details are revealed, then the brain has the ability to filter through the details and retain only vital information. So… is that why my husband didn’t remember when I told him that the bulbs in my office fixture burnt out weeks ago?
No matter what your profession, a good memory is important, but if you are a memoirist it is critical. Studies have shown that there are certain things we can do to improve our memories. Getting exercise has been shown to help memory because an increase in circulation improves brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain. Some believe that vitamin supplements can improve memory. The following vitamins are supposedly crucial for memory: Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate/Folic Acid (800mg), Vitamin E, and Gingko Biloba.
If you are writing memoir, here are some specific tips:
– play music from the time period you are writing about
– prepare foods from the time period you’re writing about
– prepare timelines
– look at photographs
– keep notebooks everywhere to jot down notes
Memory exercises and repetition is also important. For example, if you are introduced to someone for the first time, in order to remember their name, repeat it three times – when introduced, during the conversation and when you’re leaving.
Back to my reading about memory, before I forget to do so! It has also been said that reading out loud improves memory, as long as it doesn’t disturb others around us. This is because it engages many senses and can be particularly helpful if you are reading complex material.
Have a good week!