Memories - Making Memories in Our Life
Memories, they last a lifetime, they also build every single day of our lives! Our friend, Wikipedia, tells us that memory "is the process by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved." We see or do something, our brain grabs it, we remember it, and later we can bring it back out to think about.
We know we have a "short term" memory and a "long term memory". In short term memory things aren't remembered indefinitely. In long term memory things are pretty much there to stay. While we can't explain an infant's memory, it is easy to see that an infant remembers it's mother. How many times have you seen a tiny infant smile when it's mother walks into view? That baby remembers that mother. Memory has begun.
Some things we just remember, whether we want to or not. Others, we forget when we want to remember. Those of you my age probably remember all of your 'times tables'. They were drilled into our heads and we can recite the three times table at a moment's notice! They are all engraved in our memory, long term and forever. We may not remember where we put our car keys but we know our times tables.
Of course we need to realize our memories aren't always faithful to what happened. Sometimes things are distorted or remembered the way we want them to be rather than the way they actually were. We may not want to believe that Uncle Joe was not really a nice person so we remember him as a nice person with traits he never possessed. On the other hand some things stick in our brain no matter what we do. For example, "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?", or "What were you doing when you heard about the Twin Towers?" Terrible but momentous occasions we don't forget.
- “Remembering is easy. It's forgetting that's hard.” ― Brodi Ashton, Everneath
- “Sharing tales of those we've lost is how we keep from really losing them.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day
- “Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” ― Oscar Wilde
- “Now that I have opened that bottle of memories they're pouring out like wine, crimson and bittersweet.” ― Ellen Hopkins, Impulse
- “Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.”
― Saul Bellow
- “The only real treasure is in your head. Memories are better than diamonds and nobody can steal them from you” ― Rodman Philbrick, The Last Book in the Universe
- “There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.”
― Nicholas Sparks, A Walk to Remember
- “I think the only answer is to live life to the fullest while you can and collect memories like fools collect money. Because in the end, that's all you have - happy memories.”
― Sarah Strohmeyer, Kindred Spirits
These quotes were taken from goodreads.com, "Quotes About Memories"
Making Christmas Cookies - Remember?
What We Remember and Why
Again I refer to us older folks, do you remember how to Lindy? What about the Twist? Long term memory again. The funny thing is no one knows for sure how memory works. Oh, there are theories and scientific proofs, but nothing is totally definitive. It happens and its stored in our memory. Remember that Christmas when you got the bike you wanted? You were so happy, you rode it everywhere! What about the Christmas before that or after that? Do you remember them as well? Probably not. The significance of that bike is what makes you remember that Christmas. The wanting and longing and then the happy satisfaction, that's what helped keep it alive in your memory.
How many times have you said, "When I was young"? Things you remember with warmth and familiarity. Remembering the good times you had with your family and friends is a comfort and something stable in your past. Good things to remember.
What about the smell of Christmas cookies baking, or apple pie? Don't they bring back good memories? Times you spent with your mother or grandmother in the kitchen. Maybe just watching them bake, but quality time you spent together maybe even learning how to make those cookies or that pie so you could do the same with your children. Pleasant childhood memories triggered by a smell. Of course bad memories can be triggered by a smell too. If you ever had a fire in your house, the smell of smoke may remind you of that fire and what a terrible experience it was. Our mind often remembers the bad more than the good it seems.
The speculation is that we process memory in order to solve problems. And things we should learn from, things that are particularly important or that have strong emotions tied to them, may be things that are going to be important in the future. If you present stimuli with a strong negative emotional component, the memories do seem to be more easily retrieved than neutral stimuli or even those that are somewhat positive, for example happy faces versus angry faces. ("Why Do We Remember Bad Things" by Laura Blue)
Your memory is very complex. While you were remembering the cookies baking, did you remember other things as well? How the kitchen looked or the apron your mother was wearing? Our memory associates things and that is what helps us remember. It was an emotional experience albeit a good one, but that is what helps us to remember. The association between the smells, the love, and the good time we had. That is why they tell you when you are trying to remember someone's name to make an association in your brain. For example when you meet Tom Smith you might want to picture his face as a tom-tom or think of him as a smithy shoeing horses, something to make him and his name stand out in your mind. When we send things to our brain visually they are more easily remembered. Emotions play a large part in memory but so do visualizations. If you can get a picture of it in your mind you have a better chance of remembering it.
Kenneth Wesson writing in "Brain World" said that although we have a rational brain, it is also an emotional brain, and feelings receive first priority. He went on to give the example of an upset student being unable to learn or remember while he is upset. Likewise, when we are happy or content it is easier to learn new things and remember them. Do you remember your wedding day or the birth of your first child? Good memories? They were easier to remember because they are pleasant memories of pleasant times and it is likely, though not always the case, that you will remember the date. I know there are a few of you out there saying, "I never remember my anniversary", perhaps you have conditioned yourself to forget, after all you forget every year, right?
This is a good place for an old Chinese proverb;
I hear and I forget.
I read and I remember.
I do and I understand.
When we understand we remember. Take that math concept you just couldn't get in school. Finally you got a teacher who explained it from beginning to end, showed you how it worked, and you had a V8 moment...you hit your head, said oh that's how its done, and you never forgot it!
Experiences we had as children, that we remember consciously or subconsciously have a lot to do with the adult we become. Scientists say that the youngest child may feel neglected and unnoticed. Remembering those feelings he/she may grow up to be a show off or someone always seeking attention. Another example could be a child who is raised in a family who is afraid of everything; strangers, attackers, danger everywhere. This child might grow up to be afraid of everything too. He/she may not even realize why he has these fears because he is subconsciously remembering what was drilled into him as a child.
Thanks for the Memory
Lifespan Retrieval Curve
The Reminiscence Bump
Lastly there is a theory called "the reminiscence bump". It is believed that this is the time in our lives between childhood and adulthood (real adulthood). The actually times suggested are between ages ten and thirty with an emphasis on our twenties. I found this rather interesting. One of the further theories is that this is the time in our life when we learn more new things. Several theorists believe it is because this is the self-identity period in our lives. The time when we really become the person we are going to be.
The theory further states that memory increases during times of change particularly changes in self-identity. It would seem this is a special time in our lives, unbeknownst to us at the time. This could be part of our relation to our "generation". We have similar memories of the times, our graduations, our first kiss, rock 'n roll music, a drug culture, President Kennedy and his time as leader of Camelot, and so many other things. Of course I'm speaking about my generation but this applies to any generation.
Some psychologists explain that this event [reminiscence bump] could just be because our memories are better during this time.
I've added the reminiscence bump to this writing about memory because I thought it might be something you'd like to explore. There are many listings on Google for it.
Can You Improve Your Memory?
The answer is a resounding yes! How? By exercise, and I don't mean jumping jacks although physical activity is a good idea, I mean mental exercise. For example, doing routine things in a non-routine way. You go to work and park your car in the same spot every day, change that routine. Park your car in a different spot so you have to think about it when you come out of work. How about this one, brush your teeth with the other hand! That'll be a challenge for sure. If you've never played an instrument, learn how. That is something out of your routine and will be challenging to you and your brain.
I know there are people out there who are going to love this one, do not watch a lot of television. Not only are you lacking physical activity when you do, but mental activity as well. Of course if you're watching Jeopardy you might be getting some mental exercise. On the other hand, play more games (not on the Internet but with other people). Board games that involve thinking and strategy, like chess or Scrabble.
This suggestion simple but often neglected, pay attention. Stay in the present and clear your mind when you're learning something new. Don't think about the bills you have to pay, or what you're cooking for dinner, concentrate on the task at hand. When you put your car keys down, make a mental note of where you put them at the moment you put them down, pay attention.
One suggestion you see over and over is called "chunking", I would probably call it grouping but its not my invention. Chunking is breaking things into smaller, easier to remember groups. For example, if a phone number is 338-2056, break it down. Try to remember the exchange is 338, two threes and an eight. Then look at the next group of numbers, twenty, fifty six, or whatever group makes sense to you. You 'chunk' when you grocery shop, or you should. You make your list into groups according to where things are located in the store, use that for other things as well, group them together.
Get lots of sleep. I know, you've heard this a thousand times before, but its true. If you're sleep deprived it is harder to remember things, well actually it is harder to do anything but we're talking about memory here. Also, if you repeat things before you go to sleep there's a good chance you'll remember better in the morning.
You knew if I talked about sleep your diet had to be next. Same old, same old, eat healthy foods! Avoid fats. Additionally Omega 3, green tea and one glass of red wine a day are all helpful to your memory. Green tea and red wine contain antioxidants
Socialize. Share a meal with friends, get together for a chat. Socializing helps ward off depression and can help reduce stress, both of which are not good for memory.
Lastly, try some brain games. Yes, I said brain games. I've put a video for one brain game at the end of this piece. Good luck with your memory and don't forget who gave you all these helpful hints.
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