Remember Every Day For the Rest of Your Life
How many days have you lived?
If you're around my age, close to 8,000. Though a lot of you, I'm sure, have lived many more.
Out of all of those days, how many do you actually remember?
Of course, the big things - holidays, birthdays, weddings, deaths, tragedies. But what about everything in between? According to LiveScience, everything we experience is filed away in our long-term memory. When you can't seem to recall something, it's not because it isn't there - you just can't access it.
I struggle with memory. What I'm going to show you is a simple way to access your memories - and never forget another day, as long as you live.
Store Old Memories Elsewhere
Storing things in your long-term memory occupies your brain, causing you to improperly filter new memories. Your brain may not process new information in a way that allows you to effectively retrieve it - causing you to forget simple things.
Not to mention, memory is malleable. How many times have you recalled a situation differently than someone else who was there? Sometimes, we add in things after the fact that may not have actually happened. It's not that we're doing this intentionally, we just can't properly retrieve the information in our brains.
Photographs can serve to be effective aids to memory, but how great would it be to recall exactly what happened and how you felt on any given day? Keep a calendar.
5 Minutes Every Day
I've been keeping calendars for the past 5 years. It started when I was in high school - me and my German exchange student were having the time of our lives. We knew we'd look back on those days as old ladies, and recall them with great happiness. We wanted to remember every bit.
At the end of every day, we would take five minutes and write down some basic things that had happened. We wrote what was good, what was bad, how our mood was, and anything interesting that would distinguish this day from the others.
That's all it takes - a few minutes to jot something down. The benefits? You have ability to look back on any day, jog your memory, and recall things you would've since forgotten. You can keep goals for every month, in a place where you'll see them daily. You can track your mood and have access long down the road to a primary source of your life. All you need is five minutes.
Looking back on my first month of memories, I can distinctly remember each day - days that I would have otherwise totally forgotten. I befriended a kid I was mean to in middle school. I had a photograph featured in a gallery at Winthrop University. I skipped class for the first time to hang out in my favorite teacher's classroom! I visited my dream school, the University of Georgia. I rode downtown in my friend's trunk because there were no more seats in his car. Most embarassingly, I was desperately in love with this kid that wouldn't give me the time of day. You know, high school stuff. So many things, little things and big things, that I totally forgot about. I'm able to remember them fondly now, all because I've kept a calendar.
Reminiscing is warming - you can laugh at the good memories, and be thankful you've gotten past the bad ones. Either way, it's good to know yourself.
I've imagined myself 50 years from now, still keeping a calendar. In those days, I expect my memory to be failing - it's common in my family. How will I recall my long and happy life? Through a secondary source? I'd rather remember through my own words, my own first hand experience, my own pen.
To Watch Later: Elizabeth Loftus on Memory
A Primary Source to Your Life
As I mentioned before, memory is malleable. Research psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has proven with several memory experiments that people can be led to believe things that have, in fact, never occurred.
Sometimes, we get confused about certain events in our lives and remember them incorrectly. Others may fill in the details, but it's frustrating to be uncertain of something that happened to us.
When you write in a calendar every day, you have access to the primary source to your life - yourself, at that time, when that day happened. You can see exactly how you were thinking and feeling, how you interpreted a situation, how you dealt with things, right when they were happening. Who better to remind you of your life than an earlier you?
Track Your Mood
During my second year of calendar-keeping, I came up with an elaborate code of colors and symbols. My intention was to be able to glance at my calendar and know what was going on in my life, without even having to read anything. If I see a lot of green, then I must be going through a good point in my life. If many of my days are marked with a blue dot, then I could be going through a depression.
It is through keeping calendars that I've found I start to feel much more sad and lonely during the winter. Many people do, and it's called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, ironically). Now, when winter comes, I am able to better prepare for the inevitable shift in mood.
Achieving Goals and Milestones
Every month, I set out goals and predictions. I have a terrible memory, as I've mentioned. Writing goals down helps me remember that I need to achieve them. For example, every so often I remember that I would like to practice guitar. Then, something else happens, and I forget about my goal altogether.
When I write it in my calendar, I can't avoid it. I see the goal every day, and am able to plan time to work on it.
Maybe it's just me, but it helps me to stop procrastinating too. If I say I'd like to apply for two jobs by the 15th, then by God I have to do it - if only for the satisfaction of being able to cross it off of my list.
Lately, I've been struggling with achieving some goals. Last year, I fell off of my writing habit, and my calendar came up pretty blank. It started with a few days a month, and some months I ended up not writing at all. I didn't achieve any goals, simply because I didn't have any. I've since started keeping up with my calendar and making goals again. Having them in writing makes them concrete, and crossing them off leads to satisfaction.
Better than Journaling?
In some ways, I feel like keeping a calendar is better than journaling. When I journal, it's usually about a specific event. If I'm incredibly stressed, I'll go to my journal. With little context, I spout and work through my issues. Coming back on it, I know exactly how I felt and thought - but only about that topic. I try to fill in what was happening around that date. Was this incident isolated, or was I plagued with stress for the whole month?
By making myself keep a calendar, I know essentially where I was in life, how I felt, and what I was accomplishing at that point in time. The big things, the little things, day-to-day, and not just every so often. I know every day.
Take the jump. Five minutes a day is all it takes to remember every day for the rest of your life. It's like a window to the past.