I know that many of the thousands of people reading this email can identify with my frustration, especially if you are nearing the "Big 4-0" or like me, have already passed that milestone. Many of us have become conditioned to expect forgetfulness as we get older.
I’ve read, though, that rather than attributing our forgetfulness immediately to old age, or even fearing the onset of Alzheimer's or some other neurological degeneration, we should look at our lifestyle and realize the role that it plays in our ability (or inability) to remember things. It's true that as we age, we begin to lose brain cells. However, our brains are also required to compile information which increases exponentially as we get older. Dates, phone numbers, schedules, memories, statistics, work-related jargon and responsibilities, and the need to juggle personal and work lives in a busy, fast-paced culture can clog even the most efficient brains, much like rush-hour traffic ties up highways around major cities. As a working mom to four children of various ages, I know that the demands of everyday life are likely utilizing maximum available brain cells at this point in my life!
There are strategies we can employ in order to aid our working memory. Following are just a few; if you'd like to add to the list, you can do so at www.socialincites.com or on our Facebook page (or feel free to email them to me!)
1. Slow down. Take time to think about what you're doing, to make note of important details (either mentally or by writing them down), and simplify your schedule where possible. This is the single most important step for me if I want to be successful in finding my vehicle when I exit the grocery store (the panic button on the key fob works well, too, but is a dead give-away to the fact that I don’t remember where I parked)!
2. Take time to organize. While it may seem as though you don't have time to add extra steps to the process, you may actually end up saving time by organizing your drawers, cupboards, and computer bag so that everything has its place. Then take an extra minute to ensure that items are put where they belong so that you can find them next time you need them.
3. Take time to meet your other needs. Your brain, just like the rest of your body, will function better when you're getting enough sleep and exercise, eating healthy foods, nurturing friendships, and occasionally spending time with a hobby or a good book.
4. Establish connections. Have you just met someone new? Associate his or her name with someone else you know, or with a familiar object that will help you remember the name in the future. Use mnemonic devices to remember words, dates, or details. Organize your mental (or written) shopping list according to the sections in the store. Or develop a catchy tune to go with the information you need to remember.
Sometimes I find myself envious of children, whose memories (and lives) are not cluttered with as many experiences and responsibilities as mine, and therefore seem to recall information with lightning speed. I am also aware that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have an advantage over me with their usually superior ability to memorize facts and remember details. But while I appreciate and admire their gifts, I am learning to accept my own limitations, and to find ways to help myself adapt as needed. Next week, I'll write about the things that we would do well to forget, as I explore the important topic of forgiveness.
Best wishes as you continue to promote social insight and understanding, regardless of the efficiency of your memory!