The simple reason why we can’t remember everything

The Brain Fitness Doctor, Dr. Jenny Brockis, explains how memory works and why, sometimes, we actually need to forget.

In a world full of Post-It notes, Google alerts and calendar reminders, why do we forget so much?

With busy lives and hectic schedules we are always chasing our tails, planning what’s coming next while still worrying about what happened before.

How can we remember better?

To remember something, anything, we have to create a memory, which starts with paying attention.

Assuming you did pay attention to exactly where you put down your wallet, the second stage of forming a memory is encoding. This occurs at a subconscious level, with the critical time being when we sleep. Our brain rapidly replays the day’s events, picking out the salient details it believes you are most interested in and want to keep for long-term storage. Rehearsing and practising your newly acquired memory while awake also helps.

The key to boosting your attention is to identify and corral your distractions. Then apply your undivided attention to one thing at a time. Monotasking is the most effective memory enhancing strategy. Giving your brain enough down time is essential to remember more.

When not focused we default to mind wandering, the perfect time for the subconscious to start looking for associations and patterns and create more enduring memories. Sprinkling in some emotion helps strengthen memories.

We need to forget

That’s right. Forgetting is essential so the brain can continue to learn new information. While remembering some automated skills, such as how to ride a bicycle, we probably don’t need to remember our year 10 chemistry unless it is relevant to us now.

Again, sleep is critical to this process, loosening up connections that no longer serve us and creating room for new ones to help us retain important current information.

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner, speaker and author specialising in the science of high performance thinking and better brain health. Her book ‘Future Brain’ was published by Wiley (RRP $25.95).

If you’re keen to get a good night’s sleep, this simple trick can go a long way in helping you slumber better each and every night.

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