I keep forgetting things lately

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

I have a bad memory!

Looking at all the skills that one should improve, memory should be at the top of the list. Why so? Because everything that we are and everything that we know how to do is based on our memories.

According to research, most people actually claim that they have an awful memory. If you think you have a bad memory, think again. Read on and you will learn how you can have the best memory you can dream of and how you can use it.

How does memory work?

The reason we believe we have bad memories is because the way we define it is in itself inaccurate. In fact many researchers believe that our memories have a limitless capacity.

In all cases we have completely gone the wrong way comparing it to our computer memory or hard disks, our memories are much more complicated. If it operated like our hard disks when you were trying to remember where you placed your keys, you’ll immediately get a result of all the places you’ve ever placed your keys and then it would have to sort through them.

But this is not how it functions; obviously the recent information is of most interest and weight when it comes to recalling. This is one thing we need to put into consideration when we look at how our memories work; the recent events are of most interest.

Second thing we need to look at is how we forget things if we seem to have a limitless capacity. Researchers explained that it’s not about our ability to store information, it about our ability to access it. So this means that you don’t have a bad memory, it means you need to improve your ability to retrieve the information. This is easily improved if you learn how you can improve it.

Why do we forget things?

You’ll be surprised to know that research has found a strong correlation between forgetting things and becoming smarter. Surprised?

The reason we have the ability to forget things is because when something comes to mind easily we lose the ability to learn. Working hard to recall things and bringing it to our consciousness is a vital process to learning.

There is something very relieving to learn about here when it comes to memory and the brain in general; it’s called brain connections.

Any part of the brain that has learned a skill well, it has learnt it because it created many brain connections in this area. The good news is the more you practice any skill – including retrieving information – the more you will build brain connections in this area. (see also Do i need to be talented in order to succeed)

Now that you know why you forget, it is essential to know that you need to put a bit of effort to recall things. Once you learn how to do so and practiced a bit, you’ll be doing it automatically and recalling things easily.

How can I improve my memory?

  • Make it memorable: When tested, the more effort people do to construct a memory the stronger the memory becomes. If it is important for you to remember something put effort into making it stand out; Link it to some drawing, some story or anything memorable in your head. The more effort you put, the easier you’ll be able to retrieve it. (see How to erase someone from your memory)
  • Giving more weight to memories: By recalling something, you put more weight to the information with regards to its importance. The more you revise something, the more you give it weight. This is why studying for example by just staring is not as effective as testing to see whether you can recall the information. Any information that you need to remember, continue testing your ability to recall it in different time intervals and you will be putting weight to it. (see also Early memories and psychotherapy)
  • Lose over-confidence: An experiment showed how our over-confidence of not forgetting something that we believe that we obviously won’t forget is the reason we forget it. The experiment proved that most people forgot what they believed they wouldn’t forget. So the next time you are confident you won’t forget something important, either write it down or create a proper memory (make it memorable) to recall it with. Information lost its weight? If you used to remember something easily, but now you can’t remember it at all, don’t panic. It lost its weight, but experiments have found that information that has long become inaccessible can be re-learned much more easily and quickly than new information. So remember, the more effort you put into making sure you retrieve what is important, the more likely you will always remember it.

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