Swatting away at pesky wasps while kids slurp slushies, there’s a whoosh then a sudden cry of a little girl. As though in slow motion, I see her foot slip out of the corner of my eye. I cannot grab her fast enough. I think her chin hit the bleachers as she fell. “Did she bite her tongue or break her teeth?” is my immediately thought. She falls on her side; quickly scooped up by Grandma. Sitting in the bleachers last weekend, this momentary flash is a perfect example of sensory memory.
We often miss most of what we experience via our 5 senses of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Every moment, sensory stimuli bombard and overload our senses. As children, we learn to selectively ignore most of these stimuli-except situations like the sudden cry of a child. Then we are on full alert.
The initial component of memory, sensory memory occurs within milliseconds. All we hear, smell, taste, see, or feel is rapidly assessed and judged if it’s important enough to move into our short term memory. When we learn to tune out much of our sensory memory, we help our brains filter. But we can also hinder our memory. By paying closer attention to our senses and sensory memory, we can retain valuable information for our overall memory. We then use this sensory information in various ways to help us remember.
After a thorough checking over, my little friend was fine although I’m sure she’ll have a lovely commemorative bruise. Thankfully, her chin never did hit the bleachers. Thinking back on this bleachers moment, it was memorable due to all the sensory memories I recall. The sound & vision of her sudden slip, the wasps incessant circling, her frightened cries and our bustling to assist her all combined to create the memory.
Use the stimuli of all your senses to assist your awareness each day. Not only will it help you pay attention and remember, it will make your moments more memorable.