I’ve rediscovered a favorite habit-reading. I’m solidly in the “hold a book in my hands” camp, but lately I’ve ‘read’ more books by listening to or reading them on my computer. But some books I simply want to hold and read. This feeling corresponds completely with how I like to learn. To remember well, I need to see it.[Read more…]
It’s that time of year when political ads, calls, debates, mailings, and commentaries overload our senses along with fall colors. The upcoming elections in the United States are causing almost everyone’s stress levels to climb. Stress happens even when we don’t realize it and impacts our memories more than we think.
Everyday activities like simply watching the news, conversing in a coffee shop, or dining with friends can be a new source of stress. When routines are disrupted, change is forced upon us or uncertain futures loom, our stress meters creep into overload and even simple things escape our memory.
Stress can come from any source, but the symptoms are the same. Focusing is lost, scatterbrain develops, sleep is erratic, eating disrupted, and normal relationships feel strained. Stress causes many physical symptoms and even contributes to diseases, but its impact on our memory can also be quite impairing.
Is your stress meter needle inching into the red zone with the upcoming elections, holidays or other stressors looming? Feeling scattered, with even less of a memory than you used to have? You’re not alone. Many slip into depressive moods, fight more physical ailments than usual, and can’t make decisions well as the holidays approach. Stress contributes to all of this, yet many don’t always see stress as their source.
Elections, holidays, and other stressors will come and go and it’s up to each of us to manage how we deal with the effects of them. The first step like most things is to acknowledge if there’s an issue. Some people thrive on the increased activities and stress surrounding big events. Others struggle and if so, the next step is crucial.
Understanding how stress affects each of us is a great learning tool for our emotional and memory wellness. We can’t always change stress or its sources, but we can always manage our reactions. Our overall attitude matters a lot here and we’ll discuss that another day, but for now let’s focus on our stress awareness and management.
If we don’t manage stress well, physical and memory symptoms will develop. So let’s be aware of our typical reactions and then manage them in a healthy way to mitigate any potential fallout.
Some of the best ways to manage stress are also (not surprisingly) good for our brains. Try some of these stress busters:
- Exercise. This releases endorphins improving mood, sleep and increases blood flow to help our memory. Win, win, win!
- Take a mental or physical break. If able, physically get away if only for a few moments from any stress inducing person or situation. Some fresh air and a change of venue can do wonders for perspective. If this isn’t possible, take a mini respite in your own mind for a few seconds or minutes. Breathe in deeply a few times and draw in some fresh oxygen and perspective.
- Talk it over. Whether it’s with a close friend, family member, an impartial professional or higher power, talking through a stressful situation with another can often help us find a solution or at least the next step.
- Change it up. Often when faced with a stressful situation, we become creatures of habit. Sometimes, these habits can perpetuate the stress. Changing something, anything can often create momentum to move us in a new and less stressful direction.
Stress sneaks up on us or comes with full force. It stems from both unsettling and happy events and impacts our memory more than we imagine. Being diligently aware of its symptoms in ourselves and others will lead to many more memorable and less stress filled moments. So let’s be alert, manage stress and make more memories!
The crisp air, the cool breeze blowing through the trees and the frosty dew of morning all are signals that autumn has finally settled in. I blinked over the last few weeks and the leaves seemingly turned color overnight. The humidity of late summer quickly shifted to the briskness of October. I always make the mistake during this yearly transition of not taking a coat and was again caught off guard last week. If only I had paid attention a bit more, I could have saved myself some chilly moments.
Paying attention to our senses is the first stage of remembering anything. Our five senses are the first connection and initial input of any memory. In these split seconds, we gather information to make decisions, including what we’ll remember about any given moment. The simple act of paying attention to sensory input helps us in a myriad of ways. Take my chilly day for example…
Lately, I’ve been a bit preoccupied with numerous things and was surprised after a busy few weeks to notice all the leaves had turned. I also sensed it was cooler, yet didn’t notice just how much. Because of this, I didn’t remember to wear a coat the next time I ventured outside. Gone for most of the day, each time I went outside the chilly breeze reminded me of just how cold the weather (and I) were. My sensory memories of that day certainly won’t allow me to forget my coat again.
What have you noticed lately? Is it the smell of burning leaves or the distinct whiff of the furnace kicking in? How about feeling the warmth from the oven or fireplace or the chilly air on a morning walk? Maybe it’s the taste of comforting soups, stews and warm beverages we haven’t had in afew months? Noticing these things gives us a type of placeholder to our days, a touchstone to point us back to this moment in time to help us remember.
All of this is possible simply by paying attention even more closely than we think is necessary. Clearly, I noticed the cooler weather, yet I didn’t allow this knowledge to really impact my decision to grab a coat on my way out the other day. A split second of increased attention is all it would have taken and I would’ve been much warmer.
Let’s lift our eyes, open our ears, take a whiff, savor each bite, and feel every breeze. Let’s truly experience all our senses have to offer! It will create touchstone moments, help us make better decisions and most importantly, allow us to be present in our lives in a more meaningful way. It doesn’t take more than a split second, but the memory value of those moments is truly priceless.
Winds are shifting, leaves are beginning to fall and school bells are ringing. These telltale end of summer signs may make us feel sad about the end of one season and the beginning of another. But if you’ve participated in our #SummerToRemember series, it’s my hope you have plenty of memories to draw upon as autumn approaches.
Mine sure has been a summer to remember with monumental birthdays, milestone events and small moments to cherish. Whether yours was full of big moments or a series of small, all of them are worth savoring. We began this series with the premise that life is short, so let’s make our choices count. The goal was to create an environment for making memories of all our fleeting moments. I did pretty well-how about you?
First off, we discussed how the choices we make reflect what we value while also impacting what and how well we remember. What we choose to think about and how we manage our physical wellness is imperative. Taking care of our bodies and also prioritizing what’s important dictates how well we live and recall our lives. Making healthy choices matter.
To that end, we began with some challenges. The first one was to be aware of and hone the skill of focused attention. How we each do this is unique, but the main point is if we don’t or can’t pay attention well, we will never remember anything. It’s just not possible to input information into our memory without paying attention. If we learn and apply this, we’ll remember more.
Next was a challenge to identify HOW we individually prefer to remember. This typically stems from how we learn or our learning style-visual, auditory or tactile. We may not all understand how we learn best, but thinking about what we enjoy is a first step in knowing our unique learning style(s). Then we apply memory techniques to coincide with how we learn and bingo-we begin to remember more!
Now that we know how to remember more, our challenge focus shifted to keeping our brains healthier. Just like a muscle wants to move, the brain wants to be used. It’s the old ‘use it or lose it’ adage which rings so true. We need to keep learning to keep remembering. Resting on our laurels only allows our brains to atrophy. In order to make it a summer or any moment to remember, we need to keep our brains learning, growing, creating, and maintaining neural connections. This can even be improved upon by stepping out of our comfort zones.
Just as we need to keep our brains learning, we need to keep our bodies moving. Exercising our bodies feeds our brains to function better. Remembering well is enhanced by physical exercise and hopefully the 5 tips to encourage more movement benefited you this summer!
Remembering well is not just about the what, but also the how. How something feels as well as how we think impacts what we remember. Using our senses to connect memories while having a good attitude about life and all we experience truly strengthens our actual memories.
To remember well It’s crucial to manage the three S’s-socialization, sleep and stress. If these aren’t in sync and managed well, our moments can easily turn into ones of lonely, sleepless stress. Often this summer, my sleep habits were varied and I always felt it. Crabby, groggy and foggy could have described me on some days. But managing, adapting, and adjusting my sleep and stress when I could (not always as well as I would have hoped) was beneficial. Being with others can either cause stress or relieve it. Using all the tips given in these posts helped me manage and improve these big three components.
We went through a wealth of information in this #SummerToRemember series. It’s my hope you were able to learn but most importantly apply this information to make your own moments memorable. Take these memories and literally and figuratively store them in your memory and/or as something tangible like pictures, a journal or even simply sharing them with others. Our memories make up the fabric of our lives and the patchwork of our identity.
As we turn to September, autumn and the seasonal and life changes which will evoke different memories, I’ll be taking a week off to make and share memories with loved ones over Labor Day. Please do the same.
Life is short and every moment is meant to be savored. Take some time to enjoy the long weekend and share some memories with others. I’ll be back the following week, ready to encourage us all to even more memorable moments!
The air is thick with moisture and we sense it’s coming. Clouds build, the smell of rain envelopes, sunlight dims, and the flags are whipped by the wind. Thunder cracks and lightning flashes as we run for the nearest escape from the sideways water pelting our skin. The storm descends before we reach shelter and completely drenches us.
A sudden, intense summer storm wreaked havoc on my daughter’s golf tournament last week and its impact was with us the rest of the day. As she golfed and I watched in our soaked clothing, the sensory experience is one I’ll never forget. I love the heightened sensations of a summer storm, but prefer to enjoy it from inside, not outside! But the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of that particular storm will always be a memorable moment in my #SummerToRemember.
Our five senses of vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste help us to understand, navigate and remember the world around us. It’s said when one sense is diminished in one way, the others compensate. That is true, but we all can work to increase awareness of our sensory world and in the process, assist our memories of it.
I recently had a memory flash filled with emotion and sensory stimuli. Seeing a similar situation unfold sparked the same emotions and feelings from years ago. Emotions and memories are tightly interwoven. Often what prompts and helps form memories is initiated from our senses.
So let’s pay attention to our senses and help our memories along the way. Here a few tips to be more present in our sensory world to assist in making our moments memorable:
- Notice the little things around you. The smells, sensations in our surroundings, tastes, or visual landmarks and cues–sensory stimuli are endless if only we notice them.
- Connect what we’re experiencing from our senses to the moment. The sweetness of the birthday cake, the familiar songs and the annoying bugs at the outdoor concert, or the rumbling thunder of an approaching storm are forever associated with that event. Connect the sensory input and you’ll have a trigger for the memory.
- Replay the moment. Whether it’s telling the story, reviewing it in our mind or writing it down, the repetitive nature of replaying it cements the memory.
- Watch for triggers and notice their impact. Some sad or painful memories are often cued by our senses. Pay attention and manage their impact to learn and grow.
Noticing the sensory world and connecting moments will assist our memories. While it may not have been fun to be caught in a sudden storm, it certainly created an unforgettable moment. Take time in this #SummerToRemember to slow your pace and smell the roses (or the rain). Pay attention to all your senses to enjoy every moment as it turns into a memory.