This month we are highlighting remembering and memory. Unless you start to think about it, you don’t realize how important these things are in your life. I’ve always been proud of my excellent memory skills but I’ve come to realize that you need to work at it. If you are not challenging yourself on your memory, it, like a muscle, will atrophy and stop being useful.
For years as a photographer I could remember pretty much anyone that I had ever had in front of my lens, and more often than not I would remember either your first or your last name. Amazing? Not really. For me it was repetition. I got the name making the appointment, at the appointment, at the viewing, and then again when the customer picked up their work. That’s at least four times repeating and seeing the person’s name. Then, of course, writing in the appointment book a couple of times, then on an envelope, then on the order, all of that helped. That was my secret. By the time a customer had picked up their order I had said or written their name probably 20 times. Over the last 15 years I have performed in a dozen plays with the local theatre club.
Apparently we can still expand our minds as we age, we just stop doing those exercises after we leave school
One of the biggest comments I hear is, “How do you remember all your lines?”
Again the answer is repetition. Many, many, many rehersals and hours of reading and reciting over and over again. The same goes for playing and singing in a band for the last 30 years… it’s all about practice.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not infallible. I have forgotten a line on stage, blanked halfway through a song, and forgotten a name. Very few people have what is called eidetic memory, or what is commonly referred to as photographic memory. It is not an intelligence thing but seems to be more prevalent when people are younger. At first I thought that as we age to tended to lose more and more of our ability to remember things but I have been proven wrong many times by many people far, far older than me.
For the longest time I always thought the myth about humans only using 10 per cent of the brain was true and that if the rest could be tapped we would be able to remember everything. Unfortunately I can’t get a definite percentage as to how much we actually do use, except it’s apparently a lot more than ten percent. I also thought, wrongly, that as we get older it becomes harder to learn and remember new things as all the pathways in your brain for this have stopped forming after your teens. Apparently we can still expand our minds as we age, we just stop doing those exercises after we leave school.
Now that you know that remembering is not something that you loose with age but with inactivity you have the ability to do something about it. There are many brain exercises that I can give you to help increase your ability to remember things. Here’s the first one, and it’s an easy one: never stop learning. When you start challenging your mind it grows stronger. Don’t go by what I’m telling you, it’s a proven fact. If you look at some of the older, vibrant members of our communities, they are the ones taking college or university classes, adult education classes and online courses.
The next tip would be to learn a new language or learn to play a musical instrument. The language will come with repetition and use. With music it’s practice…twenty minutes a day and you will build mental and muscle memory.
Never stop reading. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace, a newspaper or a magazine will work. Buy a Kindle so that you can carry hundreds of books with you, or if you like the feel of a real book visit a book store or the local library. Learn a poem that you can recite from memory or a passage from a book or a piece of scripture. Do you know the words to our National Anthem? Why not learn it?
If you don’t want to read to learn there are other ways. There are thousands and thousands of videos online and on demand on cable where you can learn anything you want. If you don’t believe me, come to our store and look at the T-bar ceiling in our consult room. I did it and without training. I researched on YouTube for a tutorial and found one by a master contractor that took me through it step by step. If the video had said, “Don’t try this at home,” I would have called the ‘guy’ but the video begins by saying that if you follow these instructions and do some math you will have professional results. He was right and now I have a new skill (don’t call, though…I’m expensive… ha).
If you are not challenging yourself on your memory, it, like a muscle, will atrophy and stop being useful.
I want to end this with a few little tips to help you remember things. Write things down over and over. If you are taking a course, take notes. Read and reread them. Maybe sing a little tune in your head as you are trying to remember something that is important. You have no idea how powerful music is until you hum the tune and the words just come out. Then take a break, walk around, and then try to remember what you just learned. If it doesn’t come to you right away don’t get discouraged, just do it again and again until it stays.
Everybody learns to remember different ways and once you found yours you will be amazed how much you can keep in your head. Now that you have the tools go out and get started on the things you want to remember.