Why We Don't Need to Remember Everything

In this podcast (episode #376) and blog, I talk about memory and how to improve it.

We actually aren’t supposed to remember everything. The brain is designed to forget things that are not useful to us. In fact, trying to remember everything can cause neurochemical chaos in our neural circuitry because we are designed to selectively remember what interests us and what we need for particular tasks.

However, we can also forget information because we did not build memory properly. This means that we build memories incorrectly and we cannot access information we need when we need it. Our memory is also affected when we stop learning. Our minds grow through deliberate and intentional deep thinking, which is necessary to keep the brain healthy.   

Chaotic thinking creates neurochemical chaos in the brain that can also affect memory. This is why it is so important to take the time to think about our thinking and control what we allow into our heads. Never let thoughts just wander through your mind unchecked, because thoughts are real things that have real effects in the brain and body. To practice doing this, focus on the “now” moment and observe your thoughts and feelings, perhaps writing down your thoughts in a journal to become aware of and organize them.

As I have mentioned before, we merge with our environments because of the plasticity of our brains. Essentially, our brains respond to our minds (our thinking, feeling and choosing). How we react to the circumstances of life, and whatever we focus on the most, will be wired into our brains and influence our mental and physical health, which in turn impacts our ability to recall information. We need to pay attention to our external and internal (thought) environments, because if we keep focusing on our toxic thoughts, they grow and damage the brain. Memory issues are just some of the problems that can occur when we don’t pay attention to our thinking.

So, take a few moments every day to write down what is happening in your life, what you feel, and how this is affectingyour thinking. Analyze the relationship between your environment and your thoughts, and think of ways you can improve your external and internal environments to improve your mental health and ability to build memory.

Additionally, toxic schedules can have a negative impact on our memory. Living under an unnecessary sense of urgency creates toxic stress that causes the blood vessels around the heart to constrict, restricting blood flow and oxygen to the brain and resulting in foggy thinking and memory problems. Rest is not just a “luxury”. The clock should not rule our lives. To incorporate more rest in your life, schedule in times to switch off. Give yourself time to breathe: get coffee with a friend, go on a date night or treat yourself to a spa day!

This also means taking a break from technology! The average person spends up to eight hours a day using different technology. The fast pace of being “online” can create a toxic habit because it stimulates a temporary high, which can rob us of the ability to think deeply that is essential for good memory. The internal circuits of the brain tend to disconnect when we use technology for long periods of time, and this can lead to feelings of depression and memory loss.

Thankfully, some of the worst effects of electronic devices, including their effects on our ability to think and learn, can be mitigated when devices are used less than two hours a day. When we find ways to limit our use of technology throughout the day, such as taking the time to go for a long walk in the park, playing with our children or pets, or reading a good book in the bath, we improve our mental and brain health. These “off” moments give the brain time to reboot, heal and build healthy memories.

This includes social media! Instead of spending hours on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, limit your time on social media, spending an hour or so every day reading a newspaper or magazine article, or a chapter in a book, and thinking deeply about the information you have just read. Ask yourself what the author or authors are trying to say, answer your question by writing down several points, and discuss what you have read with a family member, friend or colleague. Thinking deeply about information fires up your mind, allowing you to build healthy memories and succeed in life! 

Some medications, particularly psychotropic drugs (such antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, antipsychotics and stimulants) can also cause atrophy (shrinkage) of the brain. Thishas been scientifically shown to contribute to memory issues, amongst a myriad of other issues that can affect the systems and organs of the body. Always weigh the risks and benefits of these medications with a medical professional, and if you decide to come off your medication, do so under medical supervision, as withdrawal can be a challenging process.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that the brain can heal, change and grow new brain cells, so never give up hope! Memory is not fixed and determined. The more we learn to use our brain in a healthy way by thinking good thoughts, eating healthy, doing exercise and living fulfilled and enjoyable lives, the more we can build healthy memories and increase our intelligence. Remind yourself of this every day!

For more on memory, listen to my podcast (episode #376) and check out my book Think, Learn, Succeed. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).    

You can now also join me on Patreon for exclusive, ad-free content! Sign up for a membership level that suits you, and receive access to ad-free exclusive bonus podcasts. These episodes will include more targeted, step-by-step guides for specific mental health issues AND some fun, more personal podcasts about topics like my favorite skincare products and favorite books, as well as live Q&As, fan polls and requests, and exclusive digital downloads! 

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Podcast Highlights

1:38, 7:40 We are not actually supposed to remember everything!

2:45 How we grow memories

8:00, 10:40 What memory looks like in the nonconscious mind 

9:25 How to learn correctly

12:05 How to improve memory 

12:30 Why we need to think about our thinking

14:30 How to manage chaotic thinking that impacts memory 

15:48 Why toxic schedules affect memory 

17:00 Rest & memory

19:30 We merge with our environments, which can impact our memory

21:00 How to use mind management to improve memory

25:50 How technology affects memory 

28:30 How some medications affect memory 

30:33 The brain can heal & memory can be improved!

This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.    

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