The first essential ingredient in creating a memory that's going to last longer than this present moment is attention. Your brain will never remember what you don't pay attention to
Chronic stress is really bad for our memory. Stress hormones mobilize your brain and body to respond, to fight, to flee, to react quickly- not to think. Stress is meant to be an acute, quick, on-and-off phenomenon. So what happens in your brain and body if you're exposed to chronic, unrelenting stress, and how does that affect your memory? Under chronic stress, your body will just keep dumping adrenaline and cortisol, and it can't shut off. This is bad for memory. You are actually shrinking your hippocampus- the part of your brain that's essential for forming consciously-held memories is going to be smaller. You'll be inhibiting 'neurogenesis,' the birth of new neurons.
This is where things like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and exercise come into play. All of these have been shown to restore the size of people's hippocampus who have been chronically stressed.
Here's a nine-second meditation to help restore your cortisol levels, and to help save your hippocampus and your ability to remember. Close your eyes if you can. Breathe in through your nose to the count of four. Hold it for a second, and then breathe out through your nose to the count of four. And notice how you feel.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is not a state of doing nothing where you're unconscious and it's a waste of time. Your hippocampus consolidates the information you're learning into a lasting memory that you can consciously retrieve while you sleep.
Caffeine is actually good for memory because caffeine increases your attention. So anything that's an attention booster is gonna be a memory booster. We know that sleep is super important for forming memories, so caffeine's good for memory. You just wanna be careful that it's not compromising your sleep.
So can we supply more associations to the person's name to give us a chance? In psychology, this is called the 'Baker-Baker Paradox. ' If I'm trying to remember your name and your name is Mr. Baker, that's really tough for me to remember- abstract concept. But if I were asked to remember the word "baker," I can picture him wearing an apron, and he's got flour on his face and, "Oh, I remember the bakery I used to love as a kid and we used to get danishes there on Sundays." So now I've got all of these associations in my brain, attaching to that word "baker," and gives me a chance to hook into it.
For all of these memories, they benefit from repetition. The more we repeat, the more we practice, the more we rehearse a memory, we are strengthening those neural connections, making that neural circuit stronger, and more likely to be fully retrieved. One of the ways that we can repeat a memory is by writing it down.
Write it down
It's actually good practice." Airline pilots do not rely on their brains and their prospective memories to remember to lower the wheels before landing the plane. They outsource the job to a to-do list, a checklist. We should all write it down, put it in your phones, put it in your calendar alerts, make to-do lists.
If I'm trying to consolidate something into memory, and I'm only putting the information in, I'm traveling one way on the neurons. If I then try to recall the information, I'm pulling the information out- now I'm going the other way. Going over those circuits in both directions will help reinforce and make that memory stronger.
Just google it
having a word stuck on the tip of your tongue is a normal glitch in memory retrieval. It's just a byproduct of how our brains are organized. So looking up a word, Googling a word that's on the tip of your tongue isn't cheating. It will not cause digital amnesia. It will not make your memory weaker in any way. It frees you up.
Take away from all of this is that your memory is amazing. It is limitless in what it's capable of remembering if you supply it with the right kind of information, if you supply it with the right kind of tools and associations. And it's wildly imperfect, and that's just the price of owning a human brain. Forgetting is a normal part of being human.