10 important things you should know about forgetting and remembering

Have you ever imagined your life without memories? You just can’t do it, can you? Memories are like small pieces of a big puzzle — together they make one great picture of your life. We tend to erase the sad memories and cherish the happy ones, but no matter how hard we try, our brain has its very own evil plan concerning our memories. Why do you remember some irrelevant information and completely forget about something you really wanted to keep as a memory?

Let’s try to understand how our brain’s logic works and what we can do to make it forget and remember things.

1. You can remember things and events only because you forget all the unnecessary ones

Our brain is the only boss when it comes to remembering and forgetting. So it’s up to our brain to decide what information is important and where to store it. You will definitely remember your wedding day or some stressful experience you’ve had, and you’ll never get rid of those memories. However, we easily forget everyday, boring events or routine activities. It’s called an eraser effect.

2. You can force your brain to remember something

Our brain is trying to protect us from all the unnecessary information. If we remembered all the small things that happened to us every single day of our lives we would probably go crazy. However, if you really want to remember something, you can try repeating the situation or event from time to time, as if you were telling it to someone. It’s a great trick to make your brain think that this episode is important to you.

3. You can retrieve some information without even knowing that you have it

A patient who suffered from amnesia was given a list of words to remember. After several attempts, he failed to do so. However, when he was given a list of sentences with blanks to fill in with the words he’d seen earlier, he nailed it! How come? The truth is our brain remembers things and we don’t even notice it. Whenever you need particular information, you might be surprised with the fact that you’ve actually had the information all along.

4. Your brain connects new information to related experiences in the past

Our brain constantly connects brand-new information to your experiences in the past. You don’t notice it? Okay, think about the last time you read a book or watched TV. When you saw a new actress, you immediately tried to remember if you’d seen her before. Or when you’re reading a book, you try to compare the main character’s life events to your own experiences. The more experienced you are, the better memory you have.

5. If you find something hard to remember, try using pictures

It’s a general technique people with an eidetic or photographic memory use all the time. They simply transform the information they need into a visual sequence of pictures. You can try this method too — just connect a memory with some picture in your head. If you have a vivid imagination, you’ll find this method to be easy to implement and very effective.

6. If you’re trying to remember something important, put the world on mute

Any ambient sounds, even the pleasing ones, disturb your brain from retrieving the information you need right now. In such situations your brain is not sure whether you need those sounds to remember or to retrieve some specific information. So if you really want to recall something, make sure you’re alone and in absolute silence.

7. Your brain saves information better if you’ve just had a meal or if you’re stressed

Glucose comes from having a good breakfast or lunch and activates your memorizing skills and helps you remember things much more easily. The same effect can be produced by stress. Emotional and stressful situations are better triggers for the memorizing process.

8. If throughout your life you deal with mental work rather than physical work, chances are your memory will stay forever young

Researchers state that university professors can easily remember a particular paragraph from their lectures even when they’re retired. On the contrary, people who deal with physical labor have problems remembering stuff when they’re older. So it’s never too late to embark upon some scientific journey and give your memory a chance, is it?

9. You can try remembering words and numbers using sounds

An Austrian linguist and translator, Hans Eberstark, used his very own method to memorize words and numbers. He concentrated on how the word sounded, not how it’s written. Once you hear the word, you’ll most likely remember it even if you don’t know what it means. As to numbers, he once recited 11,944 successive digits of the mathematical quantity of pi from memory. As he described his method later, to succeed in memorizing such things one should replace digits by letters. For example, 7 can be memorized as L, because they look alike when 7 is turned upside down.

10. A state of severe depression and constant stress can destroy your memory and brain

Remember this and just follow our advice: no matter what the situation is, calm down, breathe in, breathe out, and help your brain to come up with the way out. It definitely will.
illustration credit: Ivana Forgo / Shutterstock
Adapted from David Gamon, Allen D. Bragdon