LIFE YOUR WAY

Forget Something? It may actually be good for you.

Your car keys. That phone number. Your wallet. That person’s name. That….um, I forgot.

We chastise ourselves over forgetting. It slows our day and becomes extremely frustrating.

But it’s 100% perfectly normal…and may actually be good for you.

Think of it this way: what if we were able to remember everything? Memories and their associations occur briskly – they “could completely overrun our life and make it impossible to learn and retrieve things if they were left alone, and could just overpower the rest of memory.” This comes from science – Dr. Ben Storm at the University of Illinois-Chicago – in studies on memory.

“Memory is difficult,” Storm states. “We need to rethink how we’re talking about forgetting and realize that…it does play an important role in memory.”

Think of it as your email in-box. If you weighed all emails as equally important, you’d eventually have great difficulty remembering the ones you wanted. Rather, you delete less important ones with the goal of being able to act on those that come in that are more important.

It’s not necessary to remember where you parked your car two days ago, but today. What’s your phone number? No need to recite your past three-to-four list of digits, only the current one. image source: omega performance

V. Wlassoff, PhD. echoes that “forgetting is part of the process of memorizing, and (forgetting) doesn’t make us any less smart.” It’s about retaining the most relevant information.

Every day, our brains are bombarded with millions of details – most of which are “noise” that reduces clarity of thought. Remembering what is truly important is a cost-saving process – holding onto what’s important (and letting go what’s not) is the key, according to researchers Paul Frankland and Blake Richards of the University of Toronto.

“We should stop being so hard on ourselves” says Richards. “If (you) forget the occasional detail, that’s probably a sign your memory system is perfectly healthy and doing exactly what it should be doing.”

How to help keep it working this way? “Exercise increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus” – the place in the brain associated with learning new things – so hitting the gym or getting in some cardiovascular work …simply walking… helps ‘clean out’ your memory system on a regular basis.

Lesson learned: don’t worry about recalling the names and corresponding universities mentioned in this story – focus on the big picture.

So the next time something’s on the tip of your tongue (but stays there) or a bit foggier in your imagination, consider yourself:

Efficient.

Evolved.

An advanced problem-solver.

A big-picture thinker.

But not necessarily forgetful.

image sourcwe: itlab.us

LifeYourWay Editor

2 comments

  • Thank you for this information! I have always wondered if forgetting some things was normal and now I know it is. I had a grandmother who developed dementia late in life. She passed at age 93 and probably had 4 years of the disease. Now my father has it. He was 85 when it became obvious and now and 91 he has completely memory loss . Of course my concern is whether or not I will develop it eventually. My dad is still home and pretty active still and quite talkative. Humor is our best medicine and bright shiny things 😊

    • @Kathy: thanks for your comment! Our story was more about the science behind temporary forgetfulness, but indeed – dementia and Alzheimer’s are very serious topics, ones we are not qualified to address. Please consider this as a resource: http://www.alz.org

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