Thanks for the memory

Written by Caroline Evans
Don’t worry if your memory is not what it used to be, sometimes forgetfulness is essential for a healthy brain.

When a name, face, appointment, or memory escapes us, it can cause embarrassment and frustration. But understand, these lapses are completely normal. In fact, they are often a sign that our brain is in perfect working order.

memoriesModern life and mobile phones mean that we are exposed to a barrage of information throughout the day. Not only is it normal for our brain to discard most of it, it’s also desirable. If it didn’t, our system would be overloaded. Not holding onto all the information is the brain’s way of tidying up and working functionally.

Our memories are formed by the action of neurotransmitters and the connections of neurons in our brain. When we pay attention to an emotional experience, the neurons fire together and then, wire together and store the memory into our hippocampus. This is the area of our brain that stores our memories, emotions, and behavioural patterns. Our hippocampus chooses what is deemed important to us and the rest of the information is lost. It’s like a screening service.

keysSo, if you can’t remember where you’ve put your keys, don’t be too cross with yourself. Putting our keys down is a mundane activity that doesn’t require concentration. If you’re not aware of what you’re doing, the information can’t enter your long-term memory.

After all, if we didn’t forget the unremarkable, it would be harder to notice and retain important information. Our hippocampus tends to keep the specific and special or things that stand out and are different, and this takes a lot of resources. So, our brain has to prioritise.

Our memory holds onto events that frighten us to avoid us repeating them, and our emotion can work as a glue. It glues the experience into our brain so that we may learn from them. That’s why we remember dramatic and negative stuff so well.

The real risk to memory can be an unhealthy lifestyle, and worrying is one of the enemies of memory. We fill up our working memory with negative thoughts about the future, the present, and the past and then our stress levels remain high.

Also, poor sleep has a negative effect. A lot of memory consolidation goes on while we sleep. Memories are being laid down, rearranged, and put into the right place or in perspective. Therefore, a lack of a good night’s sleep can cause memory problems.

Evolution does not strive to make our memory the perfect hard drive, it’s not the functional way of adapting to the environment. The past is mostly forgotten – all the little details of every single day.

So, what can we do to help our memory?
Hypnotherapy can help by accessing the memories in our hippocampus to help process them and move them into perspective. By using pieces of information from the past, we can construct simulations of our preferred future. We can use our memories to guide us and help us to plan.

Hypnotherapy can also help us to get a good night’s sleep because it helps the mind to relax and let go of the anxieties that are triggering our flight or fight survival responses. It allows our parasympathetic system to rest and relax our bodies, and allows our mind to empty our metaphorical stress bucket.

So, if you have to use Google to look things up when in the past you could remember them, don’t despair, it’s just your brain cleverly adapting to the aids at its disposal.

If you feel your memory is deteriorating more rapidly than it should be, or your loved ones or friends are becoming concerned, then it’s always advisable to see your GP.

Caroline Evans DSFH HPD
Chamberlain House
10-11 High Street
Bagshot GU19 5AE
07765 692 072


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