Let’s face it: some things aren’t that important. Even people’s names just aren’t going to stick in your head. And that’s completely normal. Just because you’ve been called forgetful a few times or have a hard time recalling the occasional tidbit does not mean you need to panic. Memory lapses are normal.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be monitoring memory or doing your best to promote brain health. But it does mean that there are several factors—many of which you can’t, or should not ignore—that can impede the formation of new memories.
For example, let’s say you’re at your granddaughter’s first birthday party and you see your son-in-law’s brother for the first time since the wedding. You think he looks like an Andrew, but you have no idea. Why?
Because when you met at the wedding, you probably weren’t focused on him. There was music playing, you were dancing, meeting all kinds of people and, oh yeah, it was your daughter’s wedding! You might forget where you put your keys for the same reason—you might have been on the phone and not focused on where you place them.
For a memory to form, your brain takes information and records it, so it’s available later. If you’re distracted or not focused on something, it’s unlikely your brain will undergo the process required to put it into storage for future recall.
Of course, you might find yourself struggling to remember stuff you could once recall seamlessly. Well, the older you are, the more you have to remember. Your brain, believe it or not, does downgrade and maneuver memories to make space for new information. If you don’t remember the directions to your first home that you lived in 60-years ago, it’s unlikely a sign of a significant problem.
Memory can also be affected by factors like stress or poor-quality sleep. Some medications can also make it harder to remember things.
If you find yourself having a hard time remembering things, try these steps:
- When you hear new information you want to remember, repeat it out loud. You can also write it down or try to associate it with something memorable.
- If there is a lot of information, try breaking it into smaller compartments that are easier to remember.
- If you are regularly forgetful, make lists. Writing down your daily to-do’s can save you time, energy, and a bunch of stress.
There are several things you can do to maintain memory and brain health. If your memory troubles are more severe—you don’t know where you are, fail to recognize family members, problems staying on top of bills or repeatedly getting lost—it is recommended you speak with your doctor.