How improving Memory helps your health and combats anxiety
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Mary Mcilroy
29th March, 20160 Comments
How memory improves your health and combats anxiety.
Memory is not a video camera. As we go along we do not take in everything around us, we only take in a certain amount about what we were paying attention to. As a child, we were interested in everything and noticed much more, but as adults we see what we expect to see and what we want to see, so we miss out all the peripheral stuff.
Our brain plays tricks on us, it helps us remember our childhood really well but we can’t remember last week! Whats happening? What happens is we revisit and revise memories constantly so we think we remember those childhood memories. In reality, those memories are "chinese whispers" of what we think we remember. What other people say contaminates what we remember, we might confer with others and even believe we saw or heard what never happened - this is a real problem for police work!
How do we remember how to tie our shoelaces? We practise and practise when learning, this makes the process totally automatic so we no longer need to remember. How do we remember our pin number? Our fingers remember through practise.
So what happens if we stop practising? We return from time away with doubt, where we then have ‘expert-induced amnesia’. If we have to rethink, we panic and set up further memory blocks. Look at England’s football records. We have expert professionals who really know how to score until it's penalty time, where the pressure is huge. The player has to score, that automatic 'easy peasy' goal goes over the net, goes wide and the goal is completely missed as he has to think about it.
Remembering is a three-stage process
First we need to get it into the brain. Our memory is not a video, it needs to be encoded. If it is not encoded properly, the memory will never come back. Next, we need to store it in the right place. Retrieval, if the hypocampus (brain) is damaged, is like a drawer that gets stuck.
The more anxious you are, the more depressed you become and the worse your memory gets. By our mid 30s our brain processing speed declines, we are not quick to take information in. Fortunately, we can cope. Acceptance is key, we can’t make it better but we can work around the nuisance. This is one way counselling can help, it can help us reduce the anxiety.
Studies show that being overweight accounts for 30 per cent of our memory problems. We know it's important to keep fit and healthy, but recent studies add a new dimension to reasons for keeping fit - it helps look after our brain. Diet and exercise makes a big difference to maximising memory retention.
SOS - Strategies, outsourcing and social support to help improve our memory
- Visualising the scene, counselling and talking therapy can help bring up past images.
- Processing the task to be remembered more deeply by telling yourself, “Now I am turning off the iron, I am locking the door”.
- We all know how writing lists, writing in a diary or note taking can help get the memory system in place.
- Ask others, “Can you remind me...”.
Remember, a poor memory has nothing to do with intelligence.
In this digital age we have apps, even if you are not a computer user you can still learn how to use the app on your mobile. Use the "Did I turn it off" app. If you have an iphone, you will have the "Apple Reminders" app. You might even have a voice activitated app.
You could even go time hopping. Place notes and photos in your diary or on social media as a visual reminder. Use a visual schedule planner to help you remember in a visual way if you’re anti-technology, this takes you step-by-step as you tick off each reminder.
About the author
I am a registered counsellor with the BACP. The areas where I work are: London Bridge/The City of London and Muswell Hill/London N10. Although I help people mainly with issues of anxiety and depression, I cover many other areas. Details about me and my training are listed on my website:m-mcilroycounselling.co.uk.
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