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The A to Z Guide to Life, Letter M for Memory. Monday February 29, 2016

Negative stressors can really aggravate my Moodscope score. I'm guessing this is true for you too? One of life's great stressors for me is forgetting things. In fact, I think my three greatest excuses are: I misunderstood, I ran out of time, and I forgot!

Needing to remember things opens a psychological loop. It is only when the 'thing' is done that the loop is closed. Between opening and closing there is tension. So, if I could show you some ways to recall more of what you need to remember, I'm certain your life would feel less stressful.

Here's my recipe. It's got three ingredients:
1) Use what you know;
2) Use where you go;
3) Use on the go.

Firstly, there's loads of 'stuff' in your life that you know like the back of your hand. You can use this to recall what you need to remember. For example, if you're wanting to learn information, you can piggy-back on the fact that you know the layout of your home. Placing sticky-notes around the home can jog your memory by walking around your home in your mind. Usually, with a little rehearsal, your mind will use what you know (the layout of your home) to remind you of the sticky-notes you stuck all over the place. I've had success with nurses and aromatherapists who have needed to remember anatomical facts. They've stuck the names of parts of anatomy around their homes and then 'collected' that information by doing a mental tour. Location, location, location just works.

Secondly, use where you go. You have habits – paths you follow every day in a trance. So if you want to remember something in the morning, place it in the way of your habit path. For example, need to remember your laptop? Stick it in front of the door so that you cannot miss it! Everything should have its own place – everything in its place and a place for everything.

Thirdly, realise that most of us remember things at the wrong time. We're in bed or in the shower or driving when our mind reminds us of something we need. This is inconvenient. But there's a way around it. I use a peg-system where I rhyme numbers with objects. One is a bun, two is shoes, three is a tree, four is a door. Like a skipping song.

My 'pegs' never change. So they become stable parts of my mental cloakroom where I 'hang' what I want to remember. Let's say I've remembered it's someone's birthday and I need a card. I'd make a link between the one-bun and the person's birthday by seeing a bun with a candle on it. Their name would be in icing on the bun. When I get to somewhere I can use a pencil and paper, I'll go into my mental cloakroom and have the thought, "Bun!" Amazingly, my mind will then remind me of what I linked to the bun. It just works.

Remembering more reduces my stressors, so I hope you find this useful too. I've tons more on this, so just ask if you'd like more.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Barbara Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 6:58am

Thank u for these very practical and useful tips. If you have any more, I wld love to hear them.

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:25am

Hi Barbara, thank you for encouraging me to share more! Let me share the full 1-10 system because it is brilliant for remembering to do lists. 1 = Bun; 2 = Shoes; 3 = Tree; 4) = Door; 5) = Hive; 6) = Sticks; 7) = Heaven; 8) = Gate; 9) = Vine; 10) = Hen...

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:27am

I have another 1-10 system, the Number-Shape system. [1 shaped like a candle or lighthouse...] This gives me 20 pegs to hang things I want to remember - more than enough for my needs each day. The key is to stick with system, never changing the pegs once you've decided on them. I've given you the most popular choices but you can choose your own. Some people do "Sun" for number one, for example.

LillyPet Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 7:19am

Morning Lex, yes I'd like to read more too, for fun more than anything!
One of the things that stresses me out is "losing" things. My keys have a place, but occasionally ( and always when I'm rushing out of the door, I remember my keys, then can't find them! I've recently lost a watch and it's still on my mind even though it's been replaced. I dream of the day when my house and life is super organised so I can sail around in a state of serene grace :)
Thanks for all the useful memory tips Lex. Will also share with my daughter doing exam revision!
Warm wishes to all. LP :) xx

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:29am

Hi ya LillyPet, best one for exams is wall-space. If your daughter can put her learning on the wall - that's the easiest 'space' to see in one's mind's eye. Especially if the learning that goes on the wall is evolving and growing as she revises. The writing's on the wall! L'x

danielle Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 11:20am

LP when I was revising (all through school and uni, graduated 2.5 years ago) I used mind map type things. I would do one page per topic use colour pens, do little doodles etc - all helped me remember and in an exam i could actually picture the map i had drawn. title in the middle with boxes around the edge - i used to do different topics in different colours. But i think she needs to find a way that works for her as everyone learns in a different way. Another thing I would do is think of practical examples (i studied international business) and case studies and when really stuck and couldnt remember something i would read and re-read before bed. They say the small period before you go to sleep is key for learning. This has always worked for me, you dont think it is helping at the time but I always remember it very well in the morning :) xx

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 10:07pm

Great share, Danielle. Mind Maps are what I love most when it comes to techniques (obviously, I love people more!) L'xx

Sally Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 7:56am

Yes, I'd like to read more, too. Thank you, Alex, very interesting blog. A system does really help. Have you any tips for me constantly double booking? And not writing things down in my diary!!

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 7:59am

Hi Sally, thanks for your encouragement. It's a question of bringing your diary into a habit path. If there is any hassle with writing things in your diary, you'll find a way to resist doing this - so you need to make it easy and natural to write it down. Like LillyPet's keys, the diary needs to be in its own place. Rewards help too! The more uncomfortable you become with double-booking, the more motivation you can find to befriend your diary! L'x

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:07am

Wall-space helps too! Anything that is in sight, stays in mind (in contrast with the cliche, "out of sight, out of mind". This is why supermarkets have hot-spots. So you could have hot-spots around the home where key items such as keys and diary live. Maybe it's time for a wall-planner? Hope that helps. L'x

Anonymous Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:50am

'morning Lex. Very useful tips for remembering things on a daily basis. Looking at memory from another angle though, I don't have a problem with remembering things like my keys etc but do have a problem with remembering only negative events or to put it another way, I look back and see what were happy occasions as sad ones because of how I was feeling at the time. ..(sorry! I know this isn't the point of your excellent blog) and it's juxtaposed alongside the objective happiness of the event e.g a wedding or other social event. I rarely detach the memory of how I felt from the actual occasion. But that's another blog I guess unless you can think of a way to look back on things with a positive happy recollection??!. Maybe I could use post it notes with the words "happy party in 2004". Actually that's already making me feel better. Julx

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:52am

Hi Jules... this is SO relevant... more later x

Leah Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 10:51am

Jul, What an insightful reply. I can relate to what you said. Thanks for making me think.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 1:37pm

xxx to both of you.

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:59am

Darlings... loving the encouragement! Jules is bang on the money - emotion sits behind all powerful memory... and unhappy memories have special stickability! There is a way to change them though, and I'll come back to that later today. I'll be off-air for a while, planning today's "The Really Useful Show Time" which stars our very own Les on Emotional Intelligence. Hope FM - 90.1fm in Bournemouth and you can find Les online from Noon till 2pm using - search for Hope fm. Les will be on from about 13.00... and yes, we will be championing Moodscope!

Caroline Ashcroft Moodscope Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 10:13am

Excellent Lex, looking forward to listening. Caroline

Mary Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 11:21am

I'll be listening in too!

Leah Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 10:47am

Thanks for your informative blog.
My problem is I can't see the point of remembering an intricate system so I can remember something else. Maybe I am very slow but I find it easier to remember what I want to remember than to remember something else to help me remember the first thing I wanted to remember.Confused!!
At school I could never see the point of learning mnemonics for the order of the planets when I could just learn the planets. Why learn two lots when you can learn one?
Maybe I am the only one who thinks like this. I suppose not all pegs work for everyone. Or I am a round peg in a square hole.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 1:42pm

Oh you have made me laugh Leah! Jul xxx

Anonymous Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 1:44pm

Wouldn't a round peg fit in a square hole? Maybe you fit in more than you imagine! Jul x

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 6:42pm

Perfectly valid point, Leah, if you were to use the system only once. My mnemonics though are used on a daily basis and act as my virtual assistant. For me, it just works and I have great ease in recalling what I've 'parked' on the list... and great relief from stress. If you don't need a system, I salute you. I, on the other hand, need help!!! L'x

danielle Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 11:21am

Thanks for these tips Lex :) xx

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 6:40pm

You're welcome, Danielle, you're welcome. Hugs, L'xx

Hopeful One Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 11:26am

Hi Lex- an interesting blog reminding us that visualisation and association are powerful tools in helping us to remember things. One can create one's own, I play bridge where it is crucial to remember which cards of what suit have been played and how many , So I visualise a car analogue milometer with each square representing a suit . I then place the cards in the appropriate square as they plsy through updating after every trick. It's not full proof but it works for me, And that's it -find a system that works for one.

When I became depressed my memory was shot to pieces. As my wife was suffering from depression on top of the Alzheimers and I became convinced that I too was developing the condition. Fortunately I found out that even though one can be depressed one will remember something when prompted whereas in Alzhiimers prompting has little effect. I found out later that the reason memory is impaired in depression is because of the sustained levels of cortisol which depressed people have partly due to the anxiety they also suffer. This cortisol directly kills the neurones in the hippocampus - a crucial station in the memory system, Fortunately for us the hippocampus Is one of the sites in the brain where cells can regenerate, So as I came out of depression my memory started recovering , The second thing that happens is that the memory that we do retain in depression becomes selectively negative. By constantly replacing this negative bias with a positive one can we have a hope of getting over a depression .

Anonymous Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 1:39pm

"The second thing that happens is that the memory that we do retain in depression becomes selectively negative. By constantly replacing this negative bias with a positive one can we have a hope of getting over a depression..." Is this true for everyone who suffers from depression do you think HO? Why does our memory act in this way? Jul x

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 6:39pm

Hi Hopeful One, this is SO helpful. Not only some steps to take {"by constantly replacing this negative bias with a positive one"] but also hope for those of us who have experience a dip in mental acuity when down. The science is encouraging me. Thank you. L'x

Hopeful One Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 7:19pm

Hi Jul- I believe this to be the case. My claim is based on the work of Aron Beck one of the founders of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the 1960 's . He noticed that almost all his depressed patients had consistantly t negative thoughts about themselves and the events in their lives. He also noticed that they were almost automatic. They have since then come to be called ANT's( automatic negative thoughts.) he found that if he corrected these with alternative positive interpretations his patients started coming out of depression .

Hopeful One Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 8:58pm

Hi Jul- in reply to you second question . I believe that our memories behave in this way partly due to evolutionary reasons in that we retain in our brain an area called the amygdala the ' flight , fright or freeze' centre which was useful in our hunter gather days but not do useful now. It squirts cortisol every time it's stimulated with all the cortisol deleterious consequences which it does in overdrive in depression, Secondly the logical, analytical, logical left hemisphere completely dpminsted the emotive, intuitive , compassionate right hemisphere . The left hemisphere tries to solve the depression problem when we really need the right. The idea is now being used to developers mindfulness cognitive behaviour therapy ( MCBT) which is showing great promise in preventing relapses in depression a very common situation.

Anonymous Tue, Mar 1st 2016 @ 9:14am

Thank you so much HO. Sorry I didn't reply yesterday but I was out until late. This is so helpful and explains a lot. I am very logical, serious when depressed (or depression makes me like this) and light hearted and fun when having a good day. I find it difficult to express emotion and let go most of the time. You have given me much to think about. Julx

Mary Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 11:28am

Hmmm. Useful indeed. I can usaully remember things I need to (for an exam for instance) by making up a story about it - or a cahin of events. One of the things i have to remember is the order in which my colour drapes hang when I am using them in a colour class. One of my stories is from the last part of the Autumn sequence (If any of you have had your colours analysed with House of Colour and are an autumn, but will be familiar with these colours.... Leonie walks down the stairs wearing an OLD GOLD dress and eating an ORANGE. She hands a string of AMBER beads to a monk wearing SAFFRON robes. He goes and sits by a MUSTARD field in the YELLOW OCHRE dust, watching the BRONZE wheels of the chariots rush by. The officials are going to inspect the NAVY. It is a ROYAL (PURPLE) inspection. On the way they pick up Miss HELIOTROPE and watch a KINGFISHER and a PEACOCK disappear into the FOREST GREEN. Becasue I have that story or series of events in my mind, getting the colours in the right order is easy.

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 6:37pm

And what a grand story... nice one, dear Mary, nice one! L'x

The Gardener Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 12:21pm

Memories - lst son born 60 years ago - almost to the minute, while I am suffering acute M for misery. Mr G, his father of course, worse than he's ever been - horrible night - will not do a thing for himself. But, my father, when bemoaning his awful marriage was told 'you would not have that daughter (whoever was speaking to him must have thought I was worth having!) without your wife. And I would not have 3 sons without Mr G. Clinging to every bit of strength and faith - luckily our GP, seeing how bad things were getting, has given me a prescription for 6 house extra help with him for 6 months. I am grateful for respite, which continues. The 'birthday boy' chose a flight in a 2-seater plane when he was 11 - this time he's going to drive a train for a day - he admits himself (like many train enthusiasts) that he's never grown up. May he keep his enthusiasms. I admire Lex's ways of remembering - trouble is, with me, my thought paths resemble a many headed hydra - huge shock when I started a degree at 50 and had to 'corral' my thoughts.

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 6:35pm

Many ways, like many plants... certain memories work better with different forms of cultivating. L'x

The Gardener Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 12:24pm

Visualisation and association - said three boys (pre daughters) in back of car while we acqua-planed in a terrifying manner up the Aosta valley were all yelling 'Lily the Pink' (only one could ever sing, but they were enthuiastic)

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 6:34pm

Ah, Dear Gardner, the many layers of memory... that song will be linked to your adventure forever! L'x

Anne Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 2:32pm

Hi Lex

Thanks for your blog, it spoke to me and has given me something to consider and use to aid my memory. If you have any recommendations that help with memory in terms of language, names and words, I would really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
I have fibromyalgia and that plus low mood/stress just magnify my difficulties with speech, memory and names. As you can imagine, it can become a vicious fearful circle of dread! Add into the mix all of my work relies on good communication and presentation skills, I could do with all the help I can get.
Thanks for helping me to look to solutions rather than problems

Lex Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 5:35pm

Hello Anne.... to give you the maximum chance of remembering anything, it's a numbers game. The more 'hooks' you add to the material, the more the memory has to fish that information back out. The person fishing with 12 rods has a greater chance of catching that 'memory' fish than the person with one rod. So, specifically, I mean senses first. If you've got a visual memory and a sound, a physical sensation, a smell and a taste, you've got 5x the triggers to get a memory back. Add to this rich associations like a location or people, and the odds of recalling the information keep going up.... So, names. To remember Names I use the bit I can often remember, Faces. FACES for me is one of my dreaded mnemonics, but it works for me. This one stands for Focus - in the sense of focusing absolutely 100% on the person and the moment. When I'm not feeling OK, I become very, very shy. I actually begin worrying about me and the impact I'm having, so I end up not giving the person 100% attention. Much better then to give 100% of my attention to the other person - totally absorbed with them. A is for Association - specifically their name rather than who they remind you of. Does their name sound like something or someone or a company. So I introduce myself as "Lex Luther" sometimes, and then explain that my surname isn't really "Luther" - at which point they usually laugh. The real point is that we've already engaged longer than normal and associated the positive emotion of laughter with the encounter. "Anne" is a lovely name. I am a massive fan of "Anne of Green Gables" - and for that "Anne" - being "Anne with an 'e'" was very important. So I ask all Annes whether they spell their name with an 'e' or not. Again - we're connecting at a deeper level for longer time. This impacts the chance of memory recall.... C is for "Chorus" in the sense of repeating the other person's name out loud. When I'm feeling shy, I also go very quiet. It helps me to make a point of saying their name out loud to really emphasise the memory imprint on my own mind.... E is for "Eye-Colour" - one you have to be very careful with. I know though, that if I've engaged with someone professionally enough to notice their eye-colour, I've most likely given enough time for my memory to connect strongly with them. Some people use "e" for "Emphasis" too - exaggerating something about someone to make a bigger impact. I'm fat. If someone was trying to remember my name with a friend, they'd probably say, "You know the fat, funny guy..." "Oh, you mean, 'Lex'!" S is for "Smile" - 'cos you might get it wrong sometimes, so best not to take yourself too seriously!!!! Smiles help memory. L'xx

The Gardener Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 7:36pm

Silly sentiment - first born - so sad his Dad was not aware - but, got them talking to each other tonight. As son only saw his Dad two weeks ago very aware of situation. An aside (as usual) about relationships, alienation from children, ruptured families - I have just read the early years autobiography of Vyvyan Holland, younger son of Oscar Wilde. They were exiled and changed their name after the scandal - their mother's family tried to erase all traces of the father. Older son discovered the crime by accident in Ireland. Amazingly, even at school, Vyvian did not know who his father was - then a garrulous (or wise) aunt told him - then he was so upset to only find his father's books in old bookshops - those that existed in public had the name erased throughout the books. Greedy - another visualisation - driving through Brittany, in late November, at the beginning of a travelling scholarship - lovely weather, sun through electric sunshine roof, glorious 'soft' scenery, and Kathleen Ferrier 'Blow the Wind Southerly

the room above the garage Tue, Mar 1st 2016 @ 6:27am

Lex, just catching up! Fab, will have s go and perhaps I can lose the 10 paper lists that float about my life on desks, in bags, in pockets...always another to remind me what's not done... I missed the programme, can I find it as a repeat somewhere? Love ratg X.

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