Memory is an essential pre-requisite of all learning. Building strong memory improves thought system and intellect.
Memory is an important aspect of your ‘self’ and is formed by your mental habits.
“The human brain can remember events, skills, habits, and experiences. The sum of what is remembered is called a memory”-Frank Knoll
Memory loss is often attributed to aged and elderly. As you get older, you lose your imaginative skills. However, in recent years, there is a sharp increase in the number of people reporting memory related issues irrespective of their age. Majority of these cases are associated with lifestyle dysfunctions, over dependency on technology, and information overload. Tension and stress further weakens our memory system.
It is interesting to know that the left side of our brain deals with logic, language, numbers, and sequence, while the right is connected with visualisation of images, colour, and awareness. However, both can undertake all kinds of activities. You shouldn’t say that you do not have the capacity to learn or that you are weak in a certain subject. In fact, it may be because you have not developed an interest in that particular subject. By improving your memory you can use both sides of the brain.
Impressions of all mental and physical actions, observation and Visualisation in our subconscious mind creates our memory.
Our memory system has the ability to retain impressions of past thoughts in the form of attitudes, moods, or resolves. Memories are not duplicate impressions of earlier events, but reconstructions of earlier events.
Memory is an active process and depends on what your brain chooses to remember and for what duration. There are three stages by which clear memory is formed.
Registration: Registering the information by the perception of sense organs forms the short-term memory system. This is very limited and should be used for registering the information clearly. Otherwise, the waste and negative information might replace it.
Retention: This is the process of storing the particular information for longer duration and this involves visual images and association with words or other experiences such as smell or sounds.
Recollection: The information stored up is brought up into conscious mind when required. This further depends on the state of the mind which helps to recall the full information stored.
Depending on the above stages, each information is processed and stored by our brain based on its intended use. Memory can be further classified.
* We tend to forget certain information as soon as it has served its purpose. This is termed as Working memory which usually lasts for few minutes to few hours and cannot be retained for longer hours.
* There are certain memories that occur at particular time and place. We register and label them with time stamps and in certain context. This is Episodic memory which allows your brain to travel back to that place and time when you try to recount that event.
* Procedural memory involves deliberate acts of learning and we can eventually recall without deliberation. For instance learning how to play a musical instrument or learning to drive.
* When we learn Information based on facts and related to general knowledge, it is stored in the brain. This is Semantic memory. This can be retained for longer time and depends on the practice and differs from person to person.
Why do we forget?
Lack of Attention
Attention directs mental activity to register an object or situation. Not being able to pay proper attention to anything forms a weak impression on our memory. In the absence of clear attention, no clear impression and therefore no clear memory to recall.
Lack of Mental exercise
We get mentally out of shape when we stop challenging our minds. This happens when we opt for habitual solutions instead of purposeful thought or when we confine ourselves to limited range of interests. Your ability to make decisions, to solve problems, to concentrate and to think creatively depends on how well you exercise your mind.
Lack of Physical exercise
Our bodies are very much a part of our learning as learning is not an isolated brain function. Every nerve cell is a network contributing to our memory and our learning capability. Complex movement stimulates complex thinking. Lack of these movements leads to low memory.
Lack of Interest
Interest is important for concentration and thereby for improved memory. Things, which we are deeply interested in, are remembered without conscious effort. Lack of interest leads to interference of other thoughts and activities which distract us from giving undivided attention to a certain subject or situation.
Lack of Sleep
When we are sleeping, brain consolidates, revises information, builds and strengthens pathways for particular memories. If you routinely deprive your body of sufficient sleep, your longtime memory will eventually deteriorate. Many harmones that are important for healthy brain functioning are secreted during the night time. Any interruption to this will make it difficult for us to recall even those memories that are retained.
Lack of Emotional Clarity
When we are emotionally upset or worried, we cannot concentrate and register the information properly. Emotional distress shrinks working memory and so diminishes the ability ṭo think and imagine clearly. Our memory and emotional states are closely linked. All our confusions are emotional ones and they befog the mind and rob it of it’s clarity.
“A clear mind remembers, a confused mind forgets.”
Lack of Relaxation
Moḍern lifestyles compel multitasking and can lead to too much work, loads of information to process, and less time to rest or relax which reduces our concentration power and creates stress. General and unwanted information leads to more confusion and loss of memory. Very less energy is spared for sharpening the mind and becomes dull and less receptive.
Lack of Relevance or Understanding
We remember what is relevant and important to us. The more relevant, the better we understand, the better we learn and the better our memory system retains and recalls when necessary. Lack of association, relevance and understanding results in non-comprehension and loss of memory power.
Few techniques to improve your memory.
Create strong impressions: Various impressions of past,present and future converge upon the mind. For stronger impressions, you need to involve all your five senses. When the impression is stronger, the memory recall will be faster and easier. Stronger impressions are formed when more than one sense is involved. Create impressions of positive and necessary information which further strengthens same impressions in your active memory.
Create interest: Improve your concentration by strengthening your interest. This compels you to give undivided attention and to concentrate by excluding other thoughts that might interfere. When you have clear-cut goals and when you know what you do helps you achieve your goals, you will automatically develop an interest.
Concentration: Develop the habit of reining your mind every time it wanders to other things. Concentration automatically leads to stronger impression. Try to build habits such as mindfulness and other habits that are conducive to concentration. A quiet mind is the best guarantee of concentration.
Unclutter your mind: Overwhelming your brain with unwanted and too much information will make it difficult to encode the information in the form of memories. Unclutter your mind by scheduling, organising, setting goals, planning for next day and preparing a ‘to do’ list. This way you can free your mind from unnecessary burden.
Association: Association helps improving your memory. The mind has a tendency ṭo associate the new to the old that were similar.
“Here’s a basic memory rule: You Can Remember Any New Piece of Information if It Is Associated to Something You Already Know or Remember” – Harry Lorayne.
Create memory technique of comprehension: Comprehend the subject of interest under six headings that is why, where, what,when, who and how. Try to understand by asking these questions. It is a permanent way of remembering.
Build positive emotional memory: Emotional memory is the memory attached to past events, people and places. Positive thoughts with positive emotions create healthy mind and receptive mind for better memory. By creating positive emotional memory, you can recall successful solutions to the similar problems of the past.
Remain stress free : Stress reduces brain functions such as memory, intellect, and even brings premature old age. It affects our concentration and learning ability all of which are essential for effective performance at work. Remain stress free for better recollection. This can be achieved most naturally when both the body and the mind are relaxed. Deep breathing and other meditation techniques help you remain stress free thereby enhancing memory power.
Mental and physical exercise: Some of the simple games we played as children can help tone up the brain and reinforce the functions of sequential thinking, logic and remembering the names and dates. Crossword puzzles or a round of scrabble offer as an excellent method of mental workout. Swimming or other physical activities stimulate brain synchronisation. Rhythmic movements such as dancing, skating, or walking also improves the memory.
Being happy is something we all want. What makes you happy?
What are the factors that can lead to happiness?
Many of us correlate it to friends, relationships, prosperity, appearances, success and so on. But these are all external factors which all of us have no control upon. So they cannot be considered as permanent factors in creating happiness. Paradoxically our aim in pursuing all these factors is for happiness, but many times what we say we want and what we do is never in alignment with each other. We say we want to be happy, but we make choices that bring opposite of happiness.
The ability to feel happy is something which is innate. Two people living in the same world with the same set of circumstances can experience life differently just by the way they think. ‘Happiness’ or ‘misery’ all depends on how you choose to respond to these circumstances. What you pursue in your mind is what you get out of life. In a way, your attitude towards life and your thoughts determine your happiness quotient.
“The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness.”
– Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Certain facts about happiness you need to know in the pursuit to make it a habit.
*Your happiness is not dependent on others. what people say or think and the situations around have no hold on your happiness index.
* Happiness is fundamental natural state of mind. We are all happy beings born with natural state of joy, compassion, and kindness.
* Accumulations and appearances do not result in happiness. Material things come and go, appearances change, but beneath all remains innate secret of unreasonable happiness.
* Fear and happiness cannot co-exist. The unhappiness producing process always feeds on your fears and worries.
* Unhappiness is self-created. You are the own creator of your thoughts and you have the power to create your own happiness.
When we understand these facts, we can change our thinking from ‘I want happiness’ to ‘me is a happy being’. It is necessary to cultivate happiness habit to drive off the thoughts which create unhappiness and to replace them with happy ones.
Turning towards happiness is a valid goal and you have to make a conscious decision to seek happiness by cultivating the habit of happiness.
Certain obstacles you should look for in the pursuit of cultivating the “Happiness Habit.”
The moment you become judgemental about others, you get into unhappy modes such as anger, resentment, ill-will, etc., which not only takes you away from your natural state of being, but also blocks further happiness.
Tip: Accept the differences in opinions and views. Develop appreciation and awareness and change your perception of others.
Another hindrance in the pursuit is keeping expectations. Expecting what others would say or how they behave is like expecting their future. In a way, you are expecting them to match with your belief systems and when they don’t, you begin to feel let down or sad.
Tip: Do not base your happiness on the outcomes as having expectations from others and meeting people’s expectations, both will fluctuate your happiness.
Dwelling on past and future.
Reminding or thinking about past hurts or unpleasant events becomes a major obstacle in the cultivation of happiness habit. Thinking about future causes worry and stress.
“You can do nothing to change the past and future will never come exactly as you expect.
Tip: Focus on your ‘Now’ and whenever your focus drifts off to other places and times, map back.
Stress is a result of negative programming we have imbibed. Stress is created by feelings of fear, anxiety, or worry. Unease caused by imagining a bad outcome to a present or future event or situation.
“Stress comes from the way you relate to events or situations.”
Tip: Recognise that happiness is not contained in events or situations. It is up to you how you respond to them and you always have a choice to choose stress-free thoughts.
How you perceive challenges.
Happiness a lot depends on how you take up the challenges or obstacles. It all depends on how you face and overcome them. Treating the challenges as be-all and end-all situations will block happiness and causes depression, and discouragement. Take them as work out situations
Tip: Use the so-called problems or obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow more stronger for your future endeavors.
Developing certain personal factors or inner characteristics can lead to happiness. This can create further inner transformation and can be achieved by regular practice and repetition of new thought patterns. Here are some practices to cultivate “Happiness Habit.”
You feel good physically, mentally and emotionally by focussing on positive patterns of thinking. Substitute unhappy thought patterns with positive happy thoughts. “The happiness habit is developed by simply practicing happy thinking.”
Practice virtue of patience.
It takes time to cultivate all the qualities that create state of well-being and happiness. We acquire many unhappy and negative mental traits over time. So you need to develop patience in order to address and counteract each one of these negative traits.
“Happiness is the state of being centredness which is here and now”. Keeping your awareness and concentration in the present moment and letting go of past can be achieved by practicing mindfulness.
Practice simple living.
“ The secret of happiness is not in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Happiness is equal to your contentment. We have basic needs and endless wants. Know the difference and practice simple living.
Finally, base your actions and attitudes upon basic principles of happy living by choosing happiness. Some of the basics are that of caring, gratitude and good will.
Adopting simple mindfulness practices will boost your chances of reducing stress and anxiety.
“Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and not degrade yourself, for the mind can be both friend and enemy of self.”
We all are victims of information overload with the constant flow of information and access of new technology everyday in our lives. We get used to filling our minds and homes with unnecessary stuff. Everything around us seems important and this mental overload makes our lives complicated. Too many choices confuse our decision making capabilities and this leads to indecision, dissatisfaction, and to an imbalanced mind.
An imbalanced mind unleashes its uncontrolled thoughts all around and creates confusion and chaos. These thoughts are the opinions, beliefs, and interpretations that pass through your mind and hold your conscious attention. These untamed thoughts interfere with your focus, happiness and peace of mind. They further manifest as moods, emotions, and impulses and you get trapped into anxious, negative and unproductive thinking.
This mental overwhelm often creates lot of sṭress, anxiety and depression. These thought patterns if unnoticed operate like hypnotic suggestions and influence your behaviour. Our minds which are overfed with new information makes our thoughts buzz around like swarm of bees and we lose our inner stability.
The only way to clean your mind from these patterns is to discover inner peace by practicing mindfulness regularly. When we begin to meditate, we think we must suppress all the negative thoughts and feelings. Many of us feel the need to quiet our minds because we are afraid of negative, unpleasant impulses. The more we try to calm ourselves, the more restless we become. Freedom from such comes when we realise following:
1. Thoughts have no intrinsic value and they keep changing.
2. We cannot control our thoughts, either we can distract or direct our attention elsewhere.
3.Since we cannot control or stop them, we are not responsible for our thoughts, no matter positive or negative.
Meditation consists of two simultaneous processes.
Thoughts are like bubbles and they eventually rise to surface. Noticing everything that arises in our awareness by simply paying attention to whatever arising without any judgment and expectation. Let your thoughts be as they are, positive or negative, make peace with your mind.
Letting go rather than clinging to what arises in your awareness. Being attached and clinging too tightly to your thoughts will only lead to suffering. By letting go, we become seekers of positive thoughts and inner silence.
This is easier said than done. In everyday life, we rarely pay attention to our thoughts. A little practice at any point in your day, can go far when it comes to taming your thoughts. The beauty of meditation is that you can do it any time, with your eyes wide open, using whatever task is at hand as your meditative object. All are forms of meditation.
Make meditation as an essential part of your daily routine like physical exercise. Continuous practice lets you reclaim your focus on your priorities and thus helps you declutter your mind.
Your state of mind is important for the outcome of your life. Presently there is much research showing the connection between our mind, our emotions, and our body. People come under lot of stress in their daily lives as they face tough competition to excel at every stage and in every sphere of life. Many develop anxiety disorders, disturbed sleep patterns and stress. To manage effectively and to have peace of mind, it is important one must practice mindfulness every day.
Mindfulness helps you to return to and stay in the present moment by slowing down the thoughts. It helps in balancing the mind and makes you realise that there is no control over past and future. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future. Break the old patterns of present-moment denial and present-moment resistance. Watch your mind without any judgement or analysis.
Continuous practice makes you observe that future is usually imagined as either better or worse than the present. If it is for better it gives you hope and if it is worse, it creates anxiety. The habitual tendency of resisting the present moment creates anger and frustration.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejeciting.”
Researchers in various studies have found that practicing mindfulness can help people suffering from depression and anxiety just as much as commonly prescribed anti-depressant drugs. Practicing mindfulness would offer a long-term approach to dealing with depression.
Here is a small story mentioned in the classic guide of Thich Nhat HanH’s The Miracle of Mindfulness stating the importance of practicing mindfulness of one’s own self- that is, to protect and care for one’s self and not being preoccupied about the way others look after themselves, which gives rise to resentment and anxiety.
“There once were a couple of acrobats. The teacher was a poor widower and the student was a small girl named Meḍa. The two of them performed in the streets to earn enough to eat. They used a tall bamboo pole which the teacher balanced on the top of his head while the little girl slowly climbed to the top. There she remained while the teacher continued to walk along the ground. Both of them had to devote all their attention to maintain perfect balance and th prevent any accident from occurring.
One day the teacher instructed the pupil: ‘ Listen Meda, I will watch you and you watch me, so that we can help each other maintain concentration and balance. This way we can prevent an accident and then we will be earn enough to eat.”
But the little girl was wise and answered, ‘Dear master, I think it would be better for each of us to watch ourself. To look after oneself means to look after both of us. That way we will avoid accident and will earn enough to eat.” Because of the presence of one member who lives in mindfulness, everyone else is reminded to live in mindfulness.
Don’t worry about if those around you aren’t doing their best. Doing your best is the surest way to remind those around you to do their best.
Sitting in mindfulness and trying to pay attention to the present moment can bring relaxation to your body and mind. Everyday little and often, practice mindfulness. Practicing even in small doses can help you experience the well-being.