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Want a Better Memory? Why? How?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Marilu Henner finds me memorable

Marilu Henner finds me memorable

Do you want to remember more of your past? By midlife, we have gained decades of experiences, some of which we can pull from our memory; some of which have retreated into the dusty closets of our brain. What if you could retrieve tons of memories you don’t even remember having forgotten? (Except that time when you got caught coming in late from the prom and were grounded. Still too vivid).

Would You Want to Remember Everything?

One of the most interesting talks I attended at the recent Natural Products Expo West (NPEW), was a talk on improving memory given by Marilu Henner, sponsored by Ascenta. Best known as an actress, Marilu is also one of 12 people in the world identified as having Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), which is the ability to recall the slightest details of nearly every day of life. In short, Marilu can remember almost EVERYTHING in her life, even baby experiences. Believe me, people in the audience were trying to stump her by throwing out dates and asking what day of the week it occurred on and what was going on at that time. Or they had met her once backstage at a play she was in and wondered if she remembered that meeting. She did — listing even what they both wore, ate, said, and saw. Whoa! Would you want that ability, or even some of it? I wouldn’t mind having SDAM (Sorta Decent Autobio Memory).

Are You Ready to Receive, Retain, and Retrieve Your Past?

Marilu claims we all have the capability to “Receive, Retain, and Retrieve” more memories. Which prompts again the question: Why would we want to recall more memories, especially bad ones? Aside from avoiding dementia, (ok, that’s a pretty big “aside”), what is the value of having a brain full of memories? And how do we go about retrieving more of those hidden stories and events?

I remember when my husband and daughter were this young.

I remember when my husband and daughter were this young. Now where did I put them?

Does Memory Bring Meaning and Life Purpose?

According to Marilu, developing a strong autobiographical memory is the best path to a more fulfilling life. She asserts that our memories offer meaning. Her memories inform why she is living each day. As well, she believes that bringing more memories into our awareness allows us to

  1. identify and understand patterns, emotions, and reasons in our life
  2. break negative behavior patterns that don’t serve us
  3. choose positive patterns that propel us to success, happiness, and purpose.

If you see a connection between having a stronger memory and your life purpose, then you will want to do two things: read her tips below and buy her book, Total Memory Makeover.

Marilu’s Strategies for Enhancing Your Memory Starting Now

  1. Explore your “primary track,” defined as a category of memories you most easily and often recall. Examples could be travel, relationships, foods, sports, places you’ve lived. Then fill in the blanks around the strong memory.
  2. Once you determine your primary track, cross-connect that with the sense you most rely on– sight, sound, touch, taste or smell. For instance, if you have a strong auditory sense, ask yourself, “What music was popular at the time I am trying to remember?” Your senses assist your recall ability. If you are a visual person, scroll through your day each evening as if running a video montage.
  3. Sear memories into your brain. Mentally take check as you experience events. Ask yourself, “How can I bake this into my brain and make it a little more vivid?” to quote Marilu. For instance, try doing a smell check every so often: What scents surround you or stand out at a given moment?

NPEWUsing Marilu’s suggestions, not only can you stop memory decline, but also you can retrieve more memories to enrich your life. That’s the kind of active, health aging I can get behind. Now if only I could remember where I put the rest of my notes from the NPEW trade show and educational sessions!

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