Why do we forget?


Memory experts have found that many people are unable to remember what they ate this morning because their minds are struggling with post-pandemic transitions.

Last weekend, Dr. Grant Shields, 32 years old of the University of Arkansas (USA) stood on the podium, suddenly his mind went blank. He forgot the name of his tutor. The laughter of the students resounded. “I’m so embarrassed. I wish my memory was as good as before,” Shields said.

Interestingly, that moment occurred when Grant Shields, a memory researcher, was teaching a class about how stress affects cognition. Memory experts say that short-term memory loss is happening to many people on a more frequent basis. It is a phenomenon in which we suddenly find it very difficult to remember simple things, such as the names of friends or colleagues we have not met, words that are easy to remember, even forgetting how to perform everyday actions.

We are living in a moment of many changes due to the effects of the pandemic, with returning to the office, creating new habits and even a war in Europe taking a toll. Neuroscientists say all of this consumes more cognitive energy than we realize.

“Right now our brain is like a computer carrying a browser with a lot of tabs open, slowing down the processing ability,” said neuroscience professor Sara C. Mednick, University of California, Irvine , said.

Neuroscientists have recently discovered that people are forgetful because they are in a transitional period, with many changes and difficulties. Image: The Healthy

Chronic and pent-up stress over the past two years also contributes to transient amnesia. Research led by Dr. Shields found that people who experienced recent life stress experienced memory loss.

Too much information coming to us on multiple channels also messes with the brain. For example, at work, while constantly scrolling through the phone, it can lead to difficulty remembering things that are out of context, such as co-workers’ names.

Next, our lives are pretty much the same during the pandemic. Day after day repeats itself, with no particular event. “When all the experiences are mixed together, it’s hard to remember any of them being different,” says Zachariah Reagh, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington.

Michelle Triant, 39, blames two years of Covid for making her forgetful. Recently she forgot the name of her own body part. When her 4-year-old daughter asked, “Mom, did I grow up in your womb?”. Triant felt this was an opportunity to give him a lesson in anatomy, so he started explaining. “No, baby, you actually grew up in…” but stammered and couldn’t find the right words.

“We grew up in our mother’s womb but her belly is getting bigger, that’s why it’s so confusing,” Triant’s 7-year-old daughter interjected, telling her sister.

“I forgot the knowledge that 1st graders could speak clearly,” said Triant, who lives in Spokane Valley, Washington, shyly.

Memory declines with age, but it’s not known exactly at what age. Some studies show that memory capacity peaks in your 20s and declines from there. Others suggest that the steepest decline begins around age 60.

If you’re worried about your memory, you should see your doctor, especially if others notice you’re experiencing memory loss. Here are expert tips for boosting memory.

Do not force

Forcing yourself to try to remember something is counterproductive. You get frustrated, and this frustration allows the emotional part of the brain to overwrite the parts that recall memories, says Jennifer Kilkus, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale Medical School. So relax a bit, take deep breaths to let your brain relax, and try again later.

Do not do many things at the same time

It’s hard to remember or stick something into memory when you’re doing two things at once, says Dr. Kilkus. So put your phone away. This will also help reduce information overload. Doing one thing at a time is good for you.

Calms the brain

Professor Sara C. Mednick recommends daily meditation, yoga or simply deep breathing for at least 10 minutes a day. Walking in nature, connecting with loved ones, long conversations, hugs, sex… are also very good.

“Intimacy relieves stress by making you feel safe and cared for. A good night’s sleep also clears out toxins in your brain that can clog your mental processing,” says Mednick.

Focus on the present

Georgetown University professor of communication Jeanine Turner advises giving your full attention to people when talking to them. This will help you remember the conversation better, because the brain will not be distracted or overreacted.

Again, put down the phone, turn off the TV, and really pay attention to what your loved one is saying, not just waiting for your turn to answer.

Bao Nhien (According to WSJ)

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