Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Goal: improve elderly-level memory

I've felt like I've been getting dumber for some time now, in a very specific way. This blog post today on the NY Times, about working memory, nailed it.

-I find myself thinking of something to say and then forgetting it: I can't hold a thought in my mind.

-I find it difficult to hold a thought in my mind in order to mull it over.

-I find myself having trouble remembering basic things, and must Google them.

These are all working memory problems. Thankfully, just as it can slip easily (or so it seems to me) it can also be regenerated with some effort. I think my problem with working memory is exacerbated by certain personality/lifestyle attributes.

-I'm no longer in college anymore, forced to do these things.

-I drink and smoke and sometimes try to hold intellectual discussions while doing both of these things (although don't know if I'll give up the wine at the book club, I think that actually still comes out a net positive)

-I am selectively stimulated in my new job. I miss interacting with people, which I don't do as much, and throwing ideas off of them. I can't be awesome in a vacuum. (ha, ha) I need to talk things out. It's annoying, because my job requires the skills I feel are slipping, but it doesn't nurture them, especially given my blog/RSS feed addiction. I totally overcheck those sites instead of working.

I feel like the best analogy is diving, where you need to be incredibly fit and flexible to dive, but actually diving does not work you intensively and long enough in order to make you more fit and flexible. You have to go elsewhere to improve yourself.

I think it's going to be my goal to improve my working memory and the depth of my thoughts.
This is going to include:

-yoga, which I do already. My instructor the other day mentioned that people who practice yoga are more mindful and listen to people when they speak to them. It requires focus and concentration, and it also decreases stress, etc., and a host of other things.

-intensive exercise. and figure out a way to get back into the water. I need to increase blood flow, push myself, and just feel activated and invigorated. I've been running on the treadmill at the gym, and I'm excited to go outside and run and rollerblade once it gets warmer.

-purposely check the ADD tendencies

-be selective about multitasking. Even listening to music, gchatting/working, etc., can be bad when I need to focus. Doing mindless work while listening to "This American Life" (which I do sometimes when I have to do data entry) is okay. And apparently doodling while thinking about something improves concentration, so situationally-dependent multitasking is okay.

-limit the amount of times I check RSS feeds. I will say this yet again.

-DISCIPLINE myself. Just because it crosses my mind to check a blog/email/bank account/that one thing/etc. DOES NOT MEAN I NEED TO DO IT THAT SECOND. More likely, I am stuck on a sentence and want to avoid it rather than buckle down and think of an answer. Knuckle down. It's my new motto.

Of course, it should be mentioned that I am doing this as I prepare to write a 2,000 word piece essentially straight through, due to my procrastination yesterday. Still, I think this was a good piece of time to set aside and think about ways that I have lapsed as of late and ways that I can fix them and be happier and smarter and more engaged in everyday life.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I have the WORST MEMORY EVER. Ever. If it weren't for the sticky notes on my desk and the constant reminders of things from my kids, we would never put on a concert. It's terrible. I have just started doing yoga and maybe that will help. I like the quiet environment in there.