Saturday, 26 September 2009

How to remember things

For a few months, I've had this chronic problem of lack of hunger. After waiting around and procrastinating for around three months, I finally visited our family physician two weeks back. He diagnosed me for "agnimandyam" (which roughly translates to a slow-down in appetite). He gave me a medicine, which I had to take twice a day, once before breakfast and once after dinner. It went without saying, any miss in the schedule, and the medicine would not have the desired effect.

Now, how is it that I take an instruction like that, and make sure I follow it? How does my brain know automatically from the next day, that I have to have the medicine as soon as I get out of bed? Of course I could write it somewhere where I'm sure to see it, or set a reminder on my mobile - but the point is, the brain is actually capable of remembering without these external aids.

I actually managed to follow the course, without any such device, even without anyone having to remind me. I tried a new technique. The basic idea is, it is possible to condition your brain and make it remember what it needs to remember. Here's what I did, I repeated to myself several times before I went to sleep that night, that I have to remember to take the medicine the next morning. While I did this, I imagined myself actually taking the medicine, tasting it, and feeling it go down my throat. The next morning, to my pleasant surprise, I automatically remembered to have the medicine. The repetitions that I did, and the mental image that i had carefully built the previous day had helped my brain form new neural pathways to remind me of the new thing that I had to remember from the next day. It was a lot easier the next day, I didn’t have to remind myself as hard as I did the first day and gradually, this conscious effort gave way to unconscious habit, and soon I started to remember to take the medicine almost like I remember to brush my teeth.

Well, finally last night, I finished the course of medicine, my appetite is now back, I am eating and sleeping as good as ever. And most importantly, I have finally cracked the mystery of memory - after countless lost umbrellas and locked cars.

Funny thing though, I just remembered, I forgot to have dinner yesterday..

5 comments:

Cris said...

LOL :D
Let me try that. I want to remember to wake up before noon. And I have to remember it while I sleep that I should wake up. So I am going to have to imagine sleeping and then waking up and a clock that says err 9 am (lets be realistic). I will tell you the results tomorrow.

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

that sounds interesting. must try it out. dont think it'll work tho-not for someone as forgetful as me:-(

Nithin Rajan said...

both of you please do let me know if it works:D

Jam 'N Lim said...

This has worked for me, though in a different way...sometimes before I sleep in the night, when I decide that I want to wake up at an earlier time than usual the next morning, my eyes usually wake up at or around that time in the morning. I think it is because the previous night my mind is so tuned to the fact that I shouldn't miss to wake up at that time. I do not consciusly tell my mind anything, but when I think that I need to wake up at that time and then go over the activities that I need to do after waking, probably the mind gets conditioned and prepares the body to accomplish that...

Nithin Rajan said...

@Jam 'N Lim, I think everyone is missing the last line, or I have grossly overdone the rest:)