American actress and author Marilu Henner uses a memory method dubbed APR (Anticipation, Participation, and Recollection) that she claims helps her retain vivid autobiographical memories. She is one of 56 documented cases of people that have Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM).
While few people have the structural brain differences that cause HSAM, there are many of us that would love to find ways to improve recollection of the days of our lives. Imagine someone giving you any date within your life. You then zoom into that date and relive some of the memories. Wow!
According to Marilu, “the biggest problem people have is they’re not paying attention, and they don’t realize how much is being recorded–so you might as well throw a little extra consciousness on it, and say ‘Yeah, I was looking forward to it, I enjoyed it and now I’m remembering it,’ Henner said. “ Just be conscious of the APR of your life.”
Are your autobiographical memories a vital part of your life? What if you could no longer remember the events on the day of your wedding or some other pivotal day in your life? Most of us remember important events, but may have photos where we only recognize ourselves while the living memory of that day is gone?
An ancient Chinese proverb says, “The palest ink is more reliable than the most powerful memory”. What this boils down to is, if you value your life’s memories and you do not have HSAM you should be writing them down or recording them in some durable format. But this is just a starting point because looking at a picture or video of yourself that does trigger a vivid memory of the event is not as satisfying as being able to relive your memories.
Memory and Mental Life
We tend to think that death is an all or none occurrence but nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, cells in our bodies and part of our brains are born and strengthened everyday while others languish and perish. And what’s left of us at the end of the day is either more or less alive than it was the day before depending upon how the balance of energy has shifted. We need to learn methods and develop technologies that increase mental life and allow it to flow more abundantly within us.
Autobiographical memory and mental life are intimately related. In a 2013 AARP article, Marilu provided the following tips for improving your mental life in the form of autobiographical memories:
- Note the pattern of your existing vivid memories. What are the things that are particularly easy for you to remember. For example do you remember all the weddings you’ve ever been to? She calls this your ‘primary track’. You start working with that and then try to fill in as much as you can between the events you remember.
- Use all of your senses when recording or recalling events.
- Eat healthy brain foods such as walnuts, and generally fruits, vegetables and legumes.
- Burn in your memories – She asks herself throughout the day, “”How can I bake this into my brain and make it a little more vivid?” She recommends taking a mental snapshot or a picture with your phone. Playing MemZy with the photos on your mobile phone could also be a great strategy for improving burn in.
- Share your memories with others that were at the same events and see if they can stir up some memories that you may be on the verge of loosing forever.
And of course remember to APR your way through the day.