Journaling your way to a better memory

file3601243267160The unexamined life is not worth living, Socrates

Now that you’ve fired up the old memories and are able to go back recall your past, its time to figure out what to do with that information. You’ll need daily maintenance to stay on track (Henner 159) and you’ll need to do some analysis to figure out some life lessons you may have missed along the way. Henner, in her book Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future says that at least five minutes a day is necessary to record your thoughts, what you’ve learned, your feelings, struggles, victories and your plans for the next day (159).

She also says not to stress out with one more thing on the to-do list – just a couple of sentences or bullet points each day works just fine (Henner 160).

If you want the graduate course in memory, here’s a way to take this up a notch. Henner suggests an APR calendar. APR stands for Anticipation – Participation – Recollection.

First, write down anything about a particular day BEFORE the actual event. Then write down what actually happened (best done at the end of the day), then, two days later write down your analysis of that day – your feelings, observations and anything else that comes to mind (Henner 165). You can further expand this to weeks and years (Henner 165-166).

“Keeping an APR calendar is like having a therapist in your pocket. You will be living and guiding your life at the same time,” says Henner (170).

Memory maintenance moving forward:

  • Every so often, put yourself in an autobiographical state of mind (think back). Standing in long lines or when you’re stuck in traffic are good times for this (Henner 177-178).
  • Use your journal as a “change” agent . Write down what you want to change and focus on that over time. Record your progress and you’ll be able to see where the stumbling blocks are (Henner 174). I actually used this to rid myself of road rage back in 2009 (if you cut me off before 2009 or were driving too slow in front of me, sorry about that).
  • By going back and reflecting on your past experiences, you will have a better understanding of why and how your kids react to situations (Henner 191). Taking an autobiographical vacation often helps stir more than just the mental recollection of what happened, but also the emotions of the event.
  • When you’re in an autobiographical state, journal, reflect and see the lessons learned – pretend you must teach this lesson to someone else and that will help you learn to avoid the mistake again, or enable you to repeat the success.

Henner wraps her book as many of the authors in this series do, with tips on cleaning up your health and getting back on the fitness bandwagon (heck , just jog behind the thing if nothing else), but also encourages you to clean the messes in your life – clean up your workspace (all those people who say they work better with messes all over their desk actually don’t – it’s just a nice cover), take up some activities that don’t require a remote (Henner 221-222). Being able to take charge of your past will allow you to take charge of your future (Henner 224). 

Henner, Marilu, and Lorin Henner. Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future. New York: Gallery, 2012. Print.

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