Memory and the brains ability to process information

Memory is a hot topic these days and everyone is looking for
the next best essential oil or supplement to boost its power.
Health food stores make a killing each year off of everyday
people, just like you, who want to improve their memory but are
not sure exactly how to make that happen. They spend
needless amounts of money on a product that is, in most
cases, providing little more than a placebo effect. If you would
like to truly enhance the memory power of your mind, you have
all of the tools you need without adding any fake miracle pill to
your already busy regimen and budget. Three simple tools
include breaks, sleeping, and journaling… no, seriously. It really
is that easy.

Think about it. When a college students are pulling out another
one of their late-night study sessions, there is a lot of action
going on behind the scenes and hidden deep within the
unconscious mind. Those students will crank out hour after
hour of uninterrupted study time hoping to retain as much as
possible. Sadly, what would help that student out significantly
better than a marathon of study? It is actually, taking a break.
Believe it or not, psychologists agree that taking a true break
from the assignment can actually help the memories lock into
place. Here’s the catch: it has to be a real break from the task.
In order for those new memories to form, the brain has to
almost “rest” itself. Sadly, the brain is unable to hit that reset
button while still focusing on the task at hand.

In order to lock in
the memories, it is best to go do something you enjoy and
allows you to happily focus on something else.
This is where the fun part comes in. If you enjoy video games,
turn one on and play a round. If you enjoy exercise, get out the
yoga mat or lace up your running shoes. Better yet, call your
mom or a long long lost friend and tell them how much you
care. Anything to keep yourself from thinking about what you
want to remember. It seems counter-intuitive, but it gives your
brain the chance to save and reset before carrying on about the
day.

Another popular tool to help increase your memory power – is
sleep. Just like taking a break, going to sleep at just the right
time and getting a good night’s rest is the perfect boost to your
brain’s memory creating power. Sleep gives your brain the
optimum opportunity to create and store those memories you
have made. According to research, it is best to study in the
afternoon, practice or review what you learned a little later in
the evening, and then go to bed for the night. When you wake
up in the morning, your chances of recalling what it is you are
consciously trying to remember will be significantly improved.
(Vahdat, 2017)

What is actually happening to your memories during that sleep
cycle? Sparing the science lesson, you can say the memory is
stored, traced, and even evolved while you are catching that
beauty rest. During the first 2-3 hours of sleep, the memory
actually stays in the cortex and recycles or replays. The cortex
is the same place in the brain that the memory was actually
formed. Once you enter rapid eye movement or REM sleep, the
memory moves more deeply into the brain, in a region called
the putamen where it is locked and loaded for the rest of your
life.

Without getting the proper amount of sleep, your precious,
baby short-term memories never get the chance to grow and
develop into long-term adult nostalgic bliss. This is especially
important if you are trying to develop a new skill, up your game,
or study for an exam. Imagine staying up all night studying,
cramming as much knowledge into your brain as possible, but
remembering hardly any of it because you never went to
sleep… and feeling exhausted on top of it!

The last tip to hack your unconscious and boost your memory
power, is something you have no doubt heard to do before…
write it down. The college student cramming all night for the
next day’s exam might have done better by just writing solid,
well thought out notes. Why does writing notes or even
journaling about your day help increase your unconscious
ability to recall information? There are a few key factors at work
while you write, especially if you are writing by hand.
Experts agree that taking notes, especially handwriting notes is
one of the most significant ways to hack your unconscious into
increasing your memory. Not only does recalling the
information and summarizing it in your own words help give
your unconscious the boost, but the actual cognitive functions
that are required to do it.

You are coordinating your verbal skills
with your fine movement skills and forcing your brain to
sloooowww down while you transcribe from thoughts to paper.
(Bui, D. C., Myerson, J., & Hale, S. 2013) Your unconscious
mind has to step aside, while your conscious mind handles the
task.

Whether you are working to improve your memory for work,
school, or just for the experience of reminiscing in your old age
rewarding yourself with breaks, getting enough sleep, and
documenting your experience by hand are all easy ways to
completely hack your unconscious mind to improve your
memory. Instead of your unconscious mind deciding what is
important enough to keep, you can override the process and
force it to know what you want to be important

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can bend them like an artist.” Pablo Picasso

So much of what you do each day, your motivations, and your
willingness to do more is all driven by your unconscious mind.
From the time you are born until the time you die, your
unconscious brain is hard at work. Without actively thinking,
you complete task after task and never question why you do
what you do. Your reasons are sometimes even a mystery to
you. Connecting with your unconscious mind can not only be
done relatively simply, but the benefits are seemingly
unmatched.

Would you believe that your unconscious mind can be
responsible for some of your top successes as well as some of
your most heart-wrenching mistakes? What if you were told
that you can even transform your future and opportunities for
success, simply by changing your mind? Does the idea of
controlling your unconscious mind to change the outcome of
your life seem plausible, or does it just sound like another
passing fad? Believe it or not, how you feel about that last
question will even help determine the answer.

Awareness of the unconscious mind’s influence is one of the
first steps in gaining back the control of your choices. You will
be placing the outcome of your happiness, your relationships,
your career and so much more back into your hands. Some of
the most successful and influential people to-date have spoken
of this same awareness. No, it is not a “secret” key to
happiness; however, connecting with your unconscious mind is
a widely underused practice.

“The mind is like an iceberg. It floats with one-seventh of its
bulk above water.” -Sigmund Freud.

Whether you realize it or not, there is A LOT happening inside
of your mind without your participation. While your awareness
is cast on work, family, kids, and who tagged whom in which
post, your mind is busy at work preparing for you your
reactions, responses, emotions, and deepest desires. The
unconscious mind is there, right next to you, all day long. Even
as you sleep, your mind is there with you sharing its subtle, yet
powerful influence. According to psychologists, this influence
has been developing and working for you since you where a
child, and the way you allow it to influence your decisions today
is almost completely out of your control. That operative word
here is most certainly, “almost.”

The concept of an unconscious or subconscious mind was first
“officially” introduced by praised psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud.
There are now a few models and opinions on the unconscious
mind and its impact and influence on our daily life; however, the
Freudian model was the first and is still the most widely known
by members outside of the psychological community.
The Freudian model of the unconscious was captured by
intense case studies by Freud of sample patients who were
suffering from abnormal psychological issues or trauma (Freud
1925/1961, Page 31.) He explored the motivations behind
everyday actions and reactions. He also investigated the
influence of the unconscious on their dreams. The work of
Freud is still most definitely the most influential; however, there are a few other positions on the subject.

Two other competing theories of the unconscious mind can be
found in those who practice Cognitive Psychology as well as
Social Psychology. In each respective model, the purpose and
power of the unconscious mind varies as well as its influence
over your choices. For example, Cognitive psychology has a
belief that the unconscious is actually not capable of the credit
we have given it over the years.They argue that the influence
on our lives is so subtle and it is so easily suggested to that
there is no justification in giving it such power. (loftus &
Klinger, 1992)

Social psychology argues that the processes and functions of
the unconscious mind are far more important and serve a
greater purpose than the catalysts for which those actions
happen. While Freudians and Cognitive psychologists are
focusing more on the stimuli triggering the unconscious
response, Social psychologists are directing their attention to
the response itself (Bargh, 2007.)

Interestingly enough, those who practice or study any form of
psychology will still hold the Freudian model as a baseline, or
even a champion of the unconscious mind. His case studies
modeled a movement toward mental health and taking a quest
for the deeper meaning hidden in everyday interactions. All
professional psychologists, and many of those who are not,
have all learned of Freud and studied the impact of his work on
our lives today. They cannot deny his influence on the field just
as they cannot deny the innermost workings of the unconscious
mind begin forming and developing while even in the womb
and locked into place during childhood.

Psychological models aside, you can no doubt reflect to a time
when you were a child and remember an experience that may
have shaped the way you make decisions as an adult. Maybe
you remember a time when you touched a hot stove and
learned, “That’s hot!” Perhaps it was something much deeper
or traumatic. The fact of the matter is that you have thousands
of experiences that have molded you into the person you are
today, and most of the time you had no idea it was leaving any
sort of lasting impact at all. In fact, depending on how traumatic
the experience may have been for you, there is a chance you
will have forgotten it entirely. However, the impact that
unconscious memory has on your psyche can be quite
pervasive.

It is widely accepted that the most influential relationship for a
child on both the conscious and the unconscious mind is with
their parents. The relationships and interactions between your
parents, particularly your same sex parent, have the singlehand
most impactful impressions on your psyche — whether
you want it to be or not, the impact is there. (Freud, 1956)
The ways in which your parents cared for you, disciplined you,
or even spoke about themselves are all ways that added to
your unconscious conditioning. There are more subtle
influences at work too. For example, how much you were or
were not held as an infant has an impact, as well as the ways
in which you played, or if you had siblings and the birth order of
said siblings… all of it (and so much more) comes together to
shape your unconscious mind.

The first step in gaining mastery or control over the
unconscious mind derives from gaining an understanding and
awareness of how it came to be. This is even more important
when discussing the influence of unconscious memories
themselves. In some cases, an event or an experience was so
traumatic the brain actually suppress the memory entirely. This
form of selective amnesia is one of the brain’s natural defense
mechanisms against recalling and reliving a traumatic
experience. However, keeping these memories suppressed is
not as positive as you would assume.

Even though the memory itself is hidden away, the negative
associates are still there – even if only on an unconscious level.
When something in your present day life triggers any of those
suppressed memories, the body responds sometimes
mimicking how it felt while first experiencing the trauma and
presenting as depression, anxiety, and even post traumatic
stress disorder. It may seem counterintuitive, but according to
psychologists today, the best way to overcome these
sometimes life debilitating symptoms is to recall the hidden
away memory.

In a way, some look at it as a form of reclaiming your power,
and subsequently your ability to process and dismiss an
emotion or past event. There are several methods
professionals will use to extract these memories, but arguably
the most successful method is exposure therapy or actually
revisiting the place or location the trauma occurred. Often
times, when the subject is able to recall the memory, their
symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or worse are likely to
disappear altogether. (Nature Neuroscience volume18,
pages1265–1271 (2015))

This book will continue to discuss ways to tap into and
overcome the unconscious mind. No matter what method of
psychology you tend to favor, the experience of connecting with
your unconscious can be a liberating experience. There are
simple ways to engage the unconscious and regain your
control, and the benefits are seemingly endless.