(The Amateur Brain Scientist part of me has landed on this interesting thought: What if some of our dreaded short-term memory loss could be counteracted by some changes in our lifestyle habits or contexts? Today some noodling in that direction….)
Some of us might be quietly fretting about the possibility that our short-term memory seems to be slipping. Small stuff at first—misplacing something, losing our train of thought, leaving important tasks half-finished—might be indicating more serious complications in our overall cognitive health.
Our abilities to focus on a task or thought pattern might have waned with advancing years—there’s neurobiological evidence for that to be true. But it may also be valid that the cause of our imagined-or-real loss of short-term cognition comes from being distracted. Preoccupied, sidetracked, diverted or unfocused—our minds pulled every which way, following whatever attracts or gathers attention at a particular moment. What looks like short-term memory loss may actually be our brains moving too fast in too many directions.
These distractions fill our daily experiences. Among them are cleverly designed technologies that grab awareness in short-spurts, beguiling our brains to give time and energy to their invitations. Our decision-making processes might flit from one stimulus to another, considerations fragmented into tiny packets of synapses that get easily replaced by the next technological rabbit or squirrel that happens across our paths.
What to do? This idea might merit consideration: Cut down on the detractors, disrupters, diverters and entertainers that come our way. Less screen time, more reading time. Less charging of batteries, more exercise. Less social-media hand-wringing about dystopian possibilities, more participation in workable solutions. Less isolation, more relationships. Less news-chasing, more news-making.
I realize that I could be wrong or hypocritical—you’re reading my attention-begging right now! But I also think that hyperventilating about short-term memory loss might not be as helpful as disciplining ourselves to the task of putting aside what may be the actual causes.
And yes, I want to remember to try this out personally…!
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