We normally classify people who can easily remember certain details as intelligent. These are people who are able to memorize textbook lessons word per word, or someone who is able to remember the exact location where you placed your spare change two months ago.
In schools, most teachers evaluate their student’s intelligence based on the child’s ability to answer the exam correctly whether it’s Identification, Definition of Terms, Essay, Formulas and alike. With this, students aspire to be one of those very few people who have very sharp memory.
But did you know that a good memory does not equate to intelligence? While the two are strongly linked, good memory is not necessarily an indication of intelligence. Your working memory can significantly influence your ‘intelligence’ because of its ability to easily retrieve and apply stored information in situations where you need to solve a problem, while intelligence pertains to the ability to solve problems.
It is proposed that the function of the memory is not to transmit information accurately all the time, rather it is to optimize the brain into intelligent decision making by holding onto what’s important and discarding what is considered as irrelevant. This allows us to adapt to new situations by letting go of outdated and potentially misleading information.
In the classroom setting, teachers in the top universities in the Philippines usually present their lessons on a powerpoint, or a lecture where they write the important points of the lesson on the board. For their part, students need to respond in some way to show they understood what is being taught. For their assignments and exams, students rely on their memory to recall the formulae they have memorized to help them answer the test.
A bad memory means your brain is helping you make intelligent decisions
Just because you’re forgetting some details from an event does not mean that your brain is malfunctioning. It’s just focusing on more important things or create mental pictures that are easier for the brain to process. When we only remember only the gist of the situation as opposed to every detail, this creates simple memories which are more effective at predicting new experiences.
Thus, you create your decisions based on the big picture of the situation, not merely on select details which can impair your judgment.
If you have a hard time remembering details of your day, maybe you should first evaluate your daily routines before jumping into conclusions. Did you get enough sleep the previous night? Are you catching up on a lot of requirements? Did you lose someone important in your life recently? People who are depressed, physically inactive, and have high blood pressure are more likely to suffer from poor memory.
Poor sleep, or having inadequate snoozing time gives your brain a harder time recalling and retaining information, making your memory ‘bad’. Not only that, lack of sleep slows down physical reflexes, fine motor skills, and judgment.
Aside from a healthy diet, and enough sleep, exercising regularly, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure and sugar levels help maintain a sharp memory.
If bad memory affects your day to day routine, then you should think about seeing a doctor. Chances are, you might be suffering from an early onset of dementia. But if you think that your bad memory is not that disruptive to your day to day activities, you can do something about your daily routine to help you overcome your inability to remember things well.
Create a system
As mentioned, having a hard time remembering can be attributed to your lifestyle, how you do things. For some, writing down their tasks and other important reminders on a piece of paper is enough to keep them on track. Creating a system on how you get your routine done makes each activity easy to predict, thus easier to remember.
Make a list
As elementary as it sounds, writing down important tasks and reminders help you remember them better. The physical activity of writing with your hand, and not typing onto your laptop, stimulates cells in your brain that helps you pay attention to what you’re doing at the moment.
Write your notes
When you do your own notes, you only write down pieces of information that is relevant to you. It also helps you summarize the main points of the lesson, letting you remember things better than if you read it straight from the textbook.
So don’t be too quick that having a good memory is always a good thing! You shouldn’t feel bad if you have a hard time remembering tiny, irrelevant details either. Because at the end of the day, our brain only manages to retain memories that are important for our survival. The fact is, intelligence is more of a hereditary trait, while good or bad memory boils down to your habits and lifestyle.