I am a forgetter.
I leave things at home and others behind, I miss appointments, I can’t remember birthdays and I always, always make up excuses for my forgetful ways.
My go-to? I’m just born this way. No matter how hard I try, I can’t remember. But is that really true? Are some people just naturally more forgetful than others?
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To find out, I spoke to clinical psychologist Samantha Clarke, who tells me yes, memory capability varies for people. However, she says people can maximise their capacity by doing memory training and also addressing lifestyle factors.
So no excuses really.
Dr Clarke PhD says the main reason people forget is actually quite a simple one: they weren’t paying enough attention.
According to Dr Clarke, it’s easiest to think of your memory like a storage bank. If you’re not paying attention completely at the time, the information won’t be stored properly.
“Some people might have five things on the go and their mind’s quite busy, often they’ll find it more difficult to remember things because they’re not really engaged in that moment mindfully to take in all the information,” she says.
However, there are other factors that contribute to forgetfulness, besides the obvious medical conditions that cause memory loss such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr Clarke, who is a new mum to her six-week-old child, is feeling the full effects of sleep deprivation on the brain.
“My brain is probably functioning at about 30 per cent of what it could be right now.”
She warns that if people don’t get enough sleep (8.5 hours) their memory can be affected significantly.
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Vitamins like B12 and omega 3s play a role in memory Dr Clarke says, so not getting enough will mean your memory isn’t working the way it could.
“If someone has a really poor diet and they’re not eating good quality meat, or fruits or vegetables or fish oil and things like they’re actually going to find it more challenging to remember things in the long term.”
Alcohol and medication
While we all know a big night can make your memories a little fuzzy, if not completely absent, Dr Clarke explains drinking alcohol can have an effect even when you’re later sober.
“It’s been shown that even at times when you’re not drinking, alcohol has had an impact on your ability to remember things and retain information,” she says.
She says this applies to both people who regularly go over their daily and weekly recommended limit by a small amount and people who binge drink.