Three months ago I read about people who can remember every day of their lives going back to early childhood.
My memory is a bit of a fog, but this convinced me the brain has the capacity to remember a lifetime. So I decided to remember every day from that day on and to try to reclaim as many past days as I could.
I’m blogging about it. Here is my opening post:
Three months in, I find it is not only possible, but it is getting easier.
There are also some postivie side effects. Both in terms of my memory in general and my relationships.
I’m also keeping an eye on research and media reports on memory and blogging about those - and have just come across this forum.
I love this idea! I wrote about something similar in my blog a couple weeks ago. The idea was that I never remember what happened on my past birthdays. So I decided to live out the day and review it a number of times over the next week. The results so far have been pretty impressive. I remember that the 2nd of Feb was a Thursday and that I make my girlfriend 6 pancakes and that I took her to this place and that, what I got her, etc. Then the next two days I remember well up until my birthday the 4th, where I have been making a concerted effort to review and keep the details.
The thing is, how much detail is relevant to remember. I like your idea that just a few big memories should suffice, then the little details will follow. I never thought about actually picturing a mental calendar, but I want to do this. I’ll give it a shot…
I’m approaching the nine month mark in this process of remembering every day that passes (261 days so far) and all continues to go well.
I have had to adjust the techniques I use for refreshing my memory tags as they have accumulated.
The key is reviewing past days. Speed reading type techniques help me to run over the images I have pinned to my mental calendar.
As today is Monday, I will go over the images for the Saturday, Sunday and Monday of every week starting from when I began this process last December. This is much more effective than recalling just the tags for past Mondays looking backwards in time, as I used to too. That was sometimes too disjointed to be easy.
I also have a moving window of the past month, so in today’s review when I reach 3 August, I refresh the images for each consecutive day to the present.
This fits into my waking up routine.
When travelling into work, I’ll often try out some other exercises, like calling up the memory tag for the same day of each month (ie the 3rd of each month if I do this today). It is great feeling to be able to remember readily where I was and what I was doing as I think back. The perspective it gives me is often revealing.
Another recent development is I’ve become interested in the role of intermittent fasting on delaying the effects of ageing and, particularly, the way it prompts neuron growth. This was prompted by a documentary in the BBC Horizon series (Eat, Fast and Live Longer).
I have read a book about Jill Price, a woman who can remember it all. She can remember every day but says she is troubled by flash backs that just pop up in her mind. She has seen a doctor about it. This makes me think one might want to think twice about wanting to remember every day in one’s life.
My life is so hectic that I undergo time distortions, with sometimes the distinct feeling that what happened last week actually happened a month ago (I sometimes cram 3 or 4 days in one, by being physically at different locations and doing quite different things, so I have the feeling that one of these days can count for 3 or 4 days, if the different things I do at different places are disconnected enough).
Remembering just one week seems to me beyond my ability, but I’m just starting in this memory thing…
The perspective I have from this process is one of the most fascinating things about it. Pulling up what I was doing on the same date each month looking back is often a revelation: some things seeming longer ago, others surprisingly recent.
How relentlessly time passes also strikes me, though I’m not sure if this is more so than before. I noticed two days ago how the leaves are starting to turn brown and fall is coming - so soon. There have always been markers to the passage of time.
I agree on some days being full. Generally I have one image pinned to my mental calendar to capture the essence of a day, but sometimes it takes three or four!
Thanks for the update. It’s a very interesting project.
How often are you reviewing at the moment?
I think that I read about one of the autobiographical memorizes who said that they are always doing things like jumping back from the current date So if today is December 20, 2012, they would go back and recall what happened on every December 20 that they could remember. I wonder if that would help.
I don’t know if I would be disciplined enough to memorize every day into the future, but I’d really like to make a giant calendar of my entire life and try to fill in all of the events that happened to me in the past just to see how much I could recall with those triggers.
I find your project highly interesting. What I was wondering about though, is how you form your mental calender. What does it look like? Is it a journey, broken up into months and weeks? How do you pin your key images of a given day to to the respective date on your calender?
I don’t have the inherent ability to remember as people with hyperthymesia seem to have, so I review memory tags regularly for the period since I began this process over a year ago now.
From what I have read of people with hyperthymesia, most seem to have made a decision at a very young age to remember each day and claim they have power of recall without having to use memory techniques. I don’t pretend to have that ability, but it would be nice if I find from this experiment that it can be developed later in life.
Certainly the images I have pinned to my mental calendar are now entrenched and adding each new day is not presenting a problem, but I am a little fearful that if I ease off on the reviews then gaps will begin to appear.
The techniques I am using continue to develop with experience and as the number of days pile up. I’m keeping track on my blog about how the process evolves and have tagged entries specifically on the tecnhniques with “How I remember”.
At this current stage, I carry out a review of the past dates as I wake and get up, sometimes using time during travelling into work or a run if need be.
As today is Wednesday, I recall the images for Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for each week since the start of this process. At the outset, I just reviewed the same day of the week looking back, but have found the moving window technique helped as the volume of images built up and I started to get confused - often the image for a particular day comes to me by association with the surrounding days.
It is a lot of days to run through, but they are now entrenched and I hope that I will have the confidence soon to reduce the review frequency and still retain the past images. At the same time, the actual review process can be extremely quick - it tends to take longer when I become interested in a particular memory or the insight it gives me.
I pretty much visualise an actual calendar, as laid out on my laptop calendar, running Monday to Sunday, a screen per month, and have the sense of where the days are - so when the three-day window is Sunday - Tuesday, for example, it feels like my mind’s eye jumps from the Sunday at the end of the week to the Monday at the beginning of the next line.
Recalling an image usual just takes place in an instant - and I’ve talked in the past of how I’m using speed reading techniques. As an example, today being Wednesday, my review begins on Monday 19 December 2011 - I think the date to myself and up flashes the image of sitting in my office with a couple of other people eating mince pies and custard. Then onto the next day, the landlady where I was staying opening a box containing a gift of flowers from her neighbours. The next day, entering a café with my parents. This can pass in three heartbeats.
There is often a sequence or theme to a particular week. These three images capture leaving the town where I work to go home to my parents for Christmas. They also enable me to open up each day - I remember sitting in the café, what we ate, taking my father off with me to buy a present so my mother could buy his, and so on. Sometimes it is delving into the detail that makes the review more time consuming, but also so enriching.
Thanks for your explanation. I’ve also read quite a bit on your blog, which is very interesting. I am considering to try and to give it a go as well. Starting with just a month, instead of a year. Starting with baby steps is always good.
However, I’m not comfortable with the idea of using a mental calendar to store my associations. I’m surprised that you can manage to differentiate between the separate days, weeks and months. I think a journey/ palace/town would work better for me.
What came to mind last night is the following working hypothesis:
Different themes for the months. I’ve travelled quite a lot, especially in winter, so I always associate January with being in Asian countries. I naturally associate August with summer/leisure activities, December is the archetypical winter/holiday month, etc. So all my Januaries could take place in Asian countries, all Augusts in settings like beaches, pop festivals, parks, etc. You could also have a movie month, a month at sports facilities, etc.
The weeks can be differentiated by using four or five sections in the bigger month palace. I already have in mind four hotels that I recently visited in Uzbekistan that could together form my January 2013.
The weekdays can either be inserted as images in the journey (e.g. a moon for Monday, a sun for Sunday. You could even use a different image for the second (and third and fourth) Monday of the month, for instance M&M’s for the second Monday, a church for the second Sunday, etc). Another option is to learn to calculate the Gregorian calendar, so weekdays can be calculated using math.
The date can be integrated by using the P images of my PAO list. You can for instance combine a P image with the first key image of a given day.
In this way it could be possible to create a short story using a few images for each day, and place that story in a locus. Longer stories spanning several days or a week (over multiple loci) can arise organically. As long as there are markers for the dates, so the different days don’t become a blur.
So far so good! I’ve only been experimenting for 8 days now, as I began on Jan 1, so it’s too early for conclusions. I am doing it more or less as described in the post above. I selected a hotel in Uzbekistan as the stage for January 2013. I’m not gonna use different hotels for the separate weeks, which would be redundant.
For each day I insert some images in a certain area of the hotel creating a scene that brings up associations with the main events of the day. I also insert images for the day and the date, using different images for the different Mondays (eg a moon for the first Monday and MM’s for the second; a tank for the first Tuesday and a drum for the second). I’m basically still trying different things out along the way.
The biggest difficulty thus far is to restrict myself in the number of images I insert. I tend to get overexcited and insert many images, which would make it hard to manage after a while. It is fun to come up with simple images that capture the important things.
Every evening before falling asleep I walk through the scene of the day, trying to imprint it as thoroughly as possible. Most mornings I meditate for about 15 minutes. I now start my meditation by reviewing the images in the scene I created the day before. Further reviewing happens spontaneously throughout the day for now. I don’t really need a schedule for reviewing yet.