When my son Luke was a toddler, he had a nightly request to tell him a story about my childhood. At first, these memories emerged slowly and with fuzzy details. As time went by, I remembered more and more and in greater detail. I began to look forward to the nightly ritual as much as Luke did. Some of his favorites; the time I crashed both family cars within a few weeks of receiving my license, my broken finger reset by my pediatrician with the pen off his desk, and of course, The Spaghetti Dinner (see my website blog Estate Planning: Family Dinner Edition #1 – The Power of a Spaghetti Dinner).
Memory is such an asset. Consequently, it is incredibly frustrating when memory fails us. Lack of memory is particularly frustrating in social situations. My memory is at its worst when trying to remember the name of a new acquaintance. How is it I can remember the person’s whole life story but not their name?
According to research one reason may be because a name does not actually tell us anything about the person we are meeting. Human memory is good at things like faces and facts that connect to information we already know. But with a name our brain has nothing to cling to. Thus, a name is easily forgotten.
Chester Santos, the U.S. Memory Champion of 2008, recommends using visualization to help us remember a person’s name. He teaches a four-part tactic to remember one’s name:
- Repeat the name right after the introduction.
- Ask a question using the new name shortly after the introduction.
- Think of a connection to the name and anything you already know. Then incorporate something you notice physically about a person and connect it to the name.
- When you leave the meeting use the name one last time.
My fading memory may have as much to do with the fact that I am inching closer to 60 years old as it does my inability to visualize. So, I found it quite reassuring that according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta I can still grow new brain cells.
Gupta is a neurosurgeon and bestselling author of Stay Sharp; Build a Better Brain at Any Age. In his book Gupta writes that we can build new paths in our brain that can create detours in case old paths are blocked by plaque or disease. Gupta identifies several behaviors that will create new brain cells. He suggests that you be a learner; hydrate; try something new; reduce stress; do activities with purpose; eat more Omega 3 foods; and create more bonds with meaningful conversation.
Gupta also recommends a great activity that encompasses many of these behaviors at once – take a brisk walk with a friend and talk about your problems.
In retrospect, perhaps, telling childhood stories to my son Luke became an act with purpose and meaning and therefore increased my brain pathways and my memory. Estate planning may be similarly beneficial. Creating an estate plan will allow you to engage in meaningful conversations about your life, participate in a task with purpose, and reduce your stress by checking estate planning off your to do list.
It is nice to know creating an estate plan is not just a valuable way to protect your family, but it will also give you the opportunity to strengthen your brain and improve your health.