Memory helps us be our best selves

Some time ago I was given a class assignment to list the significant events in my life. Then rate them as generally negative or positive.

I decided to do this in my mind during one of my morning meditations. I thought of the events that made the greatest impression on me, listing them in my mind, and thinking whether they were positive or negative events. As I thought of one, another would pop into my mind. Some were in chronological order, some I remembered because of associations with other events.

Two interesting things happened while I was doing this exercise.
Both surprised me because I feel I have trouble remembering positive events and people in my history, and especially, things that made me happy – times when I was really happy. I often find it difficult to find things to be truly grateful for, especially on the spur of the moment.

The first thing was that, by far, most of the significant events were positive.
The second was that, of the negative events, several were being repeated. In different ways, mind you, but they were essentially the same kind of event. I also realized most of the negative events weren’t that negative in retrospect. I actually made a choice in the majority of the negative events. Each appears, now, to have been a many-faceted learning experience.

Breaking up with a lover, getting a divorce, giving up on a dream, changing jobs (even getting fired), moving, having medical problems and procedures; these are all unpleasant situations, but making the choice to go through with them inevitably, in the end, led to more positive circumstances.

The only thing I felt I had no choice over was the deaths of loved ones. With those, it was my attitude and perspective, which I did have a choice about, that allowed me to move on.

So my challenge is to change my habit of remembering only the tough times. I need to replace that habit with remembering the good times or … feeling GRATITUDE!

John Kotre says in White Gloves; How We Create Ourselves Through Memory, “Whether predictable or not, the changes in our lives lead to changes in our memory.”

A little further on he also says, “But something else must be done to memories when we experience a new self. The old one must be cast off, as far away as possible – painted over, if you will.”

So we actually have to work at remembering good things. That can be done with practice. One way is to note, every day, some things for which we are grateful. I find myself saying, “I’m glad that…” because I have every intention of building happier memories of the present and future.

Me, my cat and my birthday haircut

Me, my cat and my birthday haircut

Even doctors admit it…

From a Medscape.com article: Medscape Family Medicine
Statins: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown; reviewing the perception of benefits vs harms of statin (cholesterol lowering) drugs:

One sentence JUMPED out at me…. “The minority of NEJM respondents who recommended starting statin treatment believed that lifestyle modifications were desirable in theory but difficult to achieve in practice.”

Thus most doctors end up prescribing statins. Though, to be fair, the article does show, at least in this sample of physician respondents, there was a lot of resistance to doing so.

So…DUH! Lifestyle modifications – changing habits – are difficult.

Lifestyle modifications are stressful, both in their anticipation and in their implementation. We usually see them as imposed by outside forces and factors. By focusing on one very small aspect at a time, and then implementing baby steps to accomplish the small change, a huge amount of stress is removed from the process. Even seeing small results is encouraging. Much more so than attempting major change and predictably falling short.

By having another person involved in the process with us daily, or nearly daily, another stress-inducing element, that of feeling alone, is reduced or eliminated.

I’m working on a program that addresses these, and more, issues around lifestyle changes. One of the most difficult problems is how to identify and recruit your support system, whether it is one person or a team.

Surprisingly, our understanding of memory might be helpful here. I’ve just finished an excellent book by John Kotre called White Gloves: How We Create Ourselves Through Memory. I’m putting together a post with some of the pertinent ideas, so stand by. There is always help and hope.

How do we know?  Photo by quicksandala, morguefile.com

How to make the world a better place

What does being physically able and fit have to do with making the world a better place?

When we make conscious choices, and recognize that those choices are the first step towards accomplishment, we accomplish what we choose to accomplish.

Because we live our life in our body, we experience the world through that body.
When we make a conscious choice about how we want to be in our body, and follow through, we feel the result.

I have a dear friend who is quadriplegic with MS, and chooses how to be in his body – though he is in an understaffed nursing home. He is very alive!

We recognize that we do have some effect (if not control) over our own world.
It is this recognition that allows us to choose to do small things that can change the world. It gives us hope. It gives our small lives meaning. It makes us more flexible and it joins us in community.SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 420