A rather comforting article by Jenni Russell in today's Times, writing about how our brains really can't cope with being overloaded. I am sure this is true, and I am sure the older we get then the more information we store and the less able we are to recall some things.
When I first moved up here thirty years ago and lived in the village with my husband (who died in1991) some friends from our very young days called in to see us. We hadn't seen them for thirty years and I am sure it was lovely to see them again. But about three years ago we spoke to one another on the telephone and I speculated about how long it was since we had been face-to-face. I estimated maybe getting on for fifty years now. There was a stunned silence and then she reminded me of the meeting when they called in to see us and our little black pug. 'Of course', I said - but not true. I couldn't remember it at all, and to this day I still have not remembered that visit.
I am sure you have all experienced trying to remember a name from the past. The farmer and I do it all the time - then I will remember the Christian name and a few seconds later he will remember the surname. Or I go into town with a shopping list but forget something on it (fatal to go in without a list because I hardly remember anything.)
Apparently the psychiatrist Edward Hallowell has looked into the
chemical processes which occur in the frontal lobes of our brains when they suffer such overload that they just cannot cope with the pressure any more.
Simply put - overload leads to crisis mode, where the brain is much more likely to make mistakes. There is only so much that the neurons within our brains can do in any one day. Small decisions can use just as much energy as large ones. But there are ways in which we can help things along.
One - and one which I follow along with the farmer - is one which people like President Obama follows: he wears the same kind of clothes, he always has the same breakfast - all the things which involve making simple decisions.
Every day we have porridge and a banana for breakfast. We eat our meals at set times - breakfast at 7.30am; lunch at 12.30pm; afternoon tea at 5pm; bedtime drink at 10pm. Are we prioritising our brains in what they need to work on? Well I really don't know that. But one thing I can tell you is that I always buy a certain plant in early December because it is Christmassy. Because over the years I have learnt exactly how to nurture it, I manage to keep it until the middle of Summer,by which time I am usually so fed up with it that I throw it onto the compost heap. I have been trying to think what it is called since this morning and had got as far as remembering that it began with a P. While I have been typing this post the word has come to me - Poinsettia! Had I used up all the
energy generated by my neurons or was it just old age? You tell me.