Encoding Memories (Part 2 of 4)

Encoding Memories (Part 2 of 4)

Encoding Memories (Part 2 of 4)


I think that many of us can relate to this… Has anyone had this happen… Where you’ve heard a family story told over and over again until it becomes your own story somehow along the way? Like, suddenly one time when you tell the story, you are the central character of the story instead of your brother? And you find yourself arguing decades later about who fell off the bike, or ate the cookie, or whatever. Isn’t it strange how you adopt it as your own false memory of the scenario, even though you might not even remember if you were there or not?

Often, our memories drive a narrative to which we are emotionally attached. Sometimes, these emotional attachments can hold us back.

In the first part of this blog series, I presented a brief overview of the types of memory systems we have, examples of how memories might fail us, and neuroplasticity.

Now I want to talk about the way we encode memories.

What’s Your Focus?

We can focus our attention on patterns of fear or fun or what makes us happy. We can train our brains to look for happy moments or threatening moments. You can train your brain to seek out and recognize patterns.

For example, you might decide to count how many times a day you recognize someone making a happy memory and try to count one better than the day before. And if you can’t find anyone making happy memories, then perhaps you could go out and attempt to create a moment of gratitude for yourself, however seemingly small that may be. Appreciate the sky, or colors around you. Feel the warm sun on your face. Pause to become aware of your environment.


Let’s all try a couple of these now together. I’d like to invite everyone to pause what they are doing and set down whatever it is you are carrying that is weighing heavy on your heart and if you can… for just this one brief moment. You can pick up your burdens again at the end of this article, but just for now, if you are able to, I give you permission to let go and just give your heart a little break if you can with a-slow-and-low-ohhhhhh………

Let’s take a big inhale together…and exhale slowly with an audible “OHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhh”

It’s been a tough year. So let’s take in a breath again with a BIGGGGG inhale…and then exhale with a-slow-and-low-ohhhhhhhhhhh. One more time, inhale…2…3…4…5 and then exhale to a count of 10 slowly while emitting a low ohhhhhhhhhhh.

Ahhhh…ok…remember it is with small, intentional changes that big changes are made. I believe that many of us have the power to change the narrative we tell ourselves. When we take the time to pause and examine our surroundings, we can create our own opportunities. We can create our own luck.

So here are a few techniques that I’ve learned, used, and shared with others for creating your own luck. Even if you try one technique and it improves your communication, or the results you get from your team, or your relationship with your boss, or yourself, then it’s worth it for me to share these strategies.

    1. The Card Memory Technique – Here is a neat technique. I struggle with this one because it causes stress on my working memory and if I push too hard, it will trigger a panic attack. It’s called The “Card Memory Technique” is a way to train your brain how to encode data better. You shuffle a deck of cards and then look at them and try to remember their order. It takes a while, but eventually, you get the hang of it with practice. The result is that you teach your brain how to encode data faster and it improves short-term memory. A variation of this is that you would pick out the objects that do not have a white background. Or you could try to recall only the red cards. Visit this link and train your brain online. I’ve created an online memory game here for you to train your brain.
    2. Action – We can improve the encoding of memories through action because action boosts episodic memory encoding by releasing more noradrenaline hormones. When children are preparing for a test, it is suggested that students recreate the same environment, emotionally and physiologically as when they will be taking the test. So, if you have a wobbly kid as I do, then it is suggested that you let them wobble and that they will remember information better. For example, experiential, active learning is a more effective teaching strategy than a lecture for many learners.
    3. The Spacing Effect – Here’s another memory technique that improves your memory encoding because you use repetition over a period of time. I use this method to improve brain performance for ignite talks that I have done for PubConf, NDC Conferences, and DevOpsDays Conferences.
      1. Step 1 Write down your to-do list

      2. Step 2 Read the list out-loud: see, hear, read, feel your vocal cords resonating

      3. Step 3 Look away and then repeat your list

      4. Repeat again after 6-8 hrs

      5. Repeat it again before bed.  This takes advantage of memory consolidation while we sleep, which I mentioned in part 1 of this blog series.

      6. Repeat the next day. You will remember your list!

    4. Relaxation – We can improve processing by relaxing. This allows the neurotransmitter vasopressin to be released and makes us more open to receiving information. Remember earlier when we took a breath together? Who remembers what I said? Let’s test your memory. Can you remember? We took a few big breaths together and then I said let’s all inhale together and do a …. “Slow and low ohhhhhh.”

      When we have a relaxed mind, we are less likely to have our amygdala hijack our brain and shut off signals to our prefrontal cortex and higher functions. If the emotions are strong enough, our experience gets stuck in our limbic brain and we repeat the patterns until we can move it up to our mid-brain and then our pre-frontal cortex where we use executive functions to analyze the experience and put it into the proper sequence of events.

    5. Shoot the Thumb – Just like how we exercise our muscles and we can also stimulate our nervous system to improve our brain performance.  Here is something I first learned about on TikTok. This is called “Shoot the Thumb” and it helps you encode memory better. It forces neuropathways to be activated and memory systems to work together. This means the memories will be encoded easier since the neuropathways will be transmitting more input data. “Shoot the Thumb” is a neuromotor brain technique for improving brain function. How it works is we hold on to a memory and shoot our thumb. Do the exercise to stimulate the neuropathway. Your eyes need to move with your fingers for the technique to work. Bi-lateral stimulation of both hemispheres improves memory encoding since right and left motor functions are activated. Watch this technique in slow motion here:
@adhdreading Reply to @dancelove180 Slowing it down.? original sound – Brain Training Memory ADHD APD

Remember that small, intentional changes are how big changes are made. I believe that many of us have the power to change the narrative we tell ourselves and when we take the time to examine, we can improve our brain’s performance.

Remember, brains lie.

Our brain has to consider how to process the data coming in. So we can trick our senses into perceiving something differently. For example, if a shadow is added to a video, you can trick the brain into seeing the motion in the video differently. It’s fairly easy to trick our brains by manipulating our senses. That’s why it’s best to incorporate multiple sensory inputs when storing information.

In the next blog post, I will discuss ways we can improve how our memories store information.


    1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-11358-8
    2. https://www.tiktok.com/@adhdreading