5 Easy ways to get better grades.

By David Joel Miller.

Learn the secrets of the A students.

Get an A

Ways to get better grades.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

If you have struggled in school you may have concluded that getting good grades was beyond your reach. Today more than ever education is important. A two-year college degree today qualifies you for jobs that once only required an 8th-grade education. Whether this is your first go around or you are returning to school after many years knowing the secrets of the “A” students can make the road easier.

Sleep more for better grades.

During sleep, memory is consolidated. Want to be able to find that fact you studied during the exam? Make sure you show up for the exam well-rested. Pulling an “all-nighter” just before the final exam will not make up for all the study time you should have put in beforehand. Study early and often and avoid the last-minute rush.

Life happens. There are all kinds of things to do and distractions that can keep you up late. The most productive people in life and the best students in school budget some hours for sleep and show up rested and ready to take the test.

Drink less alcohol to up your GPA.

One study reported that “D” students drank twice as much alcohol as “A” students. The more you party, the more you abuse drugs and alcohol the less energy you have for study and school.

Alcohol is the granddaddy of grade killers but he has a junior cousin that has been messing up student’s grade recently. Marijuana may seem all good, some people even think it has medicinal properties. Getting good grades is not one of the benefits of lighting that joint up.

Smoking Marijuana scrambles the information going into your brain if you smoke when studying. Smoking before the test scrambles the information as you try to retrieve it. Smoke both times and you start marking test answers that would never make sense if you were clean. Marijuana, specifically THC the active ingredient, stays in your blood stream a lot longer than other drugs. So Marijuana’s memory altering effects can last long after your last smoke.

Go to class if you want better grades.

Some people do not see the benefit from the class they are taking. They think they can just show up for the final and that will get them by. You may be able to pass the test that way, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

I am surprised at the students who pay tuition, sometimes lots of it, and then skip class. This is like buying a ticket for the concert and then showing up for the last encore. You may think you are such a great athlete you can skip practice and still play in the big game. But in the academic game if you are not there for practice you will not know the moves to pick the right test answer.

The more often you go to class the better your chances of absorbing the answer you will need for the test.

Read the book if you want to pass.

There is a reason that classes require books and it is usually not because the bookstore needs to make money on them. The things that the instructor thinks are important are probably in the book. If there are things that are important and not in the book, guess what, the teacher will tell you those things in class. You got the last point on going to class right?

Take notes for better memory.

I see students recording the lecture on their communicator devices. If you are an auditory learner this may help. But think for a moment, you were in class and heard it once already right? Will you really re-listen to all those recordings?

Technology is nice. I see people taking pictures of the power point slides. For visual learners this may help also. So will typing the notes out on your lap top. I do not recommend texting your notes. The test will not be given in text language.

What is very helpful for many students is to take notes the old fashion way. This is not because the old way is necessarily the best way. I am a big fan of indoor plumbing and running water.  What actually does work though is to write out the notes during class.

Writing notes helps keep you on tract and concentrating. I tend to think that one reason we have more attention problems these days is because people are sitting still more and moving less. Writing the notes out helps store the information in the part of the brain that controls those movements. Any surprise, you will need to write them out for the test. You may picture the slide you saved from the power point but you will need to write down the things you saw. Try practicing writing and see if your grades and your memory don’t improve.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Ways to increase your attention without drugs

By David Joel Miller.

Things you can do to improve your attention span besides taking medication.

Attention

Attention
Photo courtesy of Flickr (MrDozer)

This digital age has resulted in a radical reduction in attentions spans. Adults average just 4 seconds of time on a website. T. V. shows are chopped up into small segments punctuated with lots of adrenaline producing sex and violence.

Adult learners get shorter presentations and more breaks. It is as if the whole world now has developed ADHD. Here are some ways you can work on improving your attention span beyond the norm that does not require you to take medication.

1. Eat a good breakfast.

Low blood sugar or lack of energy can significantly impact your ability to pay attention. Children who eat a breakfast at home before school do much better in their classes before lunch than those students who have skipped breakfast.

It is hard to make your mind go when you are out of fuel.

2. Drink plenty of water.

Dehydration can have a significant impact on learning. Drink more water and you will feel better. Blood feeds the brain and blood is composed largely of water.

Ever tried to think with a hangover? One of the reasons hangovers are so debilitating is that you are dehydrated.

3. Exercise.

Even a few minutes of vigorous walking can improve your ability to pay attention and learn. Exercise gets the heart pumping and speeds the flow to blood to the brain. In one study of the effects of walking on classroom performance, a short walk was shown to increase memory and retention of the material that was taught after the walk. Those who walked did not think they were doing better, they even felt tired after the walk, but their test scores showed an improvement.

A few minutes of running at recess has been reported to reduce behavior problems and improve attention. Staying inside to “catch up” on missed work and try to improve standardized test scores can produce the exact opposite effect.

4. Prioritize – you can’t focus on it all.

The myth of multi-tasking has turned out to be just that, a myth. You can’t text, talk, listen to music and be at your best while driving. We have had to set limits on technology use while driving and we are having the same problem in the classroom and the work site.

If you want to pay attention and learn something, clear you mind of thoughts of other things while working on the new material.

5. Clear out the worries.

Ruminating on problems uses up a lot of brain capacity. If you have a sick family member or had a conflict at home last night then divided attention is understandable.

Work on solving those problems or on shifting your focus and leave the problems for later to later if you want to do well now.

6. Manage distractions.

Turn off the phone. Close the internet connection (temporarily, you can read my blog later) Do not try to pay attention to one thing while monitoring others.

7. Mass attention – Work on one project for a while then switch. Take small breaks at frequent intervals.

In classrooms we give brakes. If you need to eat or use the restroom then you won’t have the maximum attention. If you have several subjects to study, work on one for a while, take a break and then change to another.

Writers are encouraged to work on one project for a while, take a break and then return for another “massed effort.” String together enough of those bursts of focus and the post or book gets done. Sitting staring at the blank page leaves a lot of blank pages in memory.

8. Break tasks up into small steps.

You can’t eat an elephant in one bite. Most worthwhile projects cannot be done in one sitting or standing. Structure you project so you can do one step at a time and over a period of time you will get it done. Trying to work on all the aspects of a project at once is a recipe for disaster.

If you must work on several steps in a project at once try to chunk the efforts so that you get something done on one part before switching to the next.

9. More than 3 steps – write out lists.

I picked the number three because it works for me. You might need another number. If I go to the grocery store for three items, I can remember that. But if someone asks me to pick up a fourth item, I am at risk of forgetting one of the original three.

If I get distracted at the store because I think of a fifth item to look for it may be all over.

I find that once I exceed a small number of items, to shop for or to do, I need a list so that as one item is done I can move to the next. Trying to remember all of the items or steps in a project risks leaving out a really important one.

Want better attention and concentration make lists.

10. Recognize when you are off focus and then refocus.

Sorry but not very many of us can stay focused on a task for a long period of time. Suddenly for no apparent reason, the mind wanders off to another thing you need or want to do.

Do not obsess when this happens. Gently take you mind back to the task at hand. The more you practice redirecting your mind the more automatic it becomes.

Those are some of my tips for improving my ability to pay attention and stay focused. Do you have any techniques you would care to share?

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended books.

Why your partner thinks you said things you know you didn’t say

By David Joel Miller.

False Memories.

What we remember about things others say can depend on our mood.

People eating and memory

Two men go out to dinner with their dates. Let’s call them Bob and Sam. Bob goes home sure that his date did not like him. Sam is sure his date did. The two women said exactly the same things to their dates. Why the difference?

This happens a lot. You swear you didn’t say something, your partner swears you did. Neither of you may be lying but one of you has got this conversation wrong. Why?

One cause of memory failures is false memories. They happen more often than most of us realize and they cause a lot of relationship problems. Those memories are easier to create than you might think.

Researchers have sophisticated ways of testing for false memories and the way they are created or perpetuated. In pasts posts, we talked about how drugs and alcohol can increase false memories, but your personality and that of your partner are also factors. False memories are dependent on your mood at the time you hear things. They are also affected by your normal personality and way of perceiving the world.

Info about false memories and why they occur in relationships.

A test for false memories would consist of asking you to remember a list of words. Say the list included, night, bed, pillow, nap, etc. The next time you see the researcher you read a list of words and are asked to mark which you saw the first time.

This time included in the list is a word that was not there the first time but would have fit with the category that made up that list. In this case, the missing word might have been sleep. So if you picked sleep it made sense, but in fact, the word was not there the first time. If you said that you remembered it this would be a false memory.

In our date example, we find that in both cases the woman told their date that they had an interesting tie. Bob the perennial pessimist is sure his date said he had an awful tie. Sam remembers his date as saying he had a nice tie. Sam is an optimist.

The mood, as well as the basic personality of these two men, causes them to hear the same information but they both remember things that the date did not say. What they are remembering is a form of false memory in which their mind has filled in the words needed to make sense of the comment “interesting tie.”

One way to check this out in the lab would be to leave the word “sleep” out of the retest. This time if we added two words to the list, say insomnia and restful, we could see if there was a difference in the way two people would remember that list.

Sure enough, pessimists will remember insomnia and swear it was on the first list and optimists will remember the word rest. Both are making errors in their memory. Neither is lying but they both are sure they remember things that did not happen because they learned the list of words as a category, not as a list. Then when they are retested they fill in another word that fits their version of what the category is about.

So consider that some of the things you and those around you swear were said or happen may, in fact, be false memories. How sure are you that you actually heard the things you think you heard?

Sometimes for the sake of relationships and our long-term sanity, it pays to check out with the other person what they really said or meant. That way our minds do not need to fill in missing information and there are fewer chances to create these troublesome false memories in the first place.

What is the chance that memory you are arguing about is a false memory?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Why worry may not be a bad thing.

By David Joel Miller.

Do you worry too much or too little?

Worried!

Worried! (Photo credit: photoloni)

Self-help books and common wisdom tend to equate worry and anxiety. It would appear that the two are not the same thing and that sometimes a little worry can be good for you.

We saw in previous posts that words, especially words about feelings, do not mean the same thing to everyone. One person’s worry may not be another’s in the same way that my purple may be your fuchsia. While dictionary definitions make the definitions of worry and anxiety much the same, researchers think they are quite different and that sometimes worrying can be good for you.

Anxiety is about heightened awareness or hyper-vigilance. An anxious person is hypersensitive about things and may over react to things that have little or no real danger. In that sense, anxiety is related to fear. Anxiety’s role is to keep us on the lookout and avoid things that might be dangerous.

Worry has the connotation of constant thinking about something. Researchers think anxiety and fear are more visual or emotional reactions while worry is a mental and verbal rumination.

Worrying about things can keep them on your mind and this can result in perpetuating fear and anxiety. But there can be good results from worry in addition to the bad ones if worry is not accompanied by excess anxiety or fear.

Think of worry as being like my very old computer. Sometimes my computer slows down because an operation takes a lot of CPU memory. I get those little warning messages in the corner of my screen saying high CPU usage by and it names a program that is using all that memory.

Worry does the same thing to my mind. It uses up a lot of memory capacity, thinking about the thing that is worrying me. The result is that I slow down on what I am doing and devote more of my thinking ability to the task of worrying.  At this point, worrying is impairing my mental efficiency.

As my mind slows down and devotes more resources to the task that worries me, there is increased attention to that one thing and all other mental tasks are neglected. The result is that as a byproduct to worrying I may do fewer things but I am likely to devote more attention to the one thing I am worrying about. Worriers make fewer errors on the task they worry about as a result of that increased attention. So worrying can be useful in reducing error rates by having a task fully occupy your mind.

Worrying results in a trade-off between the time needed to do the routine tasks I need to do and an increased accuracy as I try to avoid making any errors. If accuracy is imperative worrying makes sense.

Worry is not solely about the task or challenge I am facing, it is also about making plans, contingency plans for what I will do if – and here I may worry about both high probability occurrences as well as low probability ones.

As a result of all this worrying and contingent planning, I may react to situations faster than someone who has not thought about this possibility at all. So if you might be faced with a sudden unexpected need to do something and the risk of making an error would be catastrophic, worrying may be just the ticket to allow you to make an instant lifesaving decision.

Worrying can be seen as a symptom of some mental illnesses. It is especially viewed as a process that maintains Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the same way that nightmares maintain Posttraumatic Stress Disorder PTSD.)

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, then worrying is probably going to do you more harm than good. But if you are a relatively normal person and are faced with some really important life changing decisions then some worry, thinking through all the possibilities and what could go wrong, may be just what you need.

If your worry has gotten out of hand, if you worry needlessly about small things and things that are very unlikely to happen, then improving your worry ability is not for you. If excessive worry has interfered with your job or fun activities it is a problem. If your friends and family avoid you or are concerned about all the worrying you do, then you may need help sorting out what is important and what is just an unproductive loop of constant worry.

If you have a major life change coming then do a little worry and planning about what might happen and what you will need to do.

But if worry has gotten excessive and is making your life unhappy and out of control, consider getting some professional help for that out of control worry monster that has taken over your life.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Learning to hear – Do you need to relearn?

By David Joel Miller.

Who taught you to hear?

Hearing

Hearing (Photo credit: Keturah Stickann)

Most of us think of hearing as something you are born with, no need to learn how to hear.  Hearing can become more useful when it is trained just as any other sense. Hearing can also be lost through abuse.

In a previous post, I talked about the need to turn the sound off sometimes and make sure we are noticing the nonverbal things in the environment. Now we need to talk about the use and misuse of sound. Most of the time we are so flooded by loud and constant barrages of sound that over time we tune the small and the soft sounds out. The result of this desensitization to sound is that we begin to only appreciate sound when someone is screaming.

As any married woman will attest, poor hearing is more likely to occur as a result of a lack of attention to what your partner is saying than from any organic hearing loss. Married men over time develop a special disability known as selective deafness.

Learn to pay more attention to sounds and you too can become an expert at hearing things other people miss. This may also keep you out of some relationship problems.

Life’s pleasures are often about what you have experienced before. If you grow up listening to one kind of music you will likely have a preference for that kind of music.

Music appreciation classes ought to be more than simply listening to a favorite song. We need to learn how to listen, what to listen for, as well as practice that listening. Someone who wants to become a musician needs to learn to listen to music in the same way a writer needs to read, to learn what is good and what is not.

Most of us hear sounds all the time but rarely have we had any training that has taught us how to make more out of that hearing. Two simple exercises can improve your ability to notice sounds and then to make use of what you hear.

1. The ticking watch teaches good hearing.

Find one of those old fashion wind-up watches or alarm clocks. Wind it up and place it on a table. Listen for the pitch and tempo of the clock ticking.

Walk a few steps away. How does the clock sound now?

Continue to move away until you can no longer hear the ticking sound. Now move back a step or two until it becomes clear again. Practice this exercise a little each day. You will, over time, notice that you become sensitized to the ticking sound and will pick it out from other sounds even if you are quite a ways away.

Of course, if you notice any problem in doing this exercise, if you can’t hear when you think you should or if you are not able to pick the ticking out from surrounding noise, consider seeing a doctor to have your hearing checked.

Most people will discover that by practicing they become more attuned to the sound of the clock and notice not just this clock but others throughout their day. (See my previous post on the expert effect for more on this topic.)

Good mechanics will often be able to tell from the sounds an engine makes what the problem is. They have become sensitized over time because they have needed to find a noise and then determine why this engine made a sound that other engines do not normally make.

Practice being sensitive to sounds and you will see that these small sounds are all around you every day. Become mindful of the sounds you live with.

Hearing exercise two.

Find a place where you can hear others coming before you can see them. At work, you may be able to hear footsteps before the person comes into view.

Pay particular attention to the footsteps coming toward you. Are they quick and vigorous or slow and plodding? Does this walker make a particular sound by putting more weight on the toes or the heel?

When this person comes into sight glance at them and their shoes. Over time you will find that you can recognize who is coming down the hall by the rhythm of their footsteps. With more practice, you may find that you can identify the type of shoe the person is wearing even when you do not know that person.

Why is recognizing footsteps important or useful? By itself, it may not be important unless you sell shoes for a living. But at times recognizing someone from their step may be useful. Becoming more aware of sounds can help to improve your memory and your thinking efficiency.

Repeated efforts to fine tune your hearing by the clock exercise or by attuning to the sound people make when walking will improve your ability to focus on sounds. Couple this with our earlier exercise on sitting and being aware of the information from all your senses and you will find that you are becoming more alive, more mentally efficient and that your memory for people and events has improved.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

6 Reasons why you can’t make up your mind – Doubt and uncertainty fog memory

By David Joel Miller.

Reasons why your indecision harms your memory.

There are reasons why you may not be able to make up your mind. When there is an emotional storm going on in your mind it is difficult to make a clear choice. Here are 6 reasons why you may be having difficulty making up your mind and as a result are fogging up your memory.

1. You have to Choose and do not know which is the right choice.

Having to make a choice between two or more alternatives can be exhausting. If you have two potential jobs which one do you pick? Some of you are saying I would like to have to make that choice. Problem is that once you pick one the other is out.

This is especially a problem in relationships. Lots of men have a problem making a commitment. Once they pick one person to be with all the others start looking more attractive. You start second guessing yourself and wondering if you made the right choice.

What people in this situation often do is try to avoid making a choice. That is also a choice. Some of the most life-changing decisions occur when we fail to make a choice and as a result, a whole world of possibilities closes to us.

If you don’t give the company who offered you that job a yes, they may proceed to offer that job to someone else. If you don’t go to a college you may forever wonder what would have happened if you had gone there.

You can only walk down one road at a time and no matter how fast you walk the outcomes change if you picked one thing and not the other.

There are three kinds of choices. Good and Good, Bad and Bad, and the worst kind Good-Bad verses Bad-Good. These are referred to in the language of psychology as approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, and approach-avoidance choices.

Good-Good choices.

Pick between two dinners you like and no matter which one you pick it should be good. This decision does not get much thought. Either way is enjoyable and you get pleasure either way. Usually, over time we get our default pattern of making this choice. We either have one favorite meal we pick most of the time or you become someone who always looks for something new on the menu.

Fail to make this choice, say you can’t decide which person to marry, you may date a lot, but you don’t get to have the experience of watching children grow up as part of a family.

Bad-Bad choices.

Pick between two things both of which are bad and we try to pick the “lesser of two evils.” Most of us think of the elections every couple of years as this sort of choice. Most of the times there are things we don’t like about both candidates but we have to pick one or the other or let some idiot pick for us.

The good with the bad versus the bad with the good choices.

These can be tough choices. If you make either choice there may be some pleasure followed by paying some costs.

Choices between getting into drugs and alcohol fall into this category. There can be some fun and there can be some pain. The question is how much is good and when does the pain begin.

These approach-avoidance verses avoidance-approach choices may result in paralysis and failing to do anything as we have seen is also making a choice. Sometimes that choice is that the fear of being wrong keeps us from getting in on something good. Sometimes giving us some pleasure protects us from some pain. The problem is to figure out which is which.

Fail to make this choice, say you can’t decide which person to marry and you may date a lot but you don’t get to have the experience of spending your life with someone you love and who love you.

Pick the wrong person, have lots of exciting sex and you are stuck with a babies-parent that you don’t want to be around. Children’s parents are for life.

Balancing this “you need to make a decision” with the consequences of the decision in the short-term and the long-term can be challenging.

2. Confusion when you don’t know what your choices are.

A classic example of this is the high school senior picking a college and a major. Once you pick a college it gets harder to change that decision. No one has the time or energy to check out all the schools and often this decision, despite its life-changing consequences, is made with less than adequate information.

You can change your major more easily but plenty of people find after they graduated that there are few or no jobs for their major. Too many people make decisions on majors on very little information.

The worst outcome of this occurs when you get a degree and then find you don’t want to have to do that kind of work all day long.

3. None of the choices are what you want.

Sometimes this is called artificially limiting your choices. You pick between two schools the one you want and the one your parents want without looking to see if another one would have been better.

This also happens when people jump into a relationship with someone because they think no one will want them and if they pass up this one person who is showing an interest then they are destined to be alone.

4. Emotional contents buried in your decisions.

Some of us make decisions with our feelings when we should be making them with our heads. Just because something is scary does not make it dangerous. Also because something is safe and comfortable that does not mean it is the right choice.

Sometimes life is about stretching and trying on something new so that you can see who you can become given the opportunity.

Don’t settle for being less than you were meant to be because trying for something better will be scary.

5. Your heart is not in it.

If your heart is not in something, no matter how much you think this is the right decision you need to reconsider. If you can’t work up some enthusiasm when you begin on a life course then what will there be left when you get along the path?

6. It may not be time top chose yet.

One last problem with making choices. Sometimes we rush into making a decision when we don’t have the information we need, and the time is not yet ripe.

Think about this before making any decision with which you are uncomfortable.

Is this something you are afraid of or is it something you don’t need to decide just yet?

Did that confuse you totally or are you ready to make that life-changing decision?

New Book Bumps on the Road of Life is now available in Kindle format for preorder. It will be released on 11/13/17. The paperback version should be ready shortly.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. Sometimes you get your life going again quickly. Other times you may stay off track and in the ditch for a considerable time. If you have gone through a divorce, break up or lost a job you may have found your life off track. Professionals call those problems caused by life-altering events “Adjustment Disorders.” Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of Adjustment Disorders, how they get people off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Bumps on the Road of life

Amazon Author Page  – David Joel Miller

More to come as other books are completed.

Thanks to all my readers for all your support.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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We remember the unique not the ordinary – memory is about choices.

By David Joel Miller.

The tale of an alligator dinner.

Alligator dinner

Alligator.
Photo courtesy of Flickr

Unique events make a deep impression and are stored more deeply, more thoroughly in our brains. Common everyday events pass us by with barely a second glance. Humans are “cognitive misers.” Our brains don’t waste storage space on things unless the brain considers it important to pay attention to this item or event.

Want to remember something for a long time, make sure that person or event makes a unique impression on you. This impression is not just about the person or event, it is also about the choices you make and the attention you pay to the things you do.

In my younger days, so the story goes, I did a good bit of traveling. In those travels, I have been to my fair share of festivals and then some. More than one city holds an annual Strawberry Festival.

There are countless “vegetation festivals” all complete with their respective vegetation Queens. Broccoli festivals, Asparagus festivals, Onion festivals and Artichoke festivals, the list is almost endless. After a while, one vegetation festival looks a lot like the next.

Each and every festival has its share of festival food. The Garlic Festival featured garlic ice cream which I decided to pass on. I can’t recall how the vanilla ice cream I bought that day tasted. I may have missed a bet by passing on the Garlic ice cream.

Most of the time at these festivals I get hungry. So do those I was with. Guess what we ate? Most days it was hamburgers and the like. Do I have any idea which was better, the burger at the Broccoli festival or the burger at the Artichoke Festival? Not a chance!

What I do remember was the Alligator at the seafood festival. I assume it was real alligator, though it was in a heavy garlic sauce so who can be sure. That same food vendor may well have sold that same menu at the garlic festival also.

Frankly, my particular alligator was not only heavy in garlic but also a bit overcooked and rubbery. Now if you eat alligator on a regular basis you can comment and tell me if good alligator should taste rubbery like B.F. Goodrich or not.

My point is that while I could not tell you about a whole lot of festival food, I will never forget that Alligator meal. The reason it was unforgettable was that it was, to me, so very unusual.

Commonplace items do not make much of an impression on us no matter how good. But the unusual, that impression good or bad, will last and last.

Not everyone can chase down some alligator for dinner tonight, I give you that, and those who do find it on the menu where they eat may be quite tired of it at this point.

My point here is that given the choice, go for the unusual, the thing you have never tried before because you will remember the unique item long after the ordinary is forgotten.

Looking for the unique can really help you remember. That is not restricted to totally unique things or events. Find one unique quality and that will anchor the memory and help you hold onto it a whole lot longer.

Trouble for many of us is that if you do not know what you are looking at you may not be able to see the unique when it slides off your plate, so to speak.

In the next few posts, we are still talking memory improvement and mental efficacy here, I want to tell you about how to find the unusual when you don’t know what you are looking at. We also want to find out how to find the unusual in what at first look appears to be an ordinary person or place. With those skills, things that you used to pass by and forget in an instant can stay in your memory for as long as you chose.

Memory improvement skills do not come instantly so you will need to practice the skill a bit. It is a whole lot more fun to practice memory skills than to keep forgetting who you are and where you live.

Practice your memory skills and remember to check back the rest of the month for more on memory improvement and self-help skills.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books