Simple Biofeedback to Help You Remember Things

Paul Johnsonby Paul Johnson, P.E., LEED AP BD+C

Imagine this scenario: you’re all nice and comfy and about to fall asleep at night. Then, all of a sudden, you have an idea or remember something you have to do the next day. What do you do?  Write it down on that pad of paper next to your bed? Jump out of bed and find a paper and pen to write it down? Do you pick up your cell phone and send yourself a message? Or do you just figure you’ll remember it in the morning?  I’m sure you’ve heard it said that when you write something you remember it better.  This is not just because you see it while writing, but the act of writing also helps you remember.  But all of these methods of writing down your thoughts in the moment involve varying degrees of hassle, time, and that terribly disagreeable element of having to wake up and deal with it.  You just know that if you don’t do something, it will bug you and you won’t sleep well all night.  Am I right?  You know that feeling.

What to Do?

So, would you like to learn a trick on how to deal with this nagging problem in a simple and effective way?  Biofeedback.  Or, at least, my simplified version of it. According to the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), “biofeedback “is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance.” Common forms of biofeedback therapy use electrodes attached to your skin than can monitor functions like brain waves, heart rate, and muscle activity. The signals from the electrodes are displayed on a monitor, “feeding back” information to you about how your body or brain is responding. By allowing you to sense your body’s involuntary actions, biofeedback allows you make subtle changes to control the response. Whaaaat?

This got me thinking: in a simpler, non-electrodes sort of way, biofeedback is about using your senses to provide input to change an action or thought.  It doesn’t have to be for health improvements or performance; it could be used just to remember something.  I guess this could be considered a performance improvement, but whatever.

So how does this apply to remembering something that you don’t want to forget? Well, you’re still going to write it down. However, in order to not disrupt your comfortable position lying in bed and about to fall asleep, do what I do.  I write the topic on myself.

HUH?  Not with a pen, but with my finger. I use my index finger to trace a keyword or two about the topic on my thigh, stomach, or arm.  I assure you that almost the first thing I think of the next morning when I wake up is that topic.

Could it be some combination of the sensory element of tracing on your skin and the physical act of writing it out? Whatever it is, believe me, it works.  The best benefit of doing this is you don’t have to jump out of bed, roll over, turn on a light, disturb your partner, or wake up and then get back to that almost-slumber state you were in, losing time and being disgruntled.  You know that if you don’t do something, you’ll stay awake all night thinking about it.

And just so you don’t think this is a bunch of hot air and I’m off my rocker, my coworker Stephen Chapel admitted to trying it and said that it worked for him.

My only problem is that once I remember it in the morning, I have to write it down so I don’t forget.  Go figure.

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