Here’s Why Forgetfulness May Actually Mean You’re Smarter

Don't worry about being forgetful!

We’ve all been there before. You walk into a room and have no idea why you came in there. Or you run into your spouse’s coworker and can’t remember his name for the life of you. While you may think that forgetfulness means you’re rapidly losing brain cells, science says otherwise.

In fact, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Neuron, forgetting things often doesn’t mean a declining mind. Actually, signs point to how it makes us smarter.

Wait, So I’m Not Losing My Mind?

Researchers believe that the mechanism behind the phenomenon is how your brain actually chooses to let go of things that don’t matter in favor of hanging onto important information. So those people who claim they’re full of “useless knowledge” but can’t remember their social security number? Their brains just might not be as smart as those of us who regularly forget unimportant details.

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Getty Images | Matt Cardy

“It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that’s going to help make decisions in the real world,” Blake Richards, study author and an associate fellow in the Learning in Machines and Brains program at University of Toronto, explains to CNN.

So think of your brain as a super-organized person cleaning out the closet. They immediately toss what they don’t need anymore and keep only those items they truly want.

“We all admire the person who can smash Trivial Pursuit or win at Jeopardy, but the fact is that evolution shaped our memory not to win a trivia game, but to make intelligent decisions,” Richards says. “And when you look at what’s needed to make intelligent decisions, we would argue that it’s healthy to forget some things.”


So, you know that friend with the amazing memory who teases you for forgetting the name of your seventh grade teacher? Tell her you just might be a genius!

Breaking A Sweat Is Good For Your Brain

Feel your forgetfulness affects stuff that actually matters and want to find ways to improve your memory? The study’s authors recommend good ol’ exercise. It turns out breaking a sweat increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus. Body power equals brain power!

Need some extra help in the exercise department? We’ve compiled six exercises that you can do anywhere using just your bodyweight.


Other Ways To Improve Your Memory

As we age, we can help keep our memories quick and active though exercise, playing memory games and reading about new topics. There are a variety of other activities that help sharpen the mind and help prevent cognitive decline, including:

1. Listening To Music

Studies have shown a link between music and memory, especially when it comes to singing things you need to remember. Music can also activate widespread areas in the brain, helping to trigger memory recall.

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2. Taking Naps

Feeling a little groggy? Research has found that taking a one hour nap can improve your memory by fivefold. Enjoying a quick snooze can help improve memory recall, as the boost of brain activity during sleep can help turn short-term memories into long-term ones.
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3. Eating A Mediterranean Diet

Eating a diet high in healthy unsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been linked to a lower risk of dementia. Nutrients such as vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids can help protect the brain from cognitive decline.

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4. Drink Coffee

Does this list keep getting better or what? Studies have found that the caffeine in coffee can help boost long-term memory and memory retentionThe ideal dose of caffeine for an enhanced memory is 200 milligrams, which is about two cups of coffee.

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6. Meditating

Meditation is not only good for diminishing stress, but it can also help with working memory and focus. This may be because meditation encourages a single focus rather than multitasking, which can improve concentration and memory formation.

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