Why routine could hamper your ability to learn (and the playful solution)

In the years I spent living ‘off the cuff’ I always envied those more organized, viewing organisation as a valuable life skill. Whilst I’m a firm believer that being organized leads to greater productivity and realizing goals, surprisingly there are draw backs.


I was stunned to discover that those with highly structured lives have poorer memory function and a reduced capacity to learn when compared with those who enjoy a healthy amount of novelty in their daily lives. Novelty literally increases the brains plasticity – allowing us to more effectively retain new information.


There are several interesting applications to these findings for those that wish to improve your memory and learn new things, the top three being:


  • Change to an unfamiliar environment when learning new things
  • Revise a mixture of new and old facts to learn more effectively
  • Learn new things in the thirty minutes following doing something novel


Even though I lead a very structured life when I’ve ventured on holiday I always love being bombarded with novelty, I find it exciting – invigorating even. When I’m not on holiday my 40 before 40 bucket list serves to inject some much needed novelty into my diary, reminding me that variety is good for the soul. As you can see, a structured life needn’t be the enemy of novelty!


There are many ways to add novelty to your life should you wish to reap the rewards of a better memory and an increased capacity to learn (and who wouldn’t?). Remember, if the new activity you are trying out is playful too, the benefits are compounded by increased flexibility, adaptiveness, hope for the future and even optimism.


The memory game: How to remember what’s important to your friends

If you follow Accessible Psychology you know that I used to be bullied for many years when I was younger. Though I have completely recovered from that time in my life the traumatic experience has negatively impacted my memory, as most trauma almost always does. One of the best ways I have found to overcome my bad memory is to keep a diary listing everything I want to remember, including appointments, to do lists and texting or calling friends. If you struggle to remember the finer details of your friends’ lives, take heart, you’re not alone and it certainly needn’t mean you don’t care! Thankfully I created what I now call ‘The Memory Game’ to remember what is important to my friends and it’s proven invaluable.


How to enhance friendships by listening intently so your friends feel valued and understood

Most people want to feel valued and understood, especially by their friends. Whilst I haven’t always agreed with my friends opinions, I have always tried to understand their perspective. When we listen intently to our friends and seek to understand them on a deeper level, both intellectually in terms of their rational and emotionally, we develop greater intimacy with them and strengthen trust. Below are just some of the ways you can show your friends you are listening intently, thereby enhancing your friendship.


  • Use positive body language: Tilting your head to the side, mirroring their body language and pointing your feet in their direction all indicate an interest in what is being said and that you are actively listening.


How to strengthen friendships by showing an active interest in your friends lives

Everyone wants to feel like their friends are interested in their lives and share in their emotional journey. In my happiest moments my friends happiness for me has been a source of encouragement, serving to cement the fact that my friends care deeply for me. Likewise in my saddest moments my friends concern for me was comforting and allowed me to feel supported and not alone. Below are just some of the ways you can show your friends you are interested in their lives and invested in their happiness.


  • The memory game: Ask them questions about what is going on for them and note down any important dates in your diary to call, text or see them in person, so you can follow up on what happened and offer your support, be there to listen or share in their joy.