Strategies against being naughty

Where has the key gone? If you often misplace or forget something, you don't have to fear dementia right away

Driving off with luggage on the car roof: If you lose your attention, breakdowns like this happen

© Getty Images / iStockphoto / MagMos

Everyone knows the scenario. The bunch of keys is somewhere in the apartment - just where? Frantic searching until the keys appear behind the sofa cushion - and instead the cell phone is missing. This or the like happens to many people every day, sometimes they already doubt their sanity.

"This everyday forgetfulness is normal in most cases, regardless of age or gender," says Sebastian Markett, Professor of Molecular Psychology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Forgetting is just important for our brain, because it works selectively and overwrites information over and over again. This is the only way we would have room for new things in our heads.

Genetic predisposition to forgetfulness

People who are prone to nudity tend to be more easily distracted and have a problem memorizing little things. "Feeling awkward is like a personality trait that affects perception, attention, and motor skills to a certain extent," says Markett. "That's why some people drop something from time to time or trip over and over again."

The psychologist and his team have been researching this topic for years and have found that being rotten runs in the family. The DRD2 gene is involved in this. In a certain variant, it is the cause that there is more often an imbalance in the dopamine balance of the brain. "And that affects focus and action control," explains Markett.

For example, those affected forget what they want to buy when they unexpectedly meet a friend on the way to the supermarket.

The only consolation: This innate nausea, so to speak, is not an isolated case, as Markett and his colleagues at the University of Bonn have found out. To do this, they examined saliva samples from 500 test subjects. More than half had the variant of the DRD2 gene, which is responsible for everyday forgetfulness.

You can't outsmart your own DNA, but there are tools and strategies to get the absent-mindedness under control. For example, important items - such as a bunch of keys - should have a certain place in the household where they can always be put.

Digital reminders

"There used to be the knot in the handkerchief that reminded us of important things. Nowadays technology can help," says Markett. The cell phone's calendar can signal via SMS and ringtone that birthdays and appointments are pending.

The digital map of the area on the smartphone also serves as a guide if you forget where the car was parked. In addition, there are now key rings that react to clapping and make themselves audible. Or you can radio them on the go.

But the mobile phone also has its downside. Initial numbers and studies suggest that excessive use of social media features on smartphones affects brain structure. "In a recent study, we examined whether heavy use of the apps influences the neuronal structures in the dopamine system," reports Markett.

Mute your mobile phone

To do this, his team compared usage data for social media apps with the results of the brain scanner. "There are indications that certain content on the device has an effect on precisely those brain structures that are also associated with the nausea," explains Markett.

Many of us look at the display around a hundred times a day to check the news or search for something on the Internet. "But the fragmentation of time and our actions is very likely to have a negative effect on concentration," says the psychologist. His advice: just turn it to silent more often so that you don't experience everyday life driven by alarms.

Typical causes of forgetfulness

Since there are many reasons for nausea, please ask your doctor to clarify what is behind it. Examples:

  • Stress and excessive demands put short-term memory under pressure. Relaxation exercises help.
  • Iron or vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to memory problems.
  • Lack of fluids can have a negative effect on concentration.
  • Forgetfulness can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder.
  • Some drugs have side effects such as confusion.
  • Snoring can indicate sleep apnea, which increases the dizziness when you are very tired during the day.

Everyday forgetfulness often makes older people in particular fearful that they will eventually belong to the 1.7 million dementia patients in Germany. The fact is that the efficiency of the brain functions already declines in the twenties and later the short-term memory or the ability to react decreases somewhat - but this is the normal aging process. If you misplace your glasses more often or remember names more poorly, you will by no means immediately suffer from Alzheimer's.

"Dementia is a diagnosis that cannot be made on the basis of self-observation, but should be the result of a careful medical examination," says Professor Christina Polidori. She heads the Clinical Aging Research Focus at Clinic 2 for Internal Medicine at the University Clinic in Cologne.

Together for the brain

But if forgetfulness increases noticeably or suddenly you can no longer orientate yourself well and often get lost, recognizing people is more difficult and it is not possible to follow stories in terms of content, you should definitely consult your doctor.

"You shouldn't underestimate forgetfulness, but you should always be hopeful," says Polidori. A medical evaluation is also important to rule out other causes such as dehydration in old people or organic brain disorders.

As a board member of the Federal Association for Memory Training, Polidori investigates training programs to promote mental fitness. This is not just about memory exercises that can be found on the Internet or crossword puzzles and soda docs that you fill out on the sofa at home. "Often people feel overwhelmed or fear failure if they cannot solve the tasks on their own," reports the expert.

It would be better to solve tasks together in group work that train concentration, logical thinking or motor skills alike. "Studies show that the exchange and social interaction increase the positive effect on the brain. The fun and well-being when training mental fitness are crucial for success."

Routine against the hustle and bustle

In the end, everyone has to find their own strategy against being bullshit. Some use sticky notes on the desk, mirror or in the kitchen to remind them to transfer the bills.

Routine also brings more structure. For example, if you train yourself to prepare all the important utensils for the next morning in the evening, you can save yourself a hectic start to the day.