Improving memory after a brain injury: Talk to yourself

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We all talk to ourselves all the time its just in our head, nobody can hear and we call it thinking. There is a dialogue of thoughts going through your’s and everybody’s head constantly. These thoughts will just run wild if you let them but even if you focus on something you can easily lose that focus and your thoughts simply wander off. The tendency to lose your focus and have your thoughts wander off becomes much worse after a brain injury. Thoughts become like slippery eels that you cannot keep hold of, but a good way to keep hold of those eels is by talking out loud to yourself.

Talking yourself through something helps keep your attention on the task in hand and it stops that internal voice from taking over your mind and wandering away from what you are meant to be concentrating on. Talking yourself through something can be especially useful if it is something that you do so often that you are just on autopilot. For example, even if it is a road that you know well, talking yourself through crossing over a busy junction could stop you wandering into a busy road because you were thinking of something else.

An example of how I use this technique is that I have to give myself an injection every night before bed. Each night, an alarm goes off on my phone at 9 and I press snooze which means it will come on again in 9 minutes. The processes are:

  1. Take injection pen out of the fridge
  2. Take a new needle out of the box
  3. Attach the new needle
  4. Set the dose
  5. Inject
  6. Put the needle in the bin
  7. Turn the alarm off

The process of taking my medication requires concentration throughout. I talk myself through each of the steps listed above. If I do not do this, then I allow my mind to drift off halfway through and then I run the risk of forgetting whether or not I have injected the medication and giving myself a double dose.

When revising for exams, I remember learning that the more formats you can use to learn the information, then the better it will have stayed in your memory when it came to the exam. For example, when learning about the Battle of Hastings, you will remember it more if you watch a live reenactment, watch a video and read a book about it than you would if you only read the book alone because you are using more of your senses. Talking out loud works in the same way, especially when you speak aloud as you put something away in a specific place. It adds the sense of hearing to your internal voice; therefore you are twice as likely to remember where you have put it.

Talking out loud drowns out that internal voice making it much more difficult for the mind to wander off! From a social point of view, it is probably best to use this technique inside your own home although with hands free mobile phone conversation - seeing somebody talking to themselves is not uncommon these days! 

Download our free case study  Find out how we not only won £2 million damages for our client who suffered a  Traumatic Brain Injury after being struck by a car, but how we intervened to  provide all-round support to them and their wider family. Download now

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