Surviving COVID Like a Superhero

 

Thank you to Thrive Global for publishing my article, “Surviving COVID Like a Superhero.”

Lisa Genova is not only a neuroscientist but also a gifted storyteller and has explained the experience of many debilitating diseases through her books from Alzheimer’s disease in Still Alice, traumatic brain injury in Left Neglected, autism in Love Anthony, Huntington’s disease in Inside the O’Briens and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in Every Note Played. She allows us to experience the challenges her characters face in their diagnoses. Her past books share  family drama with a side of medical science.

In her newest book, Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting, Genova explains how we choose what to remember and forget and that “our brains have evolved to remember what is meaningful.” If we pay attention to where we park our car, we can find it again. Like Genova, I have left a parking lot in a rush and been unable to find my car again for some time. I try to stop and take a photo so I can find it again without stress.

Lisa Genova


Genova explains how memories change our brain and the four steps to create a memory. You have to put the information into your brain (encoding), weave the information together (consolidation), store that woven information(storage), and fetch the woven information when you want to access it (retrieval). But most importantly we must pay attention.

She explains about types of memory like muscle memory which allows us to drive a car, ride a bicycle and eat with chopsticks, semantic memory, which is the facts you know about your life or the Wikipedia of your brain and episodic memory which is personal and always about the past.

How can we remember more? Genova suggests trying something new, experiencing what is happening around you without your phone, getting in touch with your feelings as emotion helps encode memories,  reflecting on what happened so you retain your memories and keeping a journal to jot down your experiences. 

I loved when she explained that forgetting is not evil. I recently reconnected with someone from my summer camp days decades ago and felt embarrassed at how little I can recall but Genova says we cannot remember everything. 

“Forgetting isn’t always a regrettable sign of aging, a pathological symptom of dementia, a shameful failure, a maladaptive problem to solve, or even accidental…An optimally functioning memory system involves a finely orchestrated balancing act between data storage and data disposal: remembering and forgetting.”

Do you want to improve your memory and decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease? 

Genova shares the science and the strategies which include eating well, exercising regularly, meditating daily, and sleeping for eight hours a night.

I was surprised to read that: “insufficient sleep puts you at a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, infection, mental illness, Alzheimer’s, and memory impairment.” I knew that chronic stress led to increased health risks but did not realize how powerful 7 to 9 hours of sleep was for increasing memory consolidation and decreasing risk of many diseases.

How can you decrease stress, sleep more and create more memories?

One of the best ways to feel more centered and calm is to try mindfulness meditation. During COVID, through the UCLA Senior Scholars Program, I took Professor Marvin Belzer’s amazing class on mindfulness meditation at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). MARC has an app called “UCLA Mindful,” which is free and has meditations by Diana Winston, the incredible director of MARC, which I highly recommend. MARC also offers reasonable evening and weekend retreats with renowned teachers like Giselle Jones and Matthew Brensilver from SpiritRock.

Over the last five years, I have also loved listening to the 21-Day Meditation Experiences led by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey from the Chopra Center. There is a 20-minute audio meditation each day and a series of thought-provoking reflection questions designed to anchor the teachings with a centering thought and mantra. I often listen to them on walks in my neighborhood and before COVID, I would listen as I walked up and down the terminals of airports waiting for my flights. 

I recently started using Insight Timer and I particularly like the meditations with Tibetan Singing Bowls, however, there are 80,000 guided meditations so it seems to really have something for everyone!

I hope that you find ways to decrease stress, increase joy, sleep more, move your body, eat well and REMEMBER as much as you can. Each one of Lisa Genova’s books has taught me something new which helps me build my memory and be resilient so I can live my best life! Happy reading, meditating and having new experiences!

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal. Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.  http://lisaniver.com/one-page/

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