Why Do I Keep Losing My Keys?
I am ALWAYS losing my keys. In fact, they’ve been missing in action for over two weeks now and I’m pretty frustrated about it. This time it was my husband’s fault (no, seriously, totally him), but it got me thinking – how common is it for people to misplace these common objects we use every day? I am forever misplacing the two things I use the most – my keys and my phone. Why is that?
Well, as it turns out, there is an actual reason for this.
Active working memory
We all know that our memory tells us where we last set something down, but we tend to lump all sorts of memory together into that one term. As it turns out, there are multiple types of memory, and sometimes one type is stronger than another. Most of us are familiar with short term and long term memory, but there’s a more elusive third type of memory that we use daily. This is your active working memory. It’s what allows you to remember your daily to-dos, and (as this artfully worded social media post articulates so well) we have a lot of those as moms.
Active working memory is exactly that – working. In the background. Because I am at heart a computer nerd, I like to think of active memory as a small program running in the background. It consumes minimal resources & just generally makes sure the other bigger jobs and tasks are getting done by giving you a little nudge when you may have forgotten something. Because it’s a background process, when the system (meaning you) is processing heavy loads, those ‘minimal resources’ get allocated to other, more pressing matters (like decreasing your blood pressure). If you’re excited, angry, surprised, stressed, or lacking sleep, this memory service suffers. As a result, you’ll probably have difficulty focusing on simple tasks. Like remembering where you set your phone down.
Brain function and Key Misplacement
There’s a scientific explanation behind this type of memory loss. It has to do with a special area of the brain (the hippocampus) that helps us locate important things. The hippocampus is what reminds you that you really liked that painting on a wall of a house you once saw in a book on page 17. However, it is not that effective when it comes to objects that move around a lot. Unfortunately for us, the things you use the most fit into this category (minus your kitchen sink and washer/dryer, that is). Our brains, as it turns out, are not designed to keep track of things that move around a lot.
So, what do we do?
You can combat this by establishing a routine for where you set things down. We have a key bowl right next to our charging station. When I come home, I plug my phone into the charging station and drop my keys in the key bowl. We’ve had these things for years because I’ve pretty much always been inclined to misplace those things. But even habits suffer when you’re too stressed, so when my keys aren’t in the bowl,I generally have no idea where they are and go hunting in all the classic places.
So, in summary, losing your keys is actually completely normal. And if you feel like you do it more as a mom (ahem, check), this is also completely normal because you’re likely juggling a lot of processing in the background and a low-level of stress at all times. Rest assured that you probably aren’t facing early-onset dementia, you’re just using your brain resources more effectively elsewhere. That doesn’t help you find your keys, but it should bring you a little peace of mind.
If anyone has helpful suggestions for how to combat another family member misplacing your keys, let me know!
Adapted from Source: Why do I keep losing my keys? – Mom Blog Society
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