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'Taxi' star Marilu Henner on giving yourself a 'Memory Makeover'

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Marilu Henner (Reuters)

Speaking to Taxi star Marilu Henner is a little disconcerting as she is going to remember our conversation for the rest of her life.

She is one of only 12 documented cases in the world of people who have a ‘highly autobiographical memory,’ which means Henner remembers every single day of her life.

Mention a date to the 60-year-old actress, and she can immediately rattle off what she did and where she was.

Henner, who has already penned best-selling books on health and fitness, has written a book about memory called Total Memory Makeover. It’s not a guide for how to remember your shopping list or the names of your boss’ kids; rather, it teaches you how to develop the ability to remember more of your past and use those memories to improve your life.

The first thing Henner advises is to understand where your memory comes from

“Everyone has a dominant sense,” she explained. “You might be very visual, so your memory is in images, or you might be an auditory person or tactile . . . so when you’re trying to retrieve or record your memories be conscious of the fact that you should play to your strengths. It’s going to be a lot easier for memory retrieval if you play to your strengths.”

Another thing to understand is that everyone has a track on which they embed their memories. For some men, it’s remembering the score of every basketball game they’ve watched. For some women, it’s recalling every pair of shoes they’ve purchased.

“Your life is unique to you,” Henner said. “And you have many different ways of recording, embedding and retrieving information, so be conscious of your track.”

She also talks about something called APR - anticipating an event, participating in it and then recollecting it.

“I think the biggest problem people have is they’re not paying attention, and they don’t realize how much is being recorded –  so you might as well throw a little extra consciousness on it, and say ‘Yeah, I was looking forward to it, I enjoyed it and now I’m remembering it,’ Henner said. “Just be conscious of the APR of your life.”

Henner said one way to improve your memory is to recall the day’s events before falling asleep at night. Memory is a muscle that needs to be exercised – just like any other.

Remembering your past – especially unhappy episodes – clearly allows you to make more thoughtful and informed decisions about your future, whether it is professional or personal, Henner said.

“Negative memories are emotional boogie men in your life,” Henner explained. “And people think, ‘Oh I don’t want to think about that,’ or ‘that breakup was so horrible.’ But why not explore them enough to learn the life lessons in them? Why not let it empower you to not make the same mistakes again?”

And, being more cognizant of events will lead to a more fulfilling life, she added.

“Find the juice in everything that you do during the day because memory is tied to adrenaline,” Henner said. “Maybe put a little something extra into your life so that something becomes memorable. Don’t just flat line your life, don’t occupy time. Fill it up with richness!”