Your Future Self

Do you notice the changes in your body and brain as you get older?

Ha! Trick question. We all do.

I’ve written before about the changes in my body from head to toes. Now there is research about the changes in our brains and even our personalities.

An article in the New York Times shows that the quality of our sleep declines with age. Our prefrontal cortex loses volume and this is where we store our memories. When the quality of our sleep declines, the brain does not have the ability to move recent memories into long term memories. The recent memories are lost. That is why older people can remember older experiences longer than newer ones.

No one can turn back time and prevent our changing brain but the good news is that scientists can run a low current across the prefrontal area which simulates clean and deep sleep. When this is done, studies show that people have better performance on memory tests.

So your brain has changed. What about your personalities, tastes, behaviors and beliefs?

Think back to when you were a teen. Remember the foods you liked? The music you listened to, the ideas you had about religion or politics or the people who influenced you may seem  wildly different than they do now. Now think ahead to the next decade or two. What do you think your ideas about these things will be? Chances are you may not see your future personality as much different than it is now.

Wrong.

This time it is not faulty memory that makes us laugh and blush at our former selves. We are pretty accurate at how geeky or smug or clueless we once were. But we are somewhat blind to who we are now. According to the report in the Journal Science and retold in the New York Times, most of us think we are now in the peak of our wonderfulness and will stay pretty much the same in the decades ahead. We don’t think we will change as much in the upcoming decade as we did in the last.

I was thinking of these two studies in terms of my bucket list. First of all, I have never made a definite bucket list much less written anything down. The closest I have come is to formulate a list and  think about a few places I would like to travel. I don’t remember all of them (no doubt due to poor sleep quality), and some of them have dropped off the list (air travel being expensive and distasteful while National Geographic Channel has improved in quality).  Istanbul is in my top ten destinations this decade and making it to the bathroom in time may be my big travel destination in ten years.

These findings have enriched my life. Now when I get up once or twice a night to pee and it takes me some time to fall asleep again, I can be comforted that the “to do” list that I had a bedtime will be forgotten by the morning. Due to poor sleep quality, I will no longer carry any held over grudges and  I’ll stop being a piss pot. Also, I am now getting excited about the radical changes in my future.

Look out world. I’m might be that overly made up floozy with the boa feathers and sagging underarms dancing at your granddaughter’s wedding. Of course, you won’t be embarrassed because you won’t remember it the next day and neither will I.