Search Site

Our Emotions and Memory

How do we teach in a brain-friendly way so that our learners will be more likely to recall the information being learned? Over the past four issues, we’ve explored several strategies that will help us teach in a brain-friendly way. In this issue, we will investigate how our emotional state impacts our ability to learn. Once again, we will use the mnemonic device called CROME to help us remember the five strategies.

C stands for “chunk information.”
R reminds us of the importance of repetition.
O helps us remember the need for oxygen and glucose.
M means that we must link the learning to something that is “meaningful,” or relevant, for the learner.
E helps us understand that our emotional state impacts what and how we remember.

Emotions release glucose and adrenaline. Both have a positive impact on memory and recall. Also, emotional events get preferential encoding. The correlation is strong between how vivid a memory is and how emotional the event was. When we are in a positive emotional state and our amygdala is resting, the prefrontal cortex is able to do its best and most focused work.

Vigorous physical activity for about 20 minutes is one of the quickest ways to regulate our emotions. This is one of the reasons I am a proponent of plenty of recesses for children and walks at lunchtime for adults.

Choosing-PositivityA second excellent way to regulate our emotions is to be aware of our thoughts. Psychologists call this metacognition. In more recent years, it’s been called mindfulness. Every emotion you have ever felt has begun with a thought. If you don’t like the way you are feeling, the quickest way to change it is to think a different thought. This is challenging, but with practice we can become better at it. If a thought is not serving you well, you can change it. Scripture tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Philippians 4:8 encourages us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

God has given us the ability to regulate our emotions, to a degree, through our thoughts. When we do this, we can improve our emotional state, which in turn helps us to learn and retain new information.

As we learn more about how God has created our minds, we can praise him because we are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).