Improving memory

I attended an interesting training course about memory recently. I note down my takeaways before my memories fade away.

Good memory does not equal to intelligent. I can learn and practise some methods to maximise my memory, but I probably need to experience, learn and reflect a lot to become intelligent. I often think people who have good memories are intelligent. They may be, but let’s do not be judgemental.

Don’t rely on logic. Improving memory by thinking differently. I recall in 2000 I bought a game box as a gift for my 3 years old nephew. Actually I was captivated by the game when I glanced it at the first time. I started to play it, and my little nephew quietly stood on the table to watch how I was trying to change directions of different parts to fit them in the grid. Soon I finished an easy game. I let my nephew to play afterwards and I went to do something else. When I came back, he had finished it. I couldn’t believe he could finish it so quickly. So I started a difficult game. It took me longer to finish. Then I ask him to try. I thought he wouldn’t be able to finish this one as it is an advanced-level game. I looked at my little nephew calmly put parts in the right position. I couldn’t believe he did it. How come? He giggled and told me actually he just remembered the colours, the shapes and the positions of some parts. Aha, as an adult, I used logic; my 3 years old nephew used short memory! What a game! Linking back to my training session, Kathryn suggested us to be like a 6 years old and do not be too clear when coming to remember things.

Don’t forget our sensory plays a key role when we learn new things. Visual, auditory, tasty, smell and haptic perceptions help us to remember the information. True, we use eyes the most and forget other senses. I immediately remembered the proverb – “Once bitten, twice shy”.

Linking new information to familiar things. I used to link the person who I met the first time to some cartoon characters a lot. Then I described the character to people, they quickly knew who I was referring to. Before the training course, I didn’t realise I had already applied this technique. Unfortunately, since I started working in the UK, I didn’t use the technique as before. Why? This was related to two important things. The one was the English culture/literature barriers. Many cartoon characters I know were in Chinese Without being familiar with their English names and original stories, it’s hard for me to express it to other people even though I could visually see and link the new to what my knew. The another is in workplace we need to be careful when it’s related to diversity (e.g., age, race, gender, religion). It challenges our own prejudice and bias. I didn’t want to unconsciously offend anybody due to I used the technique of linking a person to a cartoon character to help my memory. The technique would be fine if I just use and keep it for myself.

Repeat allows us to revisit our short memory and helps consolidate the information as long term memory. Yes, we all know this technique. When I was a kid, I used it a lot. In school, I repeated reading the same article or was asked to recite the article in order to memorise new vocabularies. I repeated the nine-nine multiplication table to learn arithmetic, which benefited me until today. Nowadays I feel I don’t use this technique a lot like previously. I wonder whether this is one of the main reasons why we often forget things because we get new information constantly but we are too busy to repeat old information.

Exercise and regular practise our memories. If I don’t use it, I forget it. Today technologies help us to some extent, for instance, email alert, reminder apps, and smart speakers. However, to maintain our memories and to strengthen our brain function, doing novelty and challenge exercises is essential and helpful. We can try things like driving home via a different route; learning a new language, trying things we never did before, or anything new that requires to use our senses.



Rethink “Change”

Recently I attended a course about Change and Resilience. It’s good that I had a time to rethink of “change”. Change is not the problem, the poor implementation of any change process is the problem that threatens us. Change is not the problem, resistance to change is the problem.

The robertsoncooper (is founded by Sir Cary Cooper and Professor Ivan Robertson) provides i-resilience report for individuals to build resilience skills. The website also provides leadership, management and well-being support resources.

As I didn’t think about “winners/losers” in a change too much, when the presenter talked about it, I kind of questioned myself “Is there always winners/losers in an organisational change?” “Who are the losers? Who are the winners?” “Are the winners are leading the change towards a right direction?”

The presenter drew a diagram which basically shows people’s reactions in a change. Top 10% are champions who are happy to see the change and are keen on making the change. Bottom 10% are traitors who have negative views of almost everything, and those who disagree the change strongly as it’s against their beliefs. A large number of people are not sure. It’s suggested to focus on understanding and influencing the 80% people, rather than on persuading and influencing the bottom 10% people.

I remember the diagram immediately though I can’t say it presents people’s attitudes in the change very correctly. The diagram can be useful for me to reflect on my views and position in a change. For example, I can ask myself

  • “Am I in the top 10% group of people who have insight, foresee the impact of the change, believe in it and are keen on to make the change happen?”
  • “Am I one of the middle 80% group of people who are not sure and wait-and-see?” I think people who are open-minded and keep critical thinking in this group are those people can help the change and influence others.
  • “Am I one of the 10% group of people who are often have a negative view of any change?” “Do I really agree that this change has a good impact?”

Focusing on the transformative complements

The other day I watched Dr Lissa Rankin’s talk on TEDx. She said the statement below and questioned us how do we think about it?

The caring for your body was the least important part of your health.”

Based on her research and experiences in practice, she brought in the term of “the Whole Health Medicine” (this is her website) and created a wellness model (see a diagram below). It indicates that our health symptoms are often shown on our feelings of our bodies, where we thought we have problems on, however these are the mirrors of our mind and our life surroundings. One of her suggestions is to switch from focusing on battling nuisance symptoms that decrease our quality of life to seeking and enhancing our own transformative complements such as love, pleasure, gratitude and service.


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In Chinese, we often say “境由心转,相由心生“, which means that our perceptions of the world will change with the changes of our mind; whereas our outward appearance mirrors our heart. When I was a kid, to stop me being cheated by strangers, my grandparents told me that if I feel a stranger is not kind and nice though they may smile and try to be friendly, very likely they are not truly kind because their face and behaviors tell. I wouldn’t say this 100% works, but it has its reasons.

Another example is that we all heard something like “the first three minutes of a job interview are the most critical”, or “first impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal cues than verbal cues”.  Spontaneously when we present who we are – the best being of ourselves, we are giving people an impressive first impression. However, this spontaneous look is not pretended. It has been molded on our bodies by our mind in every day life. (N.B. here I am not saying we don’t prepare interview and don’t learn the interaction skills)

So we are shaped by our thoughts. It’s all mirrored on our body including our faces, eyes, smile, voice, etc. To care our own health, read Dr Lissa Rankin’s advice and see if it works for you.

The differences betwen education systems

I watched the BBC program “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School” recently. I’m glad to see that the Chinese teachers won by the exam results. As a Chinese who was educated in the traditional Chinese way, the program brought me many memories, both pleasant and unpleasant. It kind of reminded me how I grew up.

It’s too much for me to cover everything. Here I write down my views about the education purely based on my own experiences.

Personally, I think some rules in the Chinese education affected me a lot and I’m happy that I was taught since I was a kid. They are:

  • Morning exercises (It helped me to start the day with a positive and new status. It may not work for those night owls)
  • Compulsory physical education (It helped me to be physically healthy, see my potential of doing some sports, come out of my comfort zone, and gradually build an exercise habit. The students in the program said it put them in a competition situation. In face it is, however in life we are actually only competing with ourselves. It’s the feeling that shown our weakness in public that makes us to defense and don’t do it.)
  • Eye exercises (It helped my eyes to relax and keep a good eyesight. Wearing glasses is inconvenient.)
  • Self-study time in the classroom (It helped me to finish coursework at school. I could get help from classmates and teachers if there was anything I didn’t understand. Then after school I had free time for other interests and activities. Also, it freed my parents to some extent)
  • Apart from the main subjects, there were some optional classes that encourage students’ interests such as sewing, drawing, gardening, music and dancing.
  • Clean the classroom (It helped me to learn what responsibility means and don’t take things for granted. We helped parents to do housework too without payment for sure.)
  • Keep quiet in the class (I know this is hard. As a child, I liked to talk to peers, day dreaming, peek my cartoon books, or drew anything on my textbooks… But I gradually learned to respect other people’s time, teachers’ and peers’. So in the class if I’m not interested, my brain could wander or dream, but I stopped talking to peers or making noises.)
  • Respect teachers and behave. (This point implies the culture difference very much. For example, British people respect women by opening doors for them or letting them go first. Chinese people respect elders and teachers by listening to what they taught them and by keeping disciplines. This doesn’t mean Chinese youngsters wouldn’t have their own opinions and just obey without challenging views. But it’s definitely not as free and straight as the manners those British youngsters had.)

On the other hand, some aspects in the Chinese style restricted me to some extent and some of the aspects are uneasy to change considering Chinese own culture and circumstances. However, I think it changed over the last 20 years, but wouldn’t have changed to the UK style obviously. Clearly many of the rules are embedded in the family, in the culture and in the society since you were born.

  • Large class (It’s hard for Chinese public schools to have small size classes because of the large population. Students who sit at the back of the classroom do got affected considering distractions from peers who sit in front of them. Naughty students normally were arranged to sit in the front so that teachers kept an eye on them. “Good” students would sit at the back because teachers believe they could learn well themselves and had self-disciplines. This was the teachers try to help the “bad” students. There were also “good” students were arranged to sit in the front, “bad” students sit at the back. This was the teachers have given up the “bad” students.)
  • Teachers physically published naughty students and asking students to stand outside of the classroom during the class was normal. It’s a sign that they didn’t do what the teacher told them.
  • Students who are good at their study would be selected as a subject representative. This means they could be a model and good example for others. However, it’s temporary as some teachers didn’t name the representatives but encouraged students to vote or self-recommend.
  • Results of examinations were the key. Individual, special, or personalised needs and interests were often on the second or third position.
  • A lot of coursework and additional learning materials from both school and parents.
  • Students have few chances to ask questions, interact with the teacher and do group work in a class session. 
  • Fewer options for students apart from the path of going to middle school, high school, universities, and having a good chance to find a decent job.

Cardiff University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day Event

I attended the University wellbeing activities today. It’s fun and very helpful. The little temperature warning sensor/sticker shows my body temperature. May also tell me if I’m stressed! mmexport1424815433165 The handy bands is convenient for us to do quick exercises. IMG_20150218_133834~2Join the Heart Matters free programme and register to receive the Heart Matters magazine by

The research studies about mental disorder

Last October, I tweeted the news I heard in that morning, and questioned where the statement of “1/4 of us suffer mental disorder in our lifetime” was from?

By reading more on the Mind website (the mental health charity for England and Wales), I found lots of helpful information, however, I was still curious about who did the research and how did they conclude that statement.

I’m pleased to find the evidence in the book I’m reading – The How of Happiness by Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky.

On page 35,  it said “In the UK it is estimated that one in four women and one in ten men will suffer depression during their lifetime.


The references on pages 327-328 show the original publications.

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Work on my 40% intentional activities

I am happy to find the book The How of Happiness from our library. A very powerful science book. Using the author Sonja Lyubomirsky’s words,

… the first ‘how-to-become-happier’ book authored by someone who has actually conducted research revealing how people can achieve a greater sense of happiness in their lives.

The following quote is from an article by the same author. It confirms that we can change our intentional activities towards become happier. See Layous, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (in press). The how, who, what, when, and why of happiness: Mechanisms underlying the success of positive interventions. In J. Gruber & J. Moscowitz (Eds.), The light and dark side of positive emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.

The last decade of research has not only established that happiness can be increased through intentional activity, but has begun to parse the details of the how, who, what, when, and why of this important process.

Also, a lecture given by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky is on YouTube.

Read the quotes and change attitudes

Voice of Heart is a nice blog that collects beautiful quotes about life and love. Sometimes I feel a low mood, I go to the site and read some of the quotes. It brightens my way…

I like to read some of the quotes from tiny buddha. We all know, we all know, but sometimes we need the simple wise words to remind us again, to help us to see things in a positive way, and to make our mind in peace…

I also like to see some of the quotes on Motivational Quotes. Some are funny images, some are beautiful words.

Protect yourself in heavy-crowed situations

上海的外滩是我以前常去的地方. 2014到2015的新年夜上海发生了踩踏事件.  伤亡数字让我难以相信这是发生在现在科技发达, 城市建设更趋人性化的今天.  我曾经亲身经历过人流的可怕力量. 大约17年前, 我在上初中, 我们当地的一个新商厦开张, 我和姐妹们出于好奇去凑热闹, 商厦内人满为患, 柜台被挤进商品架, 什么也看不到, 就只有涌在周围的人群和混乱喊叫声. 好在身材高大的姐姐们把我们护在怀里慢慢移向门口… 至此我不爱去人多拥挤的地方了. 这里是如何在拥挤情况下保护自己的图示演示.

image from

I was shocked to hear the news in the New Year’s day morning that so many people were dead and injured in the stampede in Shanghai. I used to go to the Bund very often. Couldn’t believe how this happened in such a well-developed modern city? I had one similar experience at a small city where I grew up about seventeen years ago. As youngsters we were curious to know what’s new in the opening ceremony of a new lush superstore. Tons of people went into the building. It’s simply too crowded. Some people were trying to move to upstairs as others tried to get down, causing panic and mass confusion. The chaos began. Luckily we decided to not go further. Older sisters hold us tightly and slowly we moved towards the entrance. Since then I avoid heavy-traffic areas. Here shows you how to protect yourself in such situations.