Taking time to reminisce about the past can make us happier in the present.
At times like these, when the future is uncertain, it’s easy to feel depressed or discouraged. Although it may seem difficult to do in the present circumstances, remembering happy moments in the past helps us feel better and move forward to face the future.
In fact, a 2017 paper by Rutgers University investigators Megan Speer and Mauricio Delgado explains that recalling positive memories reduces biological stress indicators and negative feelings, and activates parts of the brain involved in “reward-processing and emotional regulation.” In other words, “Self-generated positive emotions via memory recall in the face of stress” were shown to have a “restorative and protective” effect.
Good memories can help us because they make present in our minds and hearts something concrete that gives meaning to life and fills us with motives that inspire us. When we think about our parents, friends, or good experiences, such as trips we have taken or places we have visited, remembering them injects us with positive energy.
One way to keep our brains trained to remember and focus on good things is to take the time on a regular basis to write down positive memories that have left a strong mark on us. These could be big things like the birth of a child or simple ones like spending time at a café with a friend, or anecdotes, jokes someone told us, or anything else that makes us smile when we remember it.
Besides just writing our memories down, we can also be more creative. For example, we might put together a scrapbook that we can keep handy on the bedside table. That way, we can look over some of it when we go to bed, or in the morning while we eat breakfast and get ready to start the day’s activity.
During this pandemic, when many of us continue to spend more time than usual at home, it’s important to use our resources to connect with positive memories. It’s a great opportunity to find special photos that we have stored away, and hang them up in a nice frame, for instance.
We can also think of songs or stories that shed more light on those memories, and share them with friends or family who may not know them. We can call or text friends who are part of those memories to remind them of that moment, and maybe they can even remind us of details that we’d forgotten. That could really make our day, and theirs.
How to tell if memories are preventing you from moving forward
We know that when a person isn’t feeling well, preparing a meal that transports them to a happy moment can be like medicine for the soul that has a direct impact on their body. Ask those you love the most what their fondest memories are, and help them indulge in a walk down memory lane to lift them up.
If you deal with elderly people, for example, who are at home a lot, a simple question about their memories can be the key that connects them to fond recollections of people or experiences from their past. This has a quicker impact than trying to create new positive experiences for them all the time.
We should also keep in mind that every day we are creating memories for the future, and what we do today and the way we choose to approach each situation largely determines whether those memories will be positive or negative. Being aware of this can help motivate us to choose our activities well, focusing on the good things and finding the positive side to our daily experiences even when we are experiencing difficulties.
There’s a healing power in memories that are full of love. When you begin to be aware of them and witness their positive effect, you’re able to continue building more in that direction. Collect those memories, revive them and share them. It helps energize your day and bring that happiness to those around you.
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