My memory is terrible. I forget things a second after they happened. I can’t remember people’s names or birthdays. I don’t even know my phone number. And yet, I remember vividly every bad thing that has ever happened to me, no matter how small.
I was reading The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments by Meik Wiking, when I realised I tend to remember all the bad things, and forget the good ones.
Reading this book triggered a lot of childhood moments I’d forgotten, and most of them were good. I hate that throughout my life, I’ve always focused on things that don’t matter. I’ve let my memories be consumed by bad days or hurtful conversations that feel so irrelevant now.
In his book, Meik Wiking explores the research that suggests “people are happier with their lives if they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past.” He believes that this nostalgia can produce “positive feelings, boost our self-esteem and increase our sense of being loved by another.”
I decided to test his theory. Whenever I felt sad lately, I tried to go back to a good memory, no matter how distant, and it made me feel better.
Our well-being is influenced by our ability to form a favourable narrative of our lives. Do we ruminate over failures and mistakes, or are we able to find the silver lining in our struggles? What aspects we focus on when we tell the story of our life, the story of how we became who we are, has an impact on our sense of self.
How to create new memories
The book focuses on memory research and how to create new memories that will stay with us for a long time. Wiking shares a lot of tips to help our brain remember special moments and to trigger old ones. These are some I want to try:
– Wear a new perfume on a particular day only, like your wedding or another event, so whenever you smell that scent, you remember that unique day – I don’t wear perfume as smells usually bother me, but it’d be nice to have a scent for special occasions that I can go back to.
– Decorate your home with objects that tell your story instead of buying random decor – I do this with the books I keep on my shelve and the embroideries that hang on my wall, each one has a story, but I like the idea of collecting items from specific days and adding them to my home.
– Create a memory dish, a meal or a certain taste that you want to link to a happy memory – The first time I drank a Cosmopolitan was on my 19th birthday. I paired it with nachos, an odd combination that I’ve tried to make a tradition for special occasions. Yes, I still order Cosmopolitans, even if they’re out of style. And because they’re so rare now, I remember the nights when I had one.
– Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before – it could be that unique restaurant in town or a country that calls your name – For me, that place is Copenhagen, and I booked a short trip there for my next birthday. Do they drink Cosmos in Denmark?
– Spend an evening or a weekend of digital detox to make things more memorable – I’m constantly distracted by my phone. What could’ve turned into a long memory is cut short by my need to check my notifications.
When choosing what to do, take into account what you are most likely to remember in ten years’ time.
We remember when we pay attention – and we pay attention when we are present, engaged, committed, when what we see and process is meaningful to us.
Some of my favourite memories
Most of my favourite memories are from novel days, like visiting a new country or when something completely unexpected happened on an ordinary day. Like when I woke up on November 1st when I was living in London, it was the foggiest day I had ever seen. I spent hours walking around a deserted Primrose Hill, and it was so foggy you could only see a meter in front of you. It was cold and humid, and I just loved the solitude of that day.
Other great and random memories:
– On my 20th birthday, it wouldn’t stop raining, and I decided to swim in our pool even though it was freezing. And it rained so much that we had water coming into our house. I loved every second. It’s still my favourite birthday. I just love rain.
– Taking my first train ever, at 5 am, from London to Edinburgh and spending a whole day discovering this magical city on my own.
– Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Tromsø at 2 am on a freezing February night.
– When I was caught in a crazy snowstorm in Uppsala, and it was the coldest I’ve ever been. We hit – 17°C.
– Seeing Taylor Swift play in Dublin during her Reputation Stadium Tour.
– The week I spent in Bergen on my own, and all I did was walk in the snow and read.
Reading this book triggered so many good memories. I swear that every Meik Wiking book is like a therapy session, especially this one.
This post is already too long, so I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes:
To me, the good life – a full life, a rich life – is a life both of purpose and pleasure. It is when life offers satisfaction with the present, hopes for the future and peace with the past. Happiness is not a one-ingredient dish.