Memories shape our hopes and our dreams for the future.
After two nights of unintentional apocalyptic doom movies, I couldn’t shake the perspective that all we really have in the end is our own experience. “Everyone dies.” My husband offered attempting to dismiss the dark and foreboding themes we’d accidentally taken in. The concept felt naked. My caffeine-fueled mundane task-driven life was suddenly challenged for value.
In case you’re wondering we watched Bird Box, and then Don’t Look Up via Netflix. They’re both dystopian future flicks that center around the end of civilization digging into isolation, loss, and plenty of existential dread. Both these films are haunting in their own way.
They’re stressful stories. The only lighthearted elements in both films centered on the paradox of value and importance of nostalgic memories. I was able to pick up and resonate with these themes instantly in part because I was currently in the middle of a very interesting read: The Art Of Making Memories: How To Create And Remember Happy Moments by Meik Wiking
This book was a bit of a surprise. I purchased it knowing absolutely nothing about it assuming the cover summed it all up. (Wrong of course) I was expecting a fluff read the non-fiction guilty pleasure kind I like but it was much more than that filled with a lot of scientific, curious, and useful information. I blame my assumption on the cover, which is both elegant and fanciful.
As a goal-oriented person, I have had a problem with putting my own happiness behind milestones in my life. While this might sound like a pragmatic way to achieve things, I can tell you from experience that it almost always ensures that you are miserable and burnt out. “I’ll be happy when dot dot dot” Is one of the most toxic thought patterns you can indulge.
Like most outlooks, this one folds like a lawn chair when you’re confronted with an end-of-the-world scenario. This is because:
Happiness is a process of cultivation not a goal to achieve.
Children are a great earth-shattering force that can wake you up to this concept. That’s how it happened for me anyway. When my daughter came along, all my professional achievements stopped skid-tire. And instead, I started focusing on creating happy experiences and a beautiful existence for my family. It turns out that the more we focus on our own happiness, the more it will elude us. By focusing on memories and experiences instead of blind happiness I was able to fall in love with pursuit instead of happiness itself.
Memories are more than comfort food for your thoughts “our satisfaction with life- our happiness depends in part on whether we have or create a positive narrative in our life.” Memories actually shape our hopes and our dreams for the future.
While happy memories can be curated, most are unintentional. This whimsical book sums up how to retrieve and create positive memory recall. It also discusses how to lead a life that is filled with personal meaning, the impact of being present, and how to develop memory-making methods.
The most effective way to make solid happy memories is to implement traditions. These do not have to be conventional, but you do have to decide to care about these events for them to become culture. The key is to pick a varied range of traditions that space out from specific events, weekly, monthly, to only once a year. This doesn’t just work to design a memory-making factory it creates a foundation for nostalgia even when our attention and time are limited.
“There is a growing body of evidence that nostalgia produces positive feelings and boosts self-esteem and sense of being loved and at the same time reduces negative feelings such as loneliness and meaninglessness.”Meik Wiking
Here are 7 of the best nostalgic memory building traditions
Summer Family Picnic
Make this an annual tradition but change the location each year. More info on putting this one together here: How To Host A Whimsical Picnic
Poetry Slam Christmas
Hosting a poetry slam gives people the outlet they need to vent during stressful holiday times. Often in some very hilarious and unforgettable ways! The more ridiculous the more you’ll remember it.
Homemade Pizza Night
Disaster or delicious, it’s an experience you’ll always remember. A great hands-on activity that everyone will look forward to.
Not all pranks need to be mean-spirited. A memorable surprise is the goal of this tradition. Pick one week out of the year and dub it “open season” for pranks. Tip: A spontaneous confetti bomb scare is magical and fun.
A happiness vase is like a time capsule of positive memories. Here’s what you do: have everyone collect happy moments throughout the year by writing the experience down on a post-it note. Pop them in the vase and wait until New Years Eve to read them aloud together.
Star Gazing With A Telescope
Wonderment is a key component of memory building. This activity is something everyone would enjoy. It’s not a typical everyday activity making it truly memorable. With so much to marvel and look at the night sky offers a perfect spectacle.
Ugly Face Souvenir Pics
This quirky tradition will keep you laughing for years. My sister and I intentionally take ugly photos when we go somewhere new and send them to each other. Most of the pics are a “spit out your drink” or “quick inhale” type.
The results are we each have a corkboard covered in the most hideous pictures of each other. Truly unforgettable!
What are some of your favorite memory building traditions?
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