This month I finished reading The Art of Making Memories: How to create and remember happy moments by Meik Wiking. I actually started it last year, but I put it to one side and picked it up again around the middle of October. I’d forgotten many of the key points and ideas, so I re-started from the beginning and spent 20 minutes each morning, reading and highlighting. This has now become part of my early routine and takes place in a super comfortable chair by the window to give myself a good dose of natural light. And, as one of my current affirmations on my vision board is ‘I use self-development books to help me grow’, I’m working hard to apply my learning and decided it would be a good idea to share some of the ideas on here too. I’m also going to talk about some of my own suggestions for memory keeping such as journalling, photography, scrapbooking, memorabilia displays and memory boxes, plus a few more ideas I found online.
Why are memories important?
Rather than provide my own thoughts on the above question, I collected a few ideas from others to share:
Happy memories are essential to our mental health. They strengthen our identity, sense of purpose and relationships.Rangan Chattergee
There are important moments that make up our life’s narrative. We remember the defining moments in our lives, the moments that made us who we are, the moments where we became who we hoped we could be.Meik Wiking, The Art of Making Memories
I love those random memories that make me smile no matter what is going on in my life right now.
The moment may be temporary but the memory is forever.Bud Meyer
‘Happy memories form the cornerstone of our identity, and can help with combating depression and loneliness,’ says Wiking. ‘They influence our happiness in the current moment, as well as providing a framework for our hopes and dreams about the future.’ Nostalgia makes us happy, increasing self-esteem and strengthening social connectedness, so the more vividly we remember the good times, the happier we are overall.Meik Wiking
Memories are timeless treasures of the heart.
So how can we create a life full of happy memories to treasure?
Following extensive research conducted by the team at The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, Meik came up eight keys ingredients for creating happy memories whether they’re of important events such as births and marriages, everyday events such as drinking good coffee and eating delicious cake in a cafe with a friend for the first time in ages, adventures such as moving to a new city, climbing a mountain or going abroad for the very first time or struggling to finish a big assignment but then being delighted with the feedback given by the course tutor. Here’s a brief explanation of each of these elements:
This is the idea that the very first time you experience something is likely to be remembered much better than subsequent very similar experiences. So, for example, you’re likely to remember your first time on an aeroplane, your very first pet, your first job, your first kiss etc. A great idea then, is to seek out new and novel experiences on a regular basis, the more extraordinary the better. You might like to schedule an evening in your diary or planner to find out what’s available to you and explore different options – you might organise a holiday, choose a new restaurant for a family meal (trying a new food or dish will make it even more memorable), sign up for an evening class (I recommend beginners ceramics) or plan to visit a museum is a nearby town or city.
Make it multisensory
In the classroom, during my years as a primary school teacher, one of the important ways of ensuring all children learnt well and enjoyed activities was to create multisensory experiences. These are the kinds of lessons which stay with them for years and they can still remember well after they’ve left school. This can be applied to memory making too. Don’t just experience things with your eyes, try to make sure you use all of your senses (not just sight) to take everything in. Consider if there are any particular aromas in the air, like the smell of freshly roasted coffee, the scent of cinnamon and winter spices in a pot pourri at Christmas time. Be still and listen for near and distant sounds (either pleasant or unpleasant) such as the drumming of a woodpecker in a faraway tree, the roar of the ocean or music drifting on the breeze. Take time to explore different textures such as soft knitted blankets as you get all cosy after a chilly winter walk, or smooth pebbles on the beach and you sit on the sand. Maybe as you relax and take everything in you become aware of a range of sensations, the chill of winter on your skin or the warmth of the Sun on your face in summer or the crunchy autumn leaves below your feet. Perhaps new or favourite tastes complete the scene -succulent strawberries, crunchy, salty popcorn, the sharp tang of the lemon slice in your chilled glass of Pimms and lemonade. And, as you attend to every detail of your experience, you’re engaging in one of the key aspects of mindfulness which is wonderful for your mental health too.
Pay full attention
It should come as no surprise that experiences are best remembered if you invest your complete attention on them. So, for example, if in the summer you went on a Sunday afternoon boat trip to see puffins, but you spend most of the time thinking about all of the work you have to do on Monday, you’re unlikely to remember key details like the warm sun as it sparkled on the water, the interesting facts the captain shared as you headed towards Coquet island, the joy of spying a line of cute seals bobbing in the water making sure that the boat didn’t get too close, the thousands of noisy puffins flying overhead and diving down into the water to catch sand eels, and the hundreds more birds basking in the warmth after a busy morning fishing. However, if you remain attentive during whole cruise, you’re likely to be able to recall all of the magical trip and how you felt for many years to come.
Keep it meaningful
Meaningful moments in your life are those which are of great significance or value to you, where positive emotions such as gratefulness, love, happiness, pride, warmth, peace and often, a sense of connection with loved ones is felt. These could be ‘big’ milestone moments such as finishing college or university, starting a new job, the day you got married, the birth of a child or buying your very first house. They could also be smaller events or happenings which are really important to you and your personal values, for example, for me as a wildlife and nature lover, sitting quietly with my husband in the hide at Kielder Forest, watching and listening to the woodland birds and then suddenly spotting a red squirrel taking a snack from a feeder is one of my favourite memories which I will cherish for a very long time. As well as making exciting plans to celebrate each of our birthdays and our wedding anniversary, my husband and I also make sure we schedule in plenty of other pleasurable activities and adventures for our weekends such as visits to nature reserves, riverside walks in different parts of the Northeast, trips to the theatre, lunches in various vegetarian cafes and overnight stays in quaint villages or vibrant cities.
The emotional highlighter pen
According to Meik, emotions act like a highlighter pen so experiences involving heightened emotions will stick fast in your memory. That’s why we never forget the exact details of times when we’ve felt really embarrassed (no matter how much we’d like to). ‘An emotional reaction will make experiences and moments more memorable, so the art of making memories means making the emotional highlighter pen work for you.’ This also works for exhilarating, joyful, scary, traumatic, sad and shocking events too. Next time you’re planning a holiday, try to add a few activities to the itinerary which are bound to be emotional highlights.
Peaks and struggles
Some of the milestones mentioned above such as completing your university degree, buying your first home or getting married are highly memorable events, but the struggles, stresses and hard work involved to get there is likely to be unforgettable too. There’s so much involved in planning your wedding day that working full time and having a long to do list of preparations months and weeks before can be so stressful and exhausting that when the day arrives it’s such a relief that it (mostly!) went to plan, and you can enjoy what should be one of the happiest occasions of your life.
Meik shares these happy memory tips:
- save the best for last – e.g., if giving a few gifts to your partner for their birthday or Christmas, save the most precious / exciting one until the end, when creating a holiday itinerary, do something with the ‘wow’ factor on the last day etc.
- make the journey part of the experience and try taking the long route – for example, go on a gentle and relaxing boat trip along the river to the other side of the city or hire a bike for the day to cycle around the various attractions, rather than jumping in a taxi.
- plan something for your weekend that helps it to end on a high note
Share your memories as stories and regularly have ‘remember when…’ conversations
A memory model known as The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that over time our retention of memories decline, unless we take action to keep them. Knowing about and understanding the forgetting curve can be important when we are trying to learn new skills or absorb vital information but how does it help us with remembering happy memories? Well, according to Meik, regularly sharing your happy moments with others as stories can help immensely. This could involve helping loved ones to hold on to past events by retelling anecdotes, having ‘remember when?’ conversations or even sharing funny or interesting experiences from your own childhood. Regularly reminiscing has also been shown to help combat memory loss as we get older too.
The final ingredient for maintaining happy memories is to outsource them. In business, as some of you may know, this generally means asking a third party to take care of a particular job or task. In memory retention, however, we can outsource memories by taking photos, collecting mementoes, keeping a diary or journal or by sharing to social media, such as Instagram, Facebook or even a blogging platform.
Most of us take thousands of photos each year which are generally stored on our phones or online using ‘the cloud’. Flicking through these images can certainly spark memories but personally, I prefer to use a range of memory keeping strategies and I especially love creative journalling.
Memory keeping ideas
Monthly memory pages
I’ve created a few of these in my bullet journal to help me to remember what happened during the month. I’ve tried to summarise each event in a few lines so I can fit plenty of memories in. Some of them are dated, whereas others are just something that occurred over time such as watching a particular TV series.
A memento can be defined as an object kept as a reminder of a person or past event. It can spark memories or feelings of happiness each time we see it. For example, when my nan passed away, my mum selected two ornaments from her Royal Crown Derby Cottage Garden Collection – a sleeping kitten and a cute little Dormouse, to give to me to keep. They remind me of my nan, her many ornaments which she had displayed around her home and my grandparents’ pet cat called Tibbles. Also, I like the animals which were chosen and the decor on each piece so they’re things that I’m happy to display in my own home.
Other mementoes you might consider include:
- something from each of your holidays such as a fridge magnet
- a photo in a frame of special occasions e.g., wedding days, child’s first day at school in uniform, the stunning view from a hill you walked up, the bespoke birthday cake that was made for someone’s 80th etc.
- hand or footprint casts – you can even get one done of your pet’s paw!
- your child’s first tooth
- your child’s first artwork
- a souvenir from some of your ‘firsts’ holidays e.g., a mini Eiffel Tower
- newspaper clippings from something important to you that made the local news
You’ve probably heard the adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ which basically means that one single image can often convey multiple ideas, messages and meanings more effectively than a long verbal description can. Therefore, you could write pages and pages describing particular experiences in your life but sometimes, photographs can be enough to spark your memory. Similarly, if you selected a particular photograph from one of your albums (or located one on your phone) you could use it to tell someone else the story of that particular occasion or spend time recalling the event in detail with whoever you shared the moment with.
Set up a private social media account
Many of you will have an Instagram account which features carefully cropped photos with perfect lighting, filters, captions and emojis. This is the stuff you’re happy to share with people online for likes and comments. What Meik suggests is creating another account for everyday memories which might not be Instagram ready bits and pieces you want the whole world to see but are still part of your experience and would give you pleasure to look at.
Personally, I like to combine lots of different memory keeping tools and techniques in my creative journals. I use a traveller’s notebook size and like to record days out, holidays, special events, clothing, accessory and home decor purchases, craft and art projects, wildlife sightings, new dishes, snacks and sweet treats tried, anything really, but especially new and novel experiences (as per Miek Wiking’s power of firsts). As well as including journaling and photographs in various sizes I also like to stick in related mementoes such as restaurant menus, tickets, receipts, packaging, lists of wildlife or nature spots – anything that adds to the memory.
December Daily is a project idea created by memory keeper, Ali Edwards and is a way of documenting the 25 days leading up to Christmas. A few years ago, I had a go at creating a Christmas journal using a range of papers I picked up from my local Lidl supermarket making my own traveler’s notebook size insert. I made a page or two for each day
This year, I’ve bought a Chistmassy 8×8 album and a range of different pocket pages which can be filled with photos, bits of journalling and anything which will spark off festive memories. I’m busy building a collection of stickers and ephemera to use and am enjoying watching different approaches to the project on YouTube. I’ve also printed off lots of different prompts I found online to make sure I record lots of different aspects of the month of December and don’t run out of ideas.
I’ve not tried this one myself, but it sounds like a really nice idea. In January, you start a new personal playlist e.g. ‘Tunes of 2022’, to which you add your current favourite songs throughout the year and tracks which evoke particular memories. When you listen to your playlists you are transported back in time, recalling memories based on music. Although I’ve not specifically done this, I know that when certain songs come on the radio I’m reminded of nights out at university, hitting the dancefloor, writing out or printing lyrics and learning every single word to sing along, wedding night songs including our first dance, favourite bands and artists we’ve been to see, trips to the theatre, movies we’ve enjoyed and many other fun times throughout the years. In fact, I read some information online this afternoon which suggested that playlists can be a particularly useful tool to create for elderly loved ones to help elicit memories of times gone by.
1 second everyday – video journalling
This is a video recording app (1SE for short) which enables users to create a video journal by recording meaningful one second movies for a myriad of everyday aspects of their lives. Each short video is stitched together sequentially to create a seamless record. So, for example, you might create a series of video during the month of November featuring a book cover of a novel you’re particularly enjoying, the crashing waves at the beach whilst on an Autumnal walk, your nails after applying a pretty nail polish, a finished craft project, coffee and cake at a new cafe you’ve tried, the smile of a friend during a good catch up, the rain lashing against your window that started just after you got home, a new recipe that you’re about to give a go and all of the ingredients lined up along the countertop etc.
Line a day journal
This can be a spread you do in your bullet journal each month which you fill in each day or you can purchase a special notebook that usually has space to record five years’ worth of memories. Whichever format you choose, it is meant to be something that you can quickly complete at the end of each day to summarise things such as events, experiences, things you are grateful for, purchases made, something nice someone said, something kind you did for a friend or a stranger etc.
I hope you’ve found today’s post interesting and useful and that it’s prompted you to think about the different ways in which you can create wonderfully happy memories, keep and cherish them. Some people prefer to keep digital records whilst others, like myself, prefer to create tangible journals which can be flicked through and talked about with family members or friends. If you’re interested in finding out more about making and remembering memories, I definitely recommend you check out Meik Wiking’s book. He’s recently re-released it under another name ‘Happy Moments: How to Create Experiences You’ll Remember for a Lifetime’ but the content is the same. I like to buy this kind of book rather than purchasing the e-version as then I can more easily highlight parts I particularly want to remember and then flick through the pages whenever I wish to.
Do you enjoy creating journals or photo albums full of happy memories or do you find yourself flicking through digital albums on your phone and thinking about how you should really print a few of the photos off in case you have an issue with your cloud storage one day?
2 thoughts on “Monday Matters: An in-depth guide to Happy Memory Making and Creative Memory Keeping”
I really loved the idea of 25 Days of Christmas journaling. I’m having a hard time focusing lately but this post helped me to remember I can journal/ scrapbook to keep focused on my memories.
Hi Donetta, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I really enjoyed doing December daily a few years ago and I’m excited to do it again. Journalling, even just a small amount each day, can be incredibly therapeutic.
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