We often look back to our happy memories in the darkest hours of our lives. And when we relive them, our happy memories have the power to make us smile and sometimes, also laugh. Happy memories are our crutch in old age, salve when we're in pain, and companion during loneliness. We seldom know that we are making happy memories. In fact, most of us don’t even know we are making them when we are in the moment.
But if happy memories are so important, why don’t we make a sincere effort to create them? Meik Wiking, in his book The Art of Making Happy Memories, does just that. As the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, he decided to understand happy memories better.
In 2018, the Happiness Research Institute conducted a global study on Happy Memories. The study was conducted across continents, countries, and cities. People of different ages and ethnicities took the survey. And after analyzing thousands of responses, patterns started to emerge. It turns out, there is a recipe for making happy memories. In this article, we talk through the ingredients. What makes happy memories, well, happy? Broadly speaking, there are 8 ingredients:
Novelty and extraordinary
We tend to remember things that are new, different from our daily experiences. Memories from our trip, our first kiss, the first job, that skydive, etc. When we experience something for the first time, and when it is a pleasant experience, we tend to store those experiences as happy memories.
Happy memories involve us entirely. We don’t just remember that trip we took because it was an extraordinary experience, but we also remember it because the trip had our full attention. We were cut off from work and the daily grind and dedicated all our attention to the moment. When we are on that first date, we are so involved with our partner that the rest of the world seems to fade away.
Many experiences that are happy, use more than one of our senses. For instance, memories that center around food often involve our tastebuds, olfactory senses, and our eyes (that ate the delicious food much before you placed it in your mouth). This is one of the many reasons why many of our happy memories are around food. Because it involves multiple senses.
Don't certain songs/music transport us to another time? Does it not bring up memories (good and bad) instantly? All four senses play an important role in forming memories. When more of our senses are involved, our memories tend to be stronger.
Many brands tend to use this trigger to create a memory of the brand. The smell of coffee when we enter Starbucks. The smell when we enter Abercrombie & Finch or even Macys. Brands spend millions to develop a unique smell and then spend even more to make sure we are able to associate it with the brand.
If we want our happy memories to stick around for a lifetime, then we need to create experiences that involve more than one sense.
Take a moment to watch the video below before you proceed further.
This test was created by Daniel Simon and Christopher Chabris in 1999 popularly known as the selective attention test. The correct answer to the question is 15 passes. But more important than that is, did you see the gorilla? The point of the test is to demonstrate that we are selective when it comes to paying attention. So much so, that we miss the gorilla in the video because we are only focused on the players wearing white T-Shirts.
In the same way, when we pay attention to an event in life, and not get distracted by our phones, we tend to experience them more fully and as a result, remember them vividly.
We remember memories that are meaningful to us. Those that are a milestone in our lives. Our marriage, birth of a child, graduation, etc. are all meaningful life events that we usually recall as happy memories.
In order to create happy memories, it is important to ensure that we treat big milestones in our lives with the care and attention it deserves. Taking the timet to do something meaningful for the milestones of our loved ones can serve as a great memory to recall in the future.
We remember memories that made us feel something. That unexpected proposal made us feel special, the time when the usually unexpressive parent said they were proud or when we fall in love, deeply. Emotions are memory hooks. When we feel something deeply, it etches itself in our long-term memory.
So when we are overcome with feelings, especially the good kind, it is important to take a couple of deep breaths. To take in the experience that is creating such a strong and positive emotion within. So that you can cherish that moment forever.
Peak and struggle
We also tend to remember our comebacks as happy memories. The time we struggled and achieved something. When things were not going our way, but we endured. The overcoming of our struggles is often a happy memory we remember for a long time.
So the next time you are facing something untenable and things in life seem bleak, remember this. Remember that one day you will look back to this time and you will be proud of yourself. Because you got through it all. Despite the hard times, you survived and thrived.