When we were young, we were delighted when school was out. We had the entire summer to play and do nothing. Now that we’re adults, we don’t have that long summer break.* Yet, since the sunlit days are longer and we have vacation time, summer does bring us lots of things to be grateful for.
- Beach weeks
- Lake trips
- Hiking expeditions
- Family vacations
- Family reunions
- Wildlife viewing
- Water sports
- International discoveries and learning
- Cool woodland trails
- Colorful blooms
- Iconic landscape visits
- Outdoor weddings
- Juicy fresh fruits (Hello, 4th of July Watermelon!)
- Corn on the cob
- Fresh from the garden tastes
Did images fill your mind? Did your taste buds tingle just a bit? That’s good, because, research has proven that happy “autobiographical” memories contribute to our well-being.
Positive memories also increase our self-esteem. It’s really self-satisfying in a healthy way when we recall that killer wave we surfed, or the amazing ribs we barbecued for our in-laws, or perhaps when the tree we planted 5 years ago finally looks like a tree.
The more vivid the memories, the happier we are overall. According to Meik Wiking in his book, The Art Of Making Memories, “Happy memories form the cornerstone of our identity and can help with combating depression and loneliness. They influence our happiness in the current moment, as well as providing a framework for our hopes and dreams about the future.” There is power in those positive memories.
A helpful detail to remember for the back-to-the-grind days of autumn is that recalling positive memories can also calm you and reduce stress. A research paper published by the National Institutes of Health states, “. . . savoring happy memories might be significant for one’s ability to cope with stress, potentially promoting better decision-making and well-being.”
What Happened to My 40s?
One of life’s frustrations, however, is that we have numerous and vivid memories of our early years, but not so many as we go through our late 30s, our 40s and beyond. Know why? The experts say it’s because we aren’t experiencing as many “firsts.” Our early memories may be the first car, the first kiss, the first job or, perhaps, our first house. As we settle into life, we have fewer original and vibrant experiences. An article in Marie Clair beautifully discusses doing new thing each decade.
So this summer, do some exciting things for the first time! The rewards go far beyond simply making you happier and giving you that hard to define “well-being.” Emma Young found that merely “recalling happy memories can combat acute stress at a physical level.”
Be Mindful and Purposeful
When you’re on vacation, try to do two things. First, ditch your thoughts about work and challenges back home and be mindful of the moment. You can’t make new memories of wonderful summer experiences if you’re worrying about things that are currently out of your realm. Be present in the moment. Be childlike in your wonder.
Second, try something new. You may want to just relax on the beach or on the deck or in the boat. Great. You probably need that recharging time. However. . . . . . plan for a memory-making time, too. Zipline, camp, waterski, hike a glacier, backpack. Do SOMETHING you haven’t done before. Create a “first.” Be adventurous, even if it’s only for three hours.
Prioritize and Double Record Those Memories
Researchers at Columbia University discovered the brain reviews your memories and then prioritizes the events that are the most rewarding. Those are the ones that are made most readily accessible for future retrieval. Neutral and inconsequential events are filtered out or given lower level importance for future retrieval. It’s your brain’s way of saying, “Whatever!”
Of course, you’ll have pictures of those Firsts that have been taken by a convenient cell phone. But, any teacher will tell you that in order to get your brain to record things you have to be intentional. We learn visually, auditorily, and kinetically.
The cell phone pictures are your visual memory. Telling people about your exciting event provides an audible recording in your own head. When you write down your memory and the details that excited you, the activity of your hands on the keyboard or moving your pen across a page provides the kinetic input of information. Perhaps those exciting moments will be part of what you write in your gratitude journal.
Make Memories This Summer!!!
BE BOLD this summer. Do some really cool stuff!! Create some Firsts. Give your brain memories of this decade that it wants to prioritize. Happy memories, gratitude and well-being are obviously tightly woven together.
While you make happy memories, record them with intention. Be grateful for a summer of memories that will benefit the rest of your life.
What have you or are you planning to do to create memories for this decade of your life?
What are you planning that will enhance your Summer Gratitude?
Please share with us in the comments below.
* Teachers are excluded from that statement, but they have their own form of work each summer. Recovery from the classroom challenges.. God bless them!!