By David Joel Miller.
Sometimes you need to excavate those happy memories.
Part of memory improvement is reviving old memories you may still need but are having a hard time finding. One good place to start is reviving happy positive memories.
One great technique to retrieve those happy memories is a dose of introspection. Looking inside yourself can help you find things you had forgotten were there.
Happy memories are sometimes hard to recall. Let’s work on improving your memory by improving recall of happy times in the past. Memories that are not used degrade. With total disuse, the brain may prune off those memory connections. Certain times in your life and emotional states promote that pruning.
One good think about faded memories is that if you can find them before they are gone you can retrieve them. It is always easier to learn something a second time than it was the first time because there may be traces of those memories left in your brain.
Here are some questions to ask yourself. I suggest you write the answers down whenever possible. The act of writing them down stores them in a second part of the brain and may make retrieval easier. Telling someone about those happy memories has a similar effect. For good measure whenever possible do both.
1. When was the happiest time in your life? The three happiest times?
Try to walk back through those happy times. Where were you? Who were you with? If that person is no longer part of your life try to only remember the good part of this happy time, not the subsequent loss.
Try to recall as many details as possible. What time of year was it? Where there any smells? What was touching your skin? The more senses you can involve the more details you remember the more real and permanent the memory becomes.
If you find yourself stumped on that happy time, look for a happy place, somewhere you may have been or a trip you took. Even if that place was imaginary, returning to it can improve your mood.
Some of our memories come from the books we read, the movies we watched and the characters from those stories that made their way into our hearts. For some that happy memory will be the time their favorite team won that big game.
2. What was the best job you ever had?
This may not have been the best paying but it was the one you wanted and may have wished you could do again. Relive that excitement of being chosen for that job.
Where were you when you had that job? What else was going on in your life at that time? Try to remember the people you worked with. How did they treat you? What made this the best job of your life?
In the moment we store a lot of memories about the problems on any job. If you look back searching for the things that meant the most to you there just might be some things you need to remember.
3. What are your good qualities?
This can be harder than the first two. If you are stumped on this one ask yourself how a friend would describe your good qualities? What would you say to a potential boss if you were asked this in an interview?
Don’t dismiss this question too quickly. Give yourself time to ponder. Most people have far more skills and good qualities than they give themselves credit for.
Did you win a contest? Have you ever been given an honor? Do not dismiss that victory no matter how small and insignificant it may seem now. Those past achievements will tell you a lot about yourself and the potential you have to become even more.
4. When was the last time you learned something new?
Was this a good experience? Are you proud of what you learned? Had you planned on having this experience or did it just happen? If you learned this new thing with someone else, who? Is this person still in your life? In a good way?
People who continue to learn throughout the lifespan get more mileage from that thing we call a brain. Lifelong learning may not cure Alzheimer’s but it is good for knocking the cobwebs off the brain and keeping it working to the best of your ability.
5. When in your life was your health at its best?
What else was going on then? Has your health fluctuated over the years? Has that affected your happiness? Is there anything you can do to improve your health and re-experience those happy times?
Some of these introspective self-examination questions will bring up painful memories as well as the happy ones. Notice the pain and then let it go. Your goal is to focus on the happiness you had forgotten. For more on the problem of painful memories check out the post on meditation and painful memories.
Happiness and pain are not stored equally. It is easier to remember the bad than the good. Cultivate the habit of looking for the positive and adding those memories to your memory collection and you will find your happiness and your memory will improve.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
- Forgetting things may not be a memory problem (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Your autobiography as therapy (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Body remembers what the mind forgets (counselorssoapbox.com)