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We all have memories we love to look back on: first loves, family vacations and favourite meals. But can you deliberately go out and create happy memories? Bestselling author and “happiest man in the world”, Meik Wiking, says you can.
As the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, he spends his days looking at happiness from a scientific perspective. He dropped by The Social to share some of his tips on how to create happy memories.
Reminisce about happy memories
In 2018, a massive global study on happy memories was conducted and it found that people best remember memories that are novel, meaningful, emotional, and engage the senses. It isn’t just the big days, adventures and celebrations that people remember. Simple everyday things or times where people were there for us can be quite memorable too. All of these memories are small pieces of the puzzle and add up to show what happy moments are made of. Having a positive, nostalgic view of the past can produce positive feelings and boost our self-esteem and sense of being loved. At the same time, it reduces negative feelings, such as loneliness and meaninglessness.
Try new firsts
Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something that you’re scared of is a good way to make happy memories. Facing fears creates moments that people remember, especially if they are successful at it. Once a year, you should go someplace you’ve never been before whether it’s an exotic destination or the park across town.
Handle painful memories
We often remember bad memories better than positive ones because the emotions that are attached to them act like a highlighter pen. Emotional reactions, like fear or embarrassment, are processed in the amygdala, which is the part of your brain where the fight-or-flight response also begins. We remember aspects of a situation that are relevant and we try to avoid recreating unpleasant experiences. Since emotional reactions help us remember memories, you can use your emotional highlighter pen to remember times where you experienced happy emotions, like your first kiss.
A great way to keep track of memories is to write down your memories in a journal along with all of the senses you experienced. Senses can trigger and retrieve memories, so be mindful of what you hear, smell, see, taste and feel. The more you note down your impressions, the more vividly you can remember happy moments.
Use digital technology as necessary
Many participants in the global study of happy memories mentioned times where they were without power or internet. Being without technology forces you to pay more attention. Technology does have some benefits though. Social media allows us to outsource our memories in photos and posts. We can also search the Internet for things we have forgotten.
Celebrate the little things
You can make and create more milestones in order to have better memories. Instead of only celebrating big events, you should celebrate the little things, like a finished report. Another thing you can do is connect more often with other people and with nature. Lastly, you can observe better by being more attentive rather than letting distractions get in the way or filtering what you want to pay attention to.
You can learn more of Meik’s tips by checking out his book, The Art of Making Memories.