Let the Power of Memories Boost Your Mood

Reviewed May 2, 2019

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Summary

Reflecting on positive memories can boost your mood. Use all your senses to evoke good feelings from the past. 

We get mixed messages about the past. We’re told to move on, to live in the moment, to avoid nostalgia. In fact, the dictionary equates nostalgia with being homesick. And certain sights, sounds, and smells can make us sad about the passage of time and those we’ve left behind.

But there’s a flip side to memories, a power to claiming our past that can’t be ignored. Studies show that reflecting on good memories can boost our mood and give us a break from the routine grind of life. They can also nurture a sense of belonging and accomplishment. The trick is to make the time and space to recall good experiences and let yourself relax into the memory.

One way to do this is to use all your senses to evoke good feelings from the past.

Sights

  • Invite a friend or family member to spend time looking at old photos.
  • If you’re alone, take the time to set the mood with the right music, food, or scented candles. Treat the romp down memory lane as a special occasion.
  • Send and old photo to a friend—it will create instant good feelings and start a whole new conversation.
  • Be prepared for the mixed feelings that may come and counter them by expressing thanks and gratitude for the people you have known and the experiences you have had.

If you really want to tap into the past, take a day or two and visit your childhood home, school, vacation spot, or other significant venue. Expect a certain amount of wistfulness and nostalgia, maybe even tears. Such returns to youth can be an important landmark in your life, supplying a cleansing, a re-connection with your foundation, and a launching point for moving on to the next phase of your life.

Some people find it best to share such an experience with a loved one; other people need to go it alone. Whatever your choice, own the sense of connection to your past, express thanks for the good moments and people in your life, and gain strength from knowing that you survived any struggles. Then return to the present refreshed and invigorated. 

Sounds

Certain sounds, especially music, are strong memory boosters—the crashing of waves, the rumble of a marching band, an old song from days gone by. Get together with old friends or people your age and dance to music from your era. If the sound of the woods or the ocean brings back thoughts of happy days, buy a CD with the corresponding sound effects and listen to it when you need to unwind.

Smell, taste, and touch

Just as a memory of a bad taste, touch, or smell has the power to make us ill, the memory of a good taste, touch, or smell can bring us much joy and comfort.

Treat yourself to these simple pleasures and savor each taste, touch, or smell sensation. If homemade bread brings back great memories, bake a loaf and let the scent fill the house and lift your mood. Invite a friend over to share the experience. The point is to find ways to add in more of these good memories into your life.

Stay connected

You can always make a new friend but you can never get another “old” friend. Cherish these people and make an effort to keep in touch, even if it’s only a card once a year. Everyone will benefit from the strong sense of connection and intimacy that comes from sharing memories.

Write it down

If you feel stuck or are running out of ideas, jot down memories. You’ll find yourself getting re-involved and re-excited about past triumphs and successes. In fact, you’ll find you’ve accomplished more than you thought. A personal memoir is also a nice keepsake to pass on to friends and family members.

Return the favor

Show elders folks a little sympathy and patience. More and more “reminiscence therapy” is being used with older adults to lessen depression and feelings of isolation, especially those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Ask an older friend or relative to show you old photographs and share stories. Don’t worry that you’re going to make him feel sad; chances are you’re giving him a great chance to feel good and vital again.

By Amy Fries
Source: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives by Jan Yager, Ph.D., Hannacroix Creek Books, 1997; “Sweet Remembrance: Feeling Blue? Try a Shot of Nostalgia” by Marina Krakovsky, Psychology Today, May/June 2006; “Life Review and Reminiscence Therapy,” www.growthhouse.org/lifereview.html

Summary

Reflecting on positive memories can boost your mood. Use all your senses to evoke good feelings from the past. 

We get mixed messages about the past. We’re told to move on, to live in the moment, to avoid nostalgia. In fact, the dictionary equates nostalgia with being homesick. And certain sights, sounds, and smells can make us sad about the passage of time and those we’ve left behind.

But there’s a flip side to memories, a power to claiming our past that can’t be ignored. Studies show that reflecting on good memories can boost our mood and give us a break from the routine grind of life. They can also nurture a sense of belonging and accomplishment. The trick is to make the time and space to recall good experiences and let yourself relax into the memory.

One way to do this is to use all your senses to evoke good feelings from the past.

Sights

  • Invite a friend or family member to spend time looking at old photos.
  • If you’re alone, take the time to set the mood with the right music, food, or scented candles. Treat the romp down memory lane as a special occasion.
  • Send and old photo to a friend—it will create instant good feelings and start a whole new conversation.
  • Be prepared for the mixed feelings that may come and counter them by expressing thanks and gratitude for the people you have known and the experiences you have had.

If you really want to tap into the past, take a day or two and visit your childhood home, school, vacation spot, or other significant venue. Expect a certain amount of wistfulness and nostalgia, maybe even tears. Such returns to youth can be an important landmark in your life, supplying a cleansing, a re-connection with your foundation, and a launching point for moving on to the next phase of your life.

Some people find it best to share such an experience with a loved one; other people need to go it alone. Whatever your choice, own the sense of connection to your past, express thanks for the good moments and people in your life, and gain strength from knowing that you survived any struggles. Then return to the present refreshed and invigorated. 

Sounds

Certain sounds, especially music, are strong memory boosters—the crashing of waves, the rumble of a marching band, an old song from days gone by. Get together with old friends or people your age and dance to music from your era. If the sound of the woods or the ocean brings back thoughts of happy days, buy a CD with the corresponding sound effects and listen to it when you need to unwind.

Smell, taste, and touch

Just as a memory of a bad taste, touch, or smell has the power to make us ill, the memory of a good taste, touch, or smell can bring us much joy and comfort.

Treat yourself to these simple pleasures and savor each taste, touch, or smell sensation. If homemade bread brings back great memories, bake a loaf and let the scent fill the house and lift your mood. Invite a friend over to share the experience. The point is to find ways to add in more of these good memories into your life.

Stay connected

You can always make a new friend but you can never get another “old” friend. Cherish these people and make an effort to keep in touch, even if it’s only a card once a year. Everyone will benefit from the strong sense of connection and intimacy that comes from sharing memories.

Write it down

If you feel stuck or are running out of ideas, jot down memories. You’ll find yourself getting re-involved and re-excited about past triumphs and successes. In fact, you’ll find you’ve accomplished more than you thought. A personal memoir is also a nice keepsake to pass on to friends and family members.

Return the favor

Show elders folks a little sympathy and patience. More and more “reminiscence therapy” is being used with older adults to lessen depression and feelings of isolation, especially those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Ask an older friend or relative to show you old photographs and share stories. Don’t worry that you’re going to make him feel sad; chances are you’re giving him a great chance to feel good and vital again.

By Amy Fries
Source: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives by Jan Yager, Ph.D., Hannacroix Creek Books, 1997; “Sweet Remembrance: Feeling Blue? Try a Shot of Nostalgia” by Marina Krakovsky, Psychology Today, May/June 2006; “Life Review and Reminiscence Therapy,” www.growthhouse.org/lifereview.html

Summary

Reflecting on positive memories can boost your mood. Use all your senses to evoke good feelings from the past. 

We get mixed messages about the past. We’re told to move on, to live in the moment, to avoid nostalgia. In fact, the dictionary equates nostalgia with being homesick. And certain sights, sounds, and smells can make us sad about the passage of time and those we’ve left behind.

But there’s a flip side to memories, a power to claiming our past that can’t be ignored. Studies show that reflecting on good memories can boost our mood and give us a break from the routine grind of life. They can also nurture a sense of belonging and accomplishment. The trick is to make the time and space to recall good experiences and let yourself relax into the memory.

One way to do this is to use all your senses to evoke good feelings from the past.

Sights

  • Invite a friend or family member to spend time looking at old photos.
  • If you’re alone, take the time to set the mood with the right music, food, or scented candles. Treat the romp down memory lane as a special occasion.
  • Send and old photo to a friend—it will create instant good feelings and start a whole new conversation.
  • Be prepared for the mixed feelings that may come and counter them by expressing thanks and gratitude for the people you have known and the experiences you have had.

If you really want to tap into the past, take a day or two and visit your childhood home, school, vacation spot, or other significant venue. Expect a certain amount of wistfulness and nostalgia, maybe even tears. Such returns to youth can be an important landmark in your life, supplying a cleansing, a re-connection with your foundation, and a launching point for moving on to the next phase of your life.

Some people find it best to share such an experience with a loved one; other people need to go it alone. Whatever your choice, own the sense of connection to your past, express thanks for the good moments and people in your life, and gain strength from knowing that you survived any struggles. Then return to the present refreshed and invigorated. 

Sounds

Certain sounds, especially music, are strong memory boosters—the crashing of waves, the rumble of a marching band, an old song from days gone by. Get together with old friends or people your age and dance to music from your era. If the sound of the woods or the ocean brings back thoughts of happy days, buy a CD with the corresponding sound effects and listen to it when you need to unwind.

Smell, taste, and touch

Just as a memory of a bad taste, touch, or smell has the power to make us ill, the memory of a good taste, touch, or smell can bring us much joy and comfort.

Treat yourself to these simple pleasures and savor each taste, touch, or smell sensation. If homemade bread brings back great memories, bake a loaf and let the scent fill the house and lift your mood. Invite a friend over to share the experience. The point is to find ways to add in more of these good memories into your life.

Stay connected

You can always make a new friend but you can never get another “old” friend. Cherish these people and make an effort to keep in touch, even if it’s only a card once a year. Everyone will benefit from the strong sense of connection and intimacy that comes from sharing memories.

Write it down

If you feel stuck or are running out of ideas, jot down memories. You’ll find yourself getting re-involved and re-excited about past triumphs and successes. In fact, you’ll find you’ve accomplished more than you thought. A personal memoir is also a nice keepsake to pass on to friends and family members.

Return the favor

Show elders folks a little sympathy and patience. More and more “reminiscence therapy” is being used with older adults to lessen depression and feelings of isolation, especially those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Ask an older friend or relative to show you old photographs and share stories. Don’t worry that you’re going to make him feel sad; chances are you’re giving him a great chance to feel good and vital again.

By Amy Fries
Source: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives by Jan Yager, Ph.D., Hannacroix Creek Books, 1997; “Sweet Remembrance: Feeling Blue? Try a Shot of Nostalgia” by Marina Krakovsky, Psychology Today, May/June 2006; “Life Review and Reminiscence Therapy,” www.growthhouse.org/lifereview.html

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