Good memories in tough times

Waiting to sample fresh-baked bread from adobe ovens at a harvest festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico on a recent trip

We’ve all had bad stretches in our lives, from days when we wish we’d never gotten out of bed to years when we’re especially happy to celebrate the start of a New Year to come. During rough times, research has proven that remembering good things can boost our mood and improve our outlook.

An article I just read in Nautilus magazine, The Lasting Power of Good Memories, highlights that as we age we tend to remember good times. You may have found that somewhat annoying in an older relative who keeps reliving the same experiences when they’re talking to you, but I can tell you from personal experience that once your body stops working as well as it did and all kinds of health issues dominate your life, you hang on to the good memories to remind you that life has been better.

The key, though, is to make those good memories in the first place. I see a lot of people just coast through life, carrying on through the days without making high points to offset the lows. Everyone should have something they really love doing, whether it’s a hobby, a sport they like to play, places they’ve travelled to, or even just having wonderful gatherings with friends or family.

As per the article, research has shown that “recalling happy moments triggers reward circuitry in the brain”, and that retrieving positive memories improved the test subjects’ moods. Researchers also found that the subjects who were recalling good memories, when put under stress (submerging their hands in ice water for the test), had much smaller rises in cortisol, the stress hormone, than those who even thought of neutral memories (neither good nor bad).

So rather than pooh-poohing nostalgia, let’s embrace it as the built-in stress-reliever technique that we humans are fortunate enough to have. (Maybe animals do too, but we may never be able to figure that out.)

During the pandemic lockdowns, quite a few friends and family asked my hubby and me if we were stressed about not being able to travel – we’re usually going several places every year, even as weekend jaunts. Everyone seemed stymied that we were barely bothered. But we had lots of good memories of past trips to carry us through and allow us to chill about being stuck at home. That’s not to stay that we didn’t make small trips within our own province, exploring places we’d never bothered to go to in the past, and that it wasn’t very nice to get away for a few days – even we got some cabin fever.

A long-planned cruise around the 1000 Islands during the pandemic

We also engaged in some home renovations, like most people, and made good use of our back yard, as well as any public nature spots that were open. Two of our favourite memories from that time period, when our government was advising everyone to stay separate for the different holidays are:

  • having my brother and his girlfriend over for Thanksgiving dinner outside. They felt more at ease that way, just going inside to use our bathroom as needed, and we got lucky with the weather, which was mild enough to eat out on the patio. We decorated our patio table, cooked the turkey in an infrared fryer, ate amid the yellow leaves drifting down from our linden tree, and had coffee and dessert next to a new patio firepit we’d bought for the purpose
  • sharing a Christmas picnic with our nieces and nephews on a chilly day warmed by a fire, which we built in the picnic spot’s public barbecue. We made a big thermos of hot chocolate spiked with maple cream liquor, ate beef stew that we heated in our (luckily portable) infrared fryer, and made the most of a brief window that we could all safely spend together.

My hubby and I have travelled around the world, and have many special memories that we reminisce about, and often laugh about. Many of them you’ve read about in this blog already. Those are the good memories we’ve made; yours might be different but equally precious. Just ensure that you make them, and continue to make them as time goes on, because during difficult times we need to remember that we can still have good experiences, that they aren’t all relegated to the past.

Funky diner food in a small town in Virginia

All photos are by me and all rights are reserved. E. Jurus

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ejurus

I started Lion Tail Magic as a way to help people recapture the adventurous spirit of their childhood -- exploration, curiosity about everything, and a belief that anything is possible if you want it and are willing to work towards it. I am a travel coach, professional speaker, writer and endlessly curious world traveller.

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