I’m a big fan of nostalgia. Leaning back into happy memories has been great medicine for me in a few ways.
One way is I use it to refocus my thinking when I find myself allowing negative thoughts. Earlier today, I was thinking about something that stirred hurt feelings and jealousy, and I caught myself and told myself to go somewhere happy. I went to Carlingford, Ireland.
Memories are a fantastic way to practice gratitude, and gratitude brings joy and beams joy out into the world.
Memories are a great place to go just to pass the time. One of my favorite things to do on a long drive is head back to a favorite past adventure and relive each moment. When I can’t sleep, sometimes I go back to that 10-week road trip Amica and I took last year and go back through each destination. It calms me.
Finally, memories help me cope with what I can’t do in the present. I’ve said this several times before, that even though I can no longer do something or see someone, like run a 5K (my spine says never again) or hang out with my Grandma Hazel (she left in 2013), I’ll always be the person who did that thing or had that person.
Yesterday, I was supposed to leave for Scotland to celebrate my 40th birthday. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, not only can I not travel for my birthday, as I did for 16 years, but I can’t even get a hug. Part of how I’m managing this is by diving into my favorite memories.
So my gift to you for my birthday is some ideas on how you can hang out with your favorite memories.
Play with photos.
Pull up those favorite old pictures. Connect your phone or computer to your TV and have a slide show. You can make a photo book online and have it mailed to you. Shutterfly is a good site for that. You can also print pics out and make a scrapbook. Scrapbooking existed long before there were 5 aisles dedicated to it at AC Moore, so you can have fun using stuff around the house, like old magazines and fabric scraps, to make a unique scrapbook! One thing I’ve done is edit photos on my computer, using typography to add favorite quotations to them. Here’s one I made as a gift:
Make a watch list.
If I’m reminiscing about a particular place, I love to find movies or television shows set there. It’s so cool to to see those familiar visages. I get heartsick for the Rockies and that wild west, and some great movies for that are Once Upon a Time in the West, Appaloosa, Maverick, and a beautiful one I watched for the first time last night, The Horse Whisperer (but you’ll go through some of your precious paper products). The television series Yellowstone is awesome, too.
Literally cook up your memories.
What were you eating during your favorite memories? I love to have coffee, potato chips, and slices from a block of cheddar cheese, because that’s a snack I had at Grandma’s house when I visited as a teen. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to sit outside and have a simple omelet with southeast Asian sweet chili sauce, buttered toast, coffee, and mango and kiwi fruit, because that’s what I did every morning at my motel in Cambodia. For my Friday night dinner, I’m going make Reuben sandwiches over the fire in my pie iron cooker like the time I took my dog camping for her 10th birthday. You can do a whole theme day around a favorite adventure or favorite person!
Stage a sensory space that will support your favorite memory. Can you find a scented candle or bake something that smells like your memory? Is there a song or a sound of nature you can play on your phone to take you there? Then close your eyes and see it. Feel the embrace or the breeze on your face. Move through that space in your mind and smile while you’re doing it. You’ve got the imaginative capacity to do this. Just remember how you played pretend when you were a kid and how easy it was to believe your imaginary friend was real; that’s still part of you.
Tell the story.
Perhaps my favorite way to relive a favorite memory is when someone will indulge me and enable me to tell the story. Then, not only to I get to go back and relive it, but I get to bring someone new along and show them around. Call someone and talk about your memory. Or, you might write a blog or a social media post about it. If you’re not a writer, try a list. Post your “top 10 favorite things” about the person or place you’re nostalgic about. If you share this memory with friends and family, build a list together. Talk around the table about it and build stories together.