When it comes to staying healthy, we’ve all heard it before. You know: eat a sensible diet, exercise regularly, and get 8 hours of sleep every night. But did you know that reminiscing about the positive events in your life may actually improve your overall health?
When I recently stumbled across a back issue of Reader’s Digest, the article, “How Nostalgic, Happy Thoughts Make You Healthier: Boost your mood, ward off loneliness, and strengthen family bonds—all by thinking about your favorite memories” by Lauren Gelman (August 2013) immediately caught my attention.
The article stated that “Loyola University researchers discovered that thinking of good memories for just 20 minutes a day can make people more cheerful than they felt the week before.” I’m not a medical expert, but it sounds plausible to me. Why wouldn’t I feel happier after thinking about good memories?
This claim might help explain why people love to tell their stories. My clients often tell me how much they look forward to our next session. I had previously assumed it was because each of our meetings meant that they are moving one step closer to completing their goals, but perhaps part of it is also because our sessions revisit some of their favorite events and make them happier. (Disclaimer: I also encourage my clients to relate difficult moments of their lives so they can share critical life lessons to their readers, but I always strive to strike a balance between their positive and negative experiences. And generally, something good eventually comes from a bad experience as well).
The part of the article that I disagree with, however, is its advice to not write down those memories. It states: “‘There’s a magic and mystery in positive events,’ study author and psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, told the magazine. ‘Analyzing the details—by writing them down—may remove some of that wonder.’”
Again, I’m not an expert nor do I have statistical data to back me up, but I believe that writing a memory allows you to extend your reminiscence, which in turn extends the duration of your happiness. While details might remove some of the wonder, I believe it’s much more important to document your experiences not only for your own temporary happiness and well-being, but also to ensure that a part of you – your memories and what’s most important to you – is preserved for future generations.
Thus, when you write your memories, you can reap physical and emotional rewards, and educate others in the process.
What do you think? Weigh in on the debate in the comments section!