I’m thankful that I can easily access pleasant memories; thankful not just for the ability to remember, but that I also have quite a bit of good material to choose from. I realize that many are not so lucky. This post is for those whose pain is prominent; for those who have been hurt deeply and often, and who feel the sting of emptiness at the question, “What are your best childhood memories?” As we approach the holiday season, we know the questions are coming. The glances over frosty glasses of eggnog accompanied by the stories of childhood holidays of old, of “simpler times,” and “the good old days,” even though for many those days were less than idyllic. This post is also for those who just want to get in touch with their past selves, to enhance introspection and connection to previous days.
Whatever the reason for wanting to identify pleasant memories from the past, we know this: memory is a funny thing. Sometimes, the most prominent memories to us are barely present in the minds of others, even when they participated and played an active role. This morning, I was talking to dear friend about a memory that was especially salient to me; one of which she had absolutely no recollection. I was reminiscing about a quaint little stationary and office supply store where we used to buy pencils, paper, and erasers. Maybe other people don’t particularly reminisce about their first purchase of graph paper or wooden pencils, but I do. It stands out to me as shaping my love of paper, writing utensils, and office supplies. For some reason, I think about it often. Maybe it’s a sign I should open my own stationary store? Or maybe I just need to stop and savor the things I most enjoy, and let them bring forth the sweet memories of the smells of cedar, rubber, and coins from my change purse. Maybe these memories can carry me through the eggnog conversations, and provide me with material for journaling and introspection, even dinner table conversations with my husband and four-year-old little boy.
If you would like to identify pleasant memories for yourself, whether or not you have a painful past, want your spouse or family to have a deeper understanding of your soul, or just want to add to your collection of sweet and pleasant thoughts for accessing on a brisk winter walk, here are 10 ways to identifying pleasant childhood memories:
- Think about your favorite hobby as an adult. When did you become interested in this? Who introduced it to you? Where were you the first time you did this thing you really enjoy? What were the sights, sounds, and smells around you?
- Consider items you like to collect. Could it be pencils, like mine? Kitchen utensils? Golf clubs? Stamps? Coins? What did it feel like to acquire this item for the first time? What did it smell like? What did you create with it?
- What is your favorite food? Is there a specific person who made this food for you many years ago? What is a “comfort food” for you? Does it have a family history? Do you have a written recipe? Whose handwriting is the recipe written in? Did the same hand that wrote the recipe also write loving words to you at some point in a card or letter? Do you still have it?
- If you have a history of painful relationships with other people, can you identify loving relationships you have had with dogs or cats? The love between dog or cat and person is a beautiful, wholesome thing to celebrate. Do you have sweet, precious memories with an animal who had unconditional positive regard for you? Do you remember its preferences for certain foods or activities?
- Try to identify one activity that brings you peace in times of stress as an adult. A bubble bath? A walk? Did this activity provide you with a relief from pain as a child? Momentary comfort? What was it like to be you and engage in this relaxing activity? Are there particular sensory memories that you associate with this activity?
- Do you consider yourself a book-lover? Do you remember books from your childhood that provided a respite from the stress or monotony of daily life? What do you remember about these books you read during childhood? Do you remember the covers, the way they smelled, what worlds you were transported to as you read them?
- What about a subject in school at which you excelled? Even if you didn’t end up pursuing this subject, even if you didn’t end up with a career defined by it, what did you enjoy? Greek mythology? Earth science? What do you remember about the way receiving affirmation about your abilities felt? Do you remember your teacher? Were they kind and encouraging? Could you ever see yourself taking a class at your local college in the subject, just for fun?
- As we near the season of gift-giving, the toy catalogs and advertisements are in abundance. Were you attached to a particular toy or comfort item as a child? Even if you don’t have it anymore, can you remember the feelings of comfort and safety that this item conjures for you? Have you seen something like it in a store recently? What would it be like to have that item again?
- Speaking of holidays, do you have a favorite? Do you shudder at the nearness of Christmas but feel lighthearted at the approach of Valentines Day? Is Easter a time of difficulty, but Cinco de Mayo the most exciting time of the year? Why do you think that is? Can you recall an earlier time in life when you celebrated this holiday and felt peace and joy?
- Lastly, can you identify your favorite time of day? Why do you think you have this preference? Does it go back to childhood routines? Personality? What are some fond memories you have of this time of day, and the activities that go along with it? Is it time to revive your love of morning, or add some sparks to your evening routine?
I hope these ideas provide you with the tools you need to identify positive memories from your past, or things to dwell on when you need to enhance your mood. What are some of your most pleasant memories? Feel free to share in the comments below, and warm wishes from Kentucky for a healthy holiday season!