Family memories build health and happiness. Memories of camping, swimming, reading, singing, or playing fill in the gap of our family identities. Memories of being loved and cared for, celebrated on birthdays, witnessed in activities, or encouraged in pursuing interests contribute to individual identity as well as family identity. Perhaps that explains why we all want our family filled with positive memories of joy and love…they make for a healthier individual and family identity.
But what makes a joyful memory last for a lifetime. One memory expert suggests two key components make memories stand out. First, they need to be linked to a lot of other memories. Each memory needs to have a connection to other memories so that it becomes part of a larger network of memories. You can make this happen by:
- Talking about activities after you have completed them. Revisit the activity in your family discussions. Talk about what each person enjoyed about the activity. Elaborate on those moments and facets of enjoyment. You’ll learn about one another and help create a lovely memory that lasts a lifetime.
- As you enjoy that discussion, let it remind you of similar memories. For instance, discussing a trip to the zoo in which you saw a gorilla sitting under a tree may remind you of a previous trip in which the gorilla walked over to the glass or ate a banana…or the memory of a movie you watched in which a gorilla played a key role. Enjoy the new memory and the old memories as you talk. In this way, the new activity becomes part of a larger network of similar memories.
Second, for memories to be remembered they have to “be a little bit weird,” they have to stand out as somewhat surprising. Once again, you can add to the excitement and “weirdness” of memories with a few simple ideas.
- As you share the memories with family and friends, talk about what you liked and what surprised you about the activity. Fishing is fishing, except when you have a story about the biggest fish caught and the even bigger one that got away.
- Share some unexpected aspect of the activity. For instance, camping becomes unusual in the midst of a storm, the epic card game played in the tent during the storm, and the awesome mud slide you enjoyed after the storm.
- Enjoy the novelty of each experience and talk about that novelty with your family. Remember the movie when your daughter jumped because a toy rolled under her feet or the concert in which your family member saw their favorite artist for the first time.
- Laugh about the uniqueness of your experience, whether it be the struggle, the beautiful, or the unexpected. Enjoy telling the story and enjoy reliving the bonding you experience because of the uniqueness of that activity.
Memories are foundational to a healthy family. You can build memories that last a lifetime by sharing how that activity fits in with other memories and, at the same time, was just a “little bit different,” a “little bit weird.” Oh…and by the way…have fun making those memories.