My happiness project has convinced me of the tremendous value of reminders that help prompt happy memories .
Studies show that recalling happy times helps boost happiness in the present. Also, when people reminisce, they focus on positive memories, with the result that recalling the past amplifies the positive and minimizes the negative. However, because people remember events better when they fit with their present mood, while happy people remember happy events better, depressed people remember sad events better—which makes them feel worse.
Judging from the response on my blog and from the number of people using this Tool on the Happiness Project Toolbox , this last resolution—to Keep a one-sentence journal —has resonated with lots of people.
My idea for the one-sentence journal was simple: like many people, I had the urge to keep a journal, but I gave it up because it took so much effort. By resolving to write just one daily sentence, I could stick to it. Writing one sentence is enough to be satisfying—yet also manageable.
My one-sentence journal is just a general journal, but I’ve heard from people who keep journals about a child’s first year, about starting a new business, about fighting cancer, about observations of nature.
This week, I came up with another way to record important memories. I bought a blank, lined notebook with a blue bird on the cover (because blue birds are a symbol of happiness and my happiness project). On the top of each page, I put a calendar date without a year: January 1, January 2, etc.
From now on, whenever anything significant happens on a particular day, I’ll write it on that date with the year. So, to make up an example:
2009 – first night in my new apartment in a new city, San Diego
2011 – bought my dog Sandy
2012 – finally finished the tree house
This notebook will fill in very slowly, but after a decade or so, I’ll be able to look back on any particular day and remember the most significant events from my past – a quick, succinct way of keeping track of my personal highlights. Life seems so intense as it unfolds, but it’s easy to forget even the most important things, as time passes. The days are long, but the years are short, and memories fade quickly.
I just filled in the dates in the notebook and haven’t even made an entry yet. But I’m excited to have started it.
Have you found any good strategies for keeping happy memories vivid?
* I love checking out Marginal Revolution . I never know what I'm going to end up reading about, but it's always interesting. And Tyler Cowen just wrote a new book: Create Your Own Economy . I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
* Speaking of the fact that the days are long, but the years are short, if you haven't seen my little one-minute movie, The Years Are Short , you might enjoy it.