Warm memories can help make this summer joyful

Barbara Basia Koenig

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2013_COLUMN_KOENIG_B_smallerFor many of us, summer comes with a host of happy memories recalling its lazy, hazy days of play and adventure. The summer season offers a delightful time to make happy memories to last for a lifetime of remembrance.

Somewhere in your bank of stored fond memories is a place, a time, when you were delighted and experienced joy. Perhaps it was in a backyard garden or at the beach, or by a lake, river, pond or favorite tree. Maybe it was in a cottage or at a camp you loved – perhaps time spent on a porch, in a play house or at a dinner table. Maybe it was something you once enjoyed, a favorite car or clothes you loved to wear, or something you enjoyed playing with – a beloved toy, or something you made.

You can revisit good memories in your mind’s eye and re-experience delight and the magical effect it had on you, how you felt when you first enjoyed it.

When older adults of the same generation are treated to the music, dance, dress, art, films and activities they once loved when they were younger, they experience positive cognitive and physical effects. Good memories don’t make bad memories go away, but recalling good memories and reinforcing them is a powerful tool for improved wellness. When you recall your fondest memories, an awareness of time seems to slip away, and all your senses often come to play with what you are re-visioning.

Sights, sounds, scents, tastes and touch are powerful memory triggers. Occasionally, a scent will trigger a memory, or a memory will generate remembrance of a scent – grandpa’s pipe tobacco, mom’s perfume, dad’s aftershave, grandma’s special cake. Sometimes a sound will trigger a memory – a train whistle, the wind in the trees, a bird’s song, the sound of crickets or cicadas – and it will whisk you away to another time and place when life seemed simpler, where there was more time to do what you really loved.

Treat yourself to re-experiencing joy by revisiting a happy memory. Doing so will reinforce the memory, bring additional details to your awareness and enhance good feelings that can generate positive effects. When you are relaxed and in a quiet place with no distractions, close your eyes and imagine the place and time of a specific fond summer memory. Relish the internal harmony that comes with imagining, re-experiencing the thoughts and feelings of joyfulness and delight.

Grown-ups and children alike need to experience joy and delight everyday. This summer, try to schedule less. Remember when summertime flew because you had fun, and life was an ongoing adventure because you had time to experience some of the freedom that work or the school year did not always allow – time to play, create, dream, imagine, explore and learn more about nature firsthand. I remember learning, during summers growing up, how to predict the weather by watching cloud patterns and how the house flies flew.

Experiencing joyfulness, new or recalled, enhances the joy of living. Make the time and create the space to help generate delightful happy memories of the sweet joys of life. Have fun, and have a happy summer.

“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” – Oscar Wilde.

Barbara Basia Koenig is an Encinitas artist and personal counselor