If happy times were sold in a store, we would pile our carts high, buying as many as we could possibly afford! We enjoy the “good times” and we re-live them over and over again with the happy memories they provide.
This year for Thanksgiving, instead of writing down what we are thankful for to increase our gratitude, we decided to focus on our happy memories of this past year. Everybody has unhappy, scary or bad times. And those can often be the most dominant memories. We tend to focus on the car accident rather than the other 364 days of safe driving around incident-free. Research has shown that whatever memories we choose to review, both in our minds and by retelling them to others, become most influential in our lives. Memories tend to pop into our minds and it doesn’t always feel like a choice, but resisting the tendency to review bad memories can ease their trauma and their power to make us unhappy.
So, I asked my family to write down their happy memories of this past year on some paper leaves that we taped up to decorate for Thanksgiving. Sometimes it takes searching to remember the joy in our ordinary days. A beautiful sunset, a fun family campout, the raspberry bushes covered in sweet, sun-warmed gems, a visit to a neighbor, a little hike to see the brilliant autumn leaves, an interesting book read…these pleasant things make life more joyful and beg to be celebrated with gratitude!
Don’t forget the relief of things that were most certain to happen but didn’t: they make happy memories too!
- the potential speeding ticket that ended up just being a warning instead
- the flu you didn’t catch even though everyone around you had it
- the lost camera that turned up unexpectedly
- the eyebrow-raising “A” on a test you thought you failed
Bad things that didn’t happen give us a big happy feeling too!
I got some interesting insights into my family members when I read their “leaves” and was sometimes surprised with what made a happy memories for each of them. A carnival dunk tank experience I remembered with fright made a thrilling memory for my son. We all view life so differently. Knowing the little things that makes each other happy helps you to be able to orchestrate more happy times together.
Celebrate gratitude by choosing to focus on your happy memories!