20 Jan The importance of making memories and celebrating life
With 2020 characterised by so many challenges and 2021 beginning with a national lockdown, recalling happy memories of this time may seem like a big ask. Holidays, birthdays and anniversary celebrations and spending time with our loved ones have all been off-limits. Life as we know it has changed beyond all recognition for the time being.
This has had an impact on the happy memories we’ve been able to make recently. Over and above the struggle to keep a positive mindset and seek happy memories, scientists are beginning to think the lockdown has impacted the capabilities of our memory itself.
What does the research say?
It’s still early days and the pandemic and restrictions are not over yet, however researchers at the University of California report that even people with usually strong memories are finding it harder to remember things. This is thought to be in part due to a lack of social interaction and repetition of stories with loved ones, which play a key part in cementing memories. So, without being able to see our nearest and dearest and share happy times, it’s an even greater challenge to create memories.
Despite the very real challenges people are facing when it comes to creating happy memories, working at the raw edge of grief on a day-to-day basis, we’re humbled and ever inspired by our customers’ focus on celebrating life. Many are determined to focus on fond memories, despite their grief, and celebrate the life of their loved one, however difficult that can feel at the time and we’ve seen this through personalised funeral services and their general approach.
This is just one of the reasons why we recently launched our ‘#CreateShareRemember’ campaign (which you might have already seen on social media) to encourage people to share their favourite memories of the past twelve months and help create some positivity – where possible. Not forgetting those that have also endured sadder memories during this time, this campaign will also help to raise vital funds for the City Hospice so that it can continue its vital work.
So where do you start when it comes to creating happy memories and celebrating life when life itself is so different right now? We wanted to share some current thinking from the experts on how to do this, which might help….
Create the right structure
Professor Catherine Loveday perfectly illustrates the challenges of lockdown living; “Trying to remember what’s happened to you when there’s little distinction between the different days is like trying to play a piano when there are no black keys to help you find your way around.”
A professor of cognitive neuroscience at Westminster University, Professor Loveday points out that when every day feels the same, we lack the ‘cues’ that trigger memories in our usual day-to-day life, not to mention the impact this lack of structure has on our energy levels.
Luckily, she says we can manipulate our environment to our advantage when it comes to making memories. The ability to find our way back home has always been important to our survival and is part of human instinct. So going for a walk, trying a new route or just working from a different part of the home or trying a new activity could all help make memories. Even better, tell someone about it or start a journal and write it down to cement positive memories. And who knows, knitting your first jumper or finding a beautiful new walk near your home might become some of the lockdown memories you start to cherish.
Share your worries
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS UK) during the lockdown rates of depression have doubled. Mental health is sadly another casualty of the pandemic and both depression and anxiety are known to impact memory. Our working memory becomes taken up by worrying thoughts and this leaves us with less space for remembering the basics like a shopping list or what we had for breakfast. This also leaves less space for storing happy memories we’ve made during lockdown.
Clinical depression is a serious illness which needs medical support, however even just feeling a bit low, like many people in lockdown, can interfere with our capacity to remember positive things according to the experts.
Looking after your wellbeing is an essential part of creating happy memories. Sharing your worries and concerns with trusted friends and families – who will most likely be feeling the strain too – can help soothe negative thoughts. Or if you want to speak to a trained counsellor about how you’re feeling, Coles can offer 1-2-1 support virtually during COVID.
Remember the little things
The experts tell us that even small changes can make a huge difference. Going somewhere different for a walk locally or getting the family to try a new cuisine, for example.
Psychologist Richard Amaral tells us that the lack of sensory experiences in our day-to-day lives over the past year doesn’t help. To create memories, we need to be in situations that trigger our senses. “An emotionally-charged event will stimulate areas of the brain responsible for smell, hearing, taste, sight, which makes the event stick with you,” he says.
Trying to achieve this during a lockdown might seem easier said than done, but small tweaks still have a big impact. Getting the family together to think of things they haven’t done yet during the lockdown that they’d still like to do could be a good start. Perhaps someone still hasn’t mastered that banana bread recipe or dusted off the guitar and learnt to play again? All these things could become new memories which you may come to treasure.
After all, memories are important – they are what can help carry us through difficult times. And we would love to see yours in support of our #CreateShareRemember campaign.
If you’d like to get involved and help raise vital funds for City Hospice, please visit: https://www.colesfuneraldirectors.co.uk/the-bigger-picture/
Francesca Coles, head of communications at Coles Funeral Directors