“The most beautiful things are not associated with money; they are memories and moments. If you don’t celebrate those, they can pass you by.” – Alek Wek

All of us are living in an unprecedented time. COVID-19 has impacted people across the globe. Our everyday life looks a lot different from what it was before the pandemic.

Naturally, many of us are worried and anxious. We may not have all been infected with the virus, but we are all certainly impacted by it in some shape or form. This is not the first pandemic that humankind has had to deal with. The world has seen other pandemics and the resilient nature of our species will help us come out of it in due course, and great progress is being made on a number of solutions currently.

It is easy to focus on the bad things as a result of the pandemic but many good things can be recognised too; taking this time of pause to think about what is important, helping others, coming together, finding creative ways to stay in touch with family and friends, and more. Many times of great adversity have created times that can also be reflected upon in positive ways, in some part at least.  Important for us is the creation of memories. Memories, especially happy ones, fortify relationships and ensure endurance, even through difficult times. Memories can nourish us healthily in a number of ways.  More importantly, tough times don’t necessarily last but the memory does.

Research over the last decade (Chen, Takahashi & Yang, 2015 “Remembrance of happy things past”)  has shown that we have an enormous and ongoing capacity to change our brains. Positive memories activate positive emotions. The more you do this, the more your brain will change to accommodate this. It’s called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Over time, it will become easier to access positive emotion by expanding positive memories and to nurture the positive experience that comes from that.

“I believe that without memories there is no life and that our memories should be of happy times.” – Lee Radziwill.

Memories don’t necessarily happen by accident or passively. That is, we can plan our lives and examine the way we think and reflect in order to create enduring happy and beneficial memories with the ones we love. Here are some simple ways to create happy memories during this difficult time.

“It’s realizing that a great dream is not as good as a great memory. The dream can be had by anyone. The memory – must be made.” – Eric Thomas.

Seek novelty. Novelty leads to positive memories:

Seek positive randomness. Mix things up. Try new food at home, invite new experiences into your life, create a new work from home station. Moving to a new place or reshaping and redesigning existing ones also creates new memories. New or changed places force you to pay attention and take in new complexity. As we get older, by default, people experience less and less novelty. We generate fewer and fewer memories at a late age. Unless that is, we do something about it, by seeking novelty and fresh stimulus in order to keep challenging our norms.

Endure struggle:

“The greatest joys of life are happy memories. Your job is to create as many of them as possible.” – Brian Tracy.

You remember what you have overcome. As Oliver Burkeman says, an awe-filled life is about feeling more intensely – experience lower lows, like during a difficult time when you’re totally down, and revel in higher highs when you make it to the finish line.

Prioritise your family:

“You shouldn’t wait for other people to make special things happen. You have to create your own memories.” – Heidi Klum.

Great memories often involve family. Since it’s not safe to go about life in exactly the same way as prior to the pandemic, make new indoor and home based activities like a special indoor dinner. You can arrange a picnic dinner in your back garden or at a park. It’s fun to relocate dinner. You can eat dinner at a local beach (if it’s not a crowded place like my local beach has been on occasions in recent weeks!). Whatever works with your family and feels a little special.

Plan a game night with family and friends:

“I think the only answer is to live life to the fullest while you can and collect memories like fools collect money. Because in the end, that’s all you have – happy memories.” – Sarah Strohmeyer.

Playing games is something we often reserve for the weekends. Between juggling work and personal lives, our weekends are gone too quickly. We have the opportunity to make another night a game night. Turn a week night into something special to look forward to! It could be a board game or card game or even an electronic game. It’s a fun way to break up the monotony or the usual patterns and create some good memories.

Take an evening walk:

“Adventure is important in life. Making memories matters […] [Effort from imagination and following adventure creates stories that you keep forever. And anyone can do it.”- Rob Lowe.

Take a leisurely walk in your neighbourhood and share a talk about your day with a stranger. It’s a nice way to wind down the stress and anxiety. Sometimes you could bring your dog if you are a pet person. You will come home feeling rejuvenated and ready to relive the day. The world is a different place in the evenings, the sights are different colours, and you get to see sunsets and feel different temperatures.

Let your kids help in the kitchen:

“A life-long blessing for children is to fill them with warm memories of times together. Happy memories become treasures in the heart to pull out on the tough days of adulthood.” – Charlotte Kasl.

You’re not in any rush. If you have kids who show an interest in cooking, let them help with preparation. The meal comes together much more slowly (and there’s usually a LOT more mess in my house as a result!), but you will be happy and glad that you are doing something together.

Focus on creating great memories at the moment:

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy in the present is to recall happy times from the past. Photos are a great memory-prompt, and because we tend to take photos of happy occasions, they weight our memories to the good.” – Gretchen Rubin.

Almost anything you do today has the potential to be forgotten in just a few weeks. The ability to retrieve a memory decreases exponentially unless boosted by artificial aids such as diaries and photographs. Take pictures, write in a journal, and buy souvenirs so that you have keepsakes to keep the memory alive. These physical reminders evoke the emotions of pleasant times spent with friends and family. Reflect and laugh and tell funny stories – when you do so, you are literally creating a memory there and then.

What are your best memories of the COVID-19 lockdown? Do you remember something interesting to narrate to your grandchildren in the future or laugh about with your children when they are grown up? Experience it fully now and take notes so that you remember what you went through during this lockdown.