The Daily Telegraph
Whether you travel abroad, stay in the UK, or set up a tent in the back garden, your summer holiday this year is really precious, and will boost your ability to cope with the uncertainties ahead. It’s important, therefore, to hold on to your holiday memories for as long as possible. Here’s how:
1. Be only partially mindful. For once, I won’t encourage you to be fully mindful while you’re away; to focus on the present without making comparisons or passing judgment. It’s true you’ll remember your experience better if you focus fully on what’s happening moment to moment, because paying attention is the first step to creating strong memories. However, Robert Lockhart and Fergus Craik at the University of Toronto found successful remembering is the function of a number of cognitive processes including categorising your experience, comparing it to other experiences, and reorganising what happens so it makes sense to you.
2. Put in extra effort.
It’s too easy to snap a few photos on your phone, which you’ll probably never download anyway. If you really want to remember something, you need to study it carefully. You could bring along a sketch pad and try your hand at drawing or painting what you see. Or, if you wish to take photos, take time to frame each one carefully, or try taking them from unusual viewpoints. If you’ve already been away, print out some of your photos and create a collage.
3. Write a brief summary of what’s happening. Remembering is an active process: we lose or distort details every time we call up a memory. If you want to recall events more accurately, make a daily note of the highlights of your time away. If you’ve already returned, write up your summary soon, while it’s fresh in your mind.
4. Use all your senses. Maaike de Bruijn and Michael Bender, at Tilburg University, offered adult participants either an image or a scent and asked them to recall a childhood memory associated with it. The scent cues produced more vivid, detailed and emotionally intense memories. When you’re away, notice the different sounds, scents and tastes as well as what you see.
5. Bring home reminders. Collect some material reminders of your time away, for example a sprig of lavender if you travel to Provence, or a seashell from a beach holiday. These will trigger specific holiday moments.
6. Don’t over-prepare, and spend most of your time doing what you love. Roger Brown and James Kulik at Harvard studied “flashbulb memories”, exceptionally clear snapshots of a powerful event, for example 9/11. The key elements that create a flashbulb memory, negative or positive, are surprise and emotional intensity. Therefore, you’ll have the best chance of creating powerful memories if you go with an open mind, rather than trying to learn everything you can about where you’re going beforehand, and if you spend your time away doing what you love most.