Tuesday, August 25, 2020

How to use happy memories

The pandemic has been around for over six months now. I have had many things to say about it, but so much was already being said that I didn't feel my contribution would make much of a difference. Readers of this blog and those who know me personally won't be surprised by the positions I wanted to express: support for responsible and cautious behaviour; support for science; opposition to conspiracy theories; and total disgust at the politicization of public health provisions.

I have written before: we are not "all in this together". People are experiencing this pandemic in different ways, depending on their circumstances and location. What I want to write about today can apply to most people, and not only during the pandemic.

Over the past few months, and probably for a long time into the future, we have had restrictions on what we can do, including lockdowns, travel bans, and the closure of many public and cultural places. There have been restrictions on who we can meet. For many, these limitations have been a source of great frustration, loneliness, and even depression. This is quite apart from the impact of job losses and businesses closing down.

My suggestions are relevant to everyone, but in particular to those who currently feel that it's "not fair" that they can't do the things they planned or wanted to do due to restrictions. Many people have been unable to travel for their annual overseas vacation, haven't been able to attend concerts and other cultural events, and have postponed weddings and other large parties. 

What I want to say in such cases is: instead of focusing on what you can't do at the moment, use your happy memories of past experiences to bring you some joy and satisfaction. We are the sum of our life experiences, and every past happy event is still part of us. The feeling of being denied something you thought you were entitled to experience can be replaced by gratitude for the wonderful experiences you've already had.

For those who can't travel, try reliving past adventures. Close your eyes and remember the trip. Use sensory memories: the sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, and smells of the places you visited and things you did there. I can remember vividly drinking tea at Petra while gazing at the incredible rock carvings. The sound of the tourists around me and the bells on the donkeys and camels. The feeling of the heat and dryness. The taste and smell of the tea. 

The imagination is very powerful, and we can make the most of it at times when we are restricted in what we can do physically. To add to this experience of reliving memories, we can look at photos or videos, listen to music, eat foods and smell scents that remind us of these past experiences, and look at souvenirs we brought home. 

We also live at a time where technology can help in so many ways. If you missed a rock concert that was postponed or cancelled, you can probably find a similar concert online to watch. Just pretend you're in the audience and let your imagination make the experience real for you.

Of course, we have all been learning how to stay in touch online with loved ones we can't meet in person. This can be enhanced by talking about shared happy experiences from the past. Reminiscing can strengthen relationships and replace the anxiety of discussing the present and future.

As we learn to appreciate and enjoy our memories, we can be more patient about the current situation and more accepting of the need to find resilience inside ourselves during this challenging time.

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