Last week my aunt and uncle invited us to their place in Ghar Lapsi for supper and a swim. Being there always reminds me what a magical place Ghar Lapsi is for me. Not only because it’s so beautiful – it’s described as a natural, rocky swimming pool – but also because it holds such happy memories of amazing summers spent there when Christa, Luke and I were children.
Over the years, I had never forgotten what an amazing place it is. Whenever we went there, whenever we spoke about it, whenever I thought of, saw or smelled something which reminded me of it, I always felt happy.
1. How I realised I hadn’t been making the most of my happy memories
But through neural retraining, I realised that I could be getting much more out of my happy memories. Part of the DNRS programme involves using positive memories to create an elevated state. And Ghar Lapsi came up time and time again as I was doing my exercises.
DNRS showed me that I could literally close my eyes and take myself back there. I could become that little girl being driven by Mama to Ghar Lapsi with a car filled to the brim with our stuff and our excitement.
2. Reliving my Ghar Lapsi memories
So for a few minutes time stands still. I’m no longer thirty-one. Instead I’m six-year-old Johanna.
I can smell the sea as we’re walking down to the beach. I can feel myself jumping in and swimming underwater with Christa and Luke near me, trying to be the first to reach Mama. I can hear Luke telling us that today is the day he’s going to swim to Filfla. I can see the look of determination as he sets off, only to stop to catch his breath a few minutes later. I can hear Mama telling us to avoid the “slippery bit” as we come out of the sea.
I can feel the excitement as we wave to Grandpa sitting up on the terrace looking out towards Filfla through his binoculars. I can taste the ice cream that Granny and Grandpa buy us. And then I can feel the happiness as Papa arrives home from work and we all go down for another swim together.
3. The benefits of making the most of our happy memories
And the amazing thing about exploring a memory in such detail is that rather than just thinking of it in the past, you can actually experience the happiness that you felt when you experienced it the first time. We all have nostalgic moments, but what if we could actually throw ourselves into such moments and linger in them rather than just letting them be random, passing moments that we can’t hold on to?
Since it’s part of the DNRS programme, starting to access happy memories more often was an important part of my recovery. But I’ve also realised that making the most of our positive memories has loads of benefits in day-to-day life, including:
1. Reducing stress and anxiety;
2. Lifting our mood;
3. Helping us forgive someone we’re annoyed at;
4. Distracting us from unpleasant sensations/incidents;
5. Helping us to fall asleep.
4. How to get more out of your happy memories
So the next time you’re feeling worried, stressed, anxious, uncomfortable, annoyed at someone, upset or perhaps having trouble sleeping, try going back to a happy memory or imagine being in your favourite place for a few minutes. Allow yourself to focus on all the beautiful details: what you’re smelling, what you’re seeing, how you’re feeling and so on. And if you don’t have many positive memories, even imagining a fictional happy situation in such detail can give you the same benefits.
Focusing on happy memories has a way of making us feel supercharged and grateful. So why not give it a try?
You’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel after just a few minutes of focusing on a positive memory or imagining being in your favourite place.
Question: Is there a place which is magical to you and which can make you feel calmer and happier just by thinking about it? Let me know what place that is in the comments below.