My grandmother frequently reminisces, talking about family camping trips back in the day and how she used to love playing Frank Sinatra tapes. It’s not uncommon for her to start conversations with “do you remember that time when…” (before launching into pleasant memories from times gone by). As a young child, I often thought such trips down memory lane were somewhat pointless, but now that I’m older, I have an appreciation for the stories people tell. In fact, according to research, reminiscing is good for you. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Boosts memory
Experts have found that reminiscing about your past can improve memory. They’ve even discovered that talking about the past with others can improve recall in the late stages of dementia. The researchers say that exchanging stories about the past wakes up a part of the brain that otherwise remains inactive. As a result, it’s easier for people to access memories.
2. Increases self-discovery
Do you sometimes find yourself asking “Who am I and what’s my purpose in life?” Many of us do. While the topic can get deep and even involve religious and scientific discussions, many times a simple assessment of your own past can satisfy such questions. To a degree, reminiscing about things like childhood friends or memories of deceased loved ones can help shed light on your innermost thoughts and behaviors in the present day. Thinking about the past can help you explore your identity.
3. Relieves stress
Remembering positive memories almost always guarantees that a smile will come to your face. Depending on your thought, it may even make you erupt in laughter, which sure beats dwelling on unhappy thoughts. Positive thinking and laughter helps produce feel-good chemicals in the body, promoting better mental and physical well-being. So go ahead, think about all of those “remember that time when…” moments.
4. Creates bonds with others
Social media often posts “throwback” images of record players or classic cars, which often inspire people to comment about their memories of the particular item. Even in face-to-face conversations, it’s common for people to discuss the past. For example, I find myself recalling the days when a movie theater ticket was $4 (in the evening!), and how my parents and I would head somewhere in our small brown hatchback, complete with my dad’s CB radio antenna whistling in the wind as we drove.
Talking about our past and listening to others discuss their own memories creates bonds with others. Learning about one another is more than just talking about current-day happenings—it’s also about opening up more fully.
5. Takes you back to simpler times
Modern life can be very overwhelming, thanks to everything from your own hectic schedule to upsetting news reports. Consequently, it’s nice to recall pleasant memories. This isn’t to suggest developing an escapist mindset in which you refuse to deal with contemporary struggles. Instead, it’s about occasionally letting your mind wander back to previous, good times.
Psychologist Diana M. Raab believes that remising is important. She says it takes you back to less complex times:. “Life was simpler in the 1960s—there were no computers, cell phones, or text messages. The only technology resided in telephones, small black and white TVs and transistor radios,” she recalls.
6. Decreases feelings of loneliness
For people who live alone or who need the assistance of a caregiver, remembering the past can lessen feelings of isolation. In fact, in the case of caregivers, reminiscing is often encouraged as a form of communication, since it helps boost memory, increases hopefulness about the future, develops self-expression, and overcomes boredom. If you tend to feel lonely often or know someone who receives the aid of a caregiver, consider encouraging discussions about times gone by.
7. Makes you feel warm (really)
Finally, experts have discovered that in addition to prompting boosts of happiness or improved memory, reminiscing can make you feel physically warmer. Not only do you feel good emotionally, but you might end up feeling better physically. If you run cold or live in a chilly climate, this might be music to your ears!