The importance of memories
The ability to create new memories, store, and recall them allows us to learn and interact with the world. Sara N. Kadeeb reflects on the role of memories in our lives, the good and the bitter, and how we can change our mindset to live happier lives.
We live our lives day by day without knowing what the future holds. We wake up every morning, follow a certain routine in our day, and finally, go to bed. We follow that same cycle over and over.
Every minute in this daily routine becomes a memory, encoded and stored. At a later stage, these memories will be retrieved. Memories make each of us unique, and they give continuity to our lives. Sometimes these memories won’t have much value, but at other times they can make us burst into tears, or smile with joy.
The ability to create new memories, store, and recall them allows us to learn and interact with the world. Consider for a moment how many times a day you rely on your memory, from starting your car to logging on to your workstation.
The three main forms of memory storage — sensory, short-term, and long-term — are stored across different, interconnected brain regions. Long-term memories are either explicit or implicit. Explicit memories involve facts, concepts, and events, and must be recalled consciously. Implicit memories are sensory and automatized behaviors.
Last year, I lost a family member, and I have been struggling with my emotions whenever a memory of the lost one is triggered. I keep trying to shift my mindset into something positive to continue my day without breaking down. If we experience traumatic events, we actually prefer to forget them.
Unfortunately, it appears to be impossible to delete memories at will. In fact, such memories tend to be imprinted more strongly. When we feel delight or anger, vivid recollections are often more possible than when we feel little emotion. Our emotional state at the time of an event can affect our ability to remember it.
Studies support this idea. In 1977, researchers at Harvard University published a paper entitled “Flashbulb Memories,” in which they found that people were often able to vividly recollect where they were when something significant to them happened. They used the example of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Many people remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard he was killed. Unlike a photographic memory, these “flashbulb memories” tend to occur only when the event is of particular significance or very surprising, supporting the idea that a person’s emotional state at the time can influence whether or not it is encoded as a memory (Brown and Kulik, 1977).
So, during your everyday routine, enjoy every single second, don’t hold grudges, smile no matter what, and positively contribute as much as you can. Strive to create memories with your loved ones that are linked to happiness and joy because that’s the way you want to be remembered.
May everyone we have lost rest in peace and may everyone we live with be blessed with all things good.