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Taking a walk through memory lane

What's your favourite memory? 
Don't think too much, just answer the question as quickly as you can. 

Happiness is the sum of our beautiful memories. But have you wondered how the perfect memory is created and how does one memory stacks up in importance over another? This is one of the things that Meik Wiking sought to uncover with his research at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. 

You'll remember Meik Wiking as the international bestselling author of The Little Book of Hygge and The Little Book of Lykke. In his new book The Art of Making Memories, he explores the process behind how peak experiences are made, stored and remembered. The book is meant to be a bit of a self-help guide to help you retrieve happy memories of the past, and store them for the future. 

According the The Art Of Making Memories there are 
8 ingredients for making happy memories. 
1. You have to harness the power of firsts. Seek out novel experiences and make days extraordinary. 
2. Make it multi-sensory. Go beyond sight. Memories can also have sounds, scents, touch and tastes. 
3. Invest attention. Treat your happy moments like you would your date. Pay attention to them.
4. Create meaningful and memorable moments. 
5. Use the emotional highlight pen. Get the blood flowing. 
6. Capture peaks and struggles. Milestones are memorable, but the struggle to reach one is unforgettable. 
7. Use stories to stay ahead of the forgetting curve. Share stories. Do you remember the time we...? 
8. Outsource memory. Write, photograph, record, collect. Be Marie Kondo's arch enemy. 

Meik Wiking talks about two distinct types of memories: semantic memory and episodic memory. The distinction between these two was first made by Endel Tulving, psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Toronto, in 1972. Semantic memory is the ability to remember that the capital of France is Paris. Episodic memory is your ability to remember your trip to Paris. 

Episodic memory is impersonal, contains no taste, smell or sound. It lacks the sensory richness your memory of last night's dinner may hold. The author suggests that it can be seen as a sixth sense - a sense of the past. Semantic memory is timeless knowledge that we share with the world about the world. Episodic memory is considered very complex, and believed to develop later in childhood than semantic memory. 

Happy memories are good for your health. Research is underway with people struggling with depression. Nostalgia is believed to be a useful psychological mechanism which counteracts loneliness and anxiety and makes people feel happier. It is important to note that in these studies, even though the participants noted feeling better, they did not score significantly better on the depression scale. This may be attributed to some bias, as participants were aware of what the experiment was trying to achieve; so there is a possibility that such self-reported improvement could be a placebo effect. 

Meik Wiking does draw from other writers and thinkers such as Seth Godin and his idea about The Purple Cow. This is the idea that if you want to be unforgettable, dare to be odd and stand out. Instead of a purple cow, Meik Wiking introduces the notion of taking a pineapple on stage with you when you are speaking at a conference. With so many speakers and sessions, Meik Wiking suggests that the audience will surely remember that guy with the pineapple. 

Do you know what the fifty most common childhood memories are? Meik Wiking's The Art of Making Memories has put together a list from a study. Reading was on the list, as were some memorable vacations. Some surprising ones included being scolded by a teacher. Everyone is different I suppose, and it would be nice to conduct our own informal study. Please do share some of your own childhood memories in the comments below. 

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