Why Experiences Create The Most Amazing Memories

View from the Cliff House, San Francisco, CA

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” –Dr. Suess

Who doesn’t like a challenge? Here’s a very quick and exciting challenge for you. Take a moment to reflect on the greatest and most vivid memories of your life. Seriously, take a brief moment to slow down, stop, and think about it. Which memories comes to mind?

I recently did this challenge and realized the most joyful and vivid memories of my life involve spending time with family and friends, often engaging in activities costing no money at all.

As a child playing ping-pong with my brother on a heavy wooden table so rickety its fold-down metal legs could buckle at any second, and often did, comes to mind. One end of the table would come crashing to the cement floor with enough force to break your toes. An injury-trap waiting to happen, adding another level of suspense and challenge to the game. When we played ping-pong It was not about winning…it was about survival. It was fun.

Or taking memorable car rides through muddy cornfields in Canada’s corn belt with my father during summer breaks from school. He was a young teacher trying to feed a growing family on a young teacher’s salary, so he would take part time jobs inspecting corn crops to help make ends meet. We’d ride along dirt roads in the country for hours, sometimes he’d let me steer, do spin-outs in the fields, and take the car home covered in mud from top to bottom. Mom would ask what happened to the car. We’d look at each other and shrug our shoulders. Laughing. Joking. Bonding.

What memories came to your mind?  More likely than not, memories of fun times shared with people, places visited, and special experiences. Sure, there could have been some amazing birthday or holiday gifts, but even with those, the memories and experience shared with others as a result of the gifts, not the gifts themselves, probably feels most special.  Very few of life’s greatest memories are of material things themselves. Material things may help enhance experiences, but experiences are what creates the most vivid, powerful, and lasting memories.

Experiences can create a wealth of joy greater than riches.

Scientific research supports the idea that experiences bring people more happiness than do material things, and if spending time creating experiences is not an option, the mere anticipation of future experiences ranks a very close second. What does that mean? It means the anticipating of an upcoming trip, a night out with friends, concert tickets, or even a visit to the movies this weekend, gives us something to look forward to. An anticipated experience. The experiential beginning of a potentially wonderful memory.

The value any experience or memory begins the moment we begin thinking about it. We all possess the ability to create such memories and experiences with people we love and enjoy, and once such a positive idea is seeded, it is our responsibility to nurture and grow that seed into reality. We should set a conscious goal to create strong and positive memories that can be cherished and enjoyed forever, for ourselves and the people we like and love.

There is no amount of money that would tempt me to trade the precious memories and moments shared with my father and family, for so many reasons. But most importantly because those memories make me happy, bring me peace, and authentically resonate an irreplaceable quality of life worth living. If I ever have to choose between spending money on creature comforts vs. creating a positive lasting memory with my family or loved ones there is no question which direction I’ll be leaning.

While many memorable experiences unfold naturally, the creation of lasting memories can take planning and be intentional. It simply takes a little time and effort, and maybe a well-thought out expenditure of money, but it does not need to be a lot. If you struggle with planning ideas to create amazing experiences and lasting memories, here are five super suggestions that may help jump start your creative juices:

  • Throw a party – for any occasion. It doesn’t need to be a big party. Do it for someone you care about, or just to gather friends together for the sake of having a party. Use a theme, have a camera, food and beverages, games and fun.
  • Spend quality time – with your parents, spouse, children, friends, or others. Ask others about themselves, get them talking – people love to talk about themselves. This naturally builds rapport and relationship. Remember details and ask about irrelevant details next time you talk to them.
  • Gift experiences – instead of things. How about theater tickets or golf lessons instead of candy or a bottle of wine (though a bottle of wine my lead to some pretty interesting experiences too!). Think of an experience someone would normally not do. If it’s expensive and a mutual friend is involved, suggest others pitch in and make the experiential gift truly worthwhile.
  • Travel – it doesn’t need to be some far off, exotic location, though that’s certainly something to shoot for. Travel or holidays can be a day trip, or even an experience in your own city or area that you normally would not have
  • Spend time in nature – this has a number of tremendous health benefits, including calming .and focusing the mind and connecting us with the sense of a Higher Power. Being in nature can also contribute to well-being, creativity and happiness, along with providing a sense of simplicity and fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of material wealth (even a lot of it) and attaining possessions, but we must remember that living a quality life is more about balance and perspective. At the end of the day the billion dollar CEO is buried in the same earth as the penniless pauper. In death we take no material possessions with us.

I’m not sure who said it first, but I believe they said it best, “Fill your life with experiences, not things.  Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”

Be mindful and intentional about making great memories, then enjoy them for a life time. Experiences create the most amazing memories.

Wishing wellness and empowerment your way,

Dr. J

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