Nostalgia can be a powerful tool. Advertisers and Hollywood have taken note of this: a lot of TV shows and movies today are reboots and commercials tap into that childhood nostalgia in order to make the viewer associate the product with a simpler time. Positive memories and remembering happier times is comforting, a warm sort of feeling that can remind you that things can be good, because they have been that way before.
There’s a reason why tapping into these memories and creating these warm, fuzzy feelings is so successful beyond marketing. Studies have shown that looking back on happier memories can have a positive impact on mental health, to the point that it can be used as a way to aid with depression. Nostalgia and happy memories, particularly those that have happened to you, can have an almost instant effect on mood and can promote generally increased well-being.
Positive memories aren’t always exclusive to childhood, however. It may be difficult for some to access childhood memories and see them through a rose-colored lens, whether it be from having a poor memory or simply because their childhood wasn’t that great nor worth remembering. They don’t have to be outstanding, significant events, like graduations or vacations, either. Little things like seeing a cute dog on the street or having your favorite food for dinner, while minor in comparison, still count as memories, and can have a similar effect in sparking that positive feeling.
One popular way to spark that positive feeling that comes with remembering a good memory is through a Happiness Jar. The instructions are simple: once a day, take a slip of paper, write down something good that happened to you that day, and place it in the designated jar. Happiness jars are there to remind you that there are good things that can happen each day, no matter how small. When there are moments or days that you’re not feeling your best, if your mental health isn’t at its strongest or you’ve just had a bad day in general, you can use the happiness jar to read about the good things that you’ve logged before. Reading these can recall these positive memories, and lead to the positive emotion associated with nostalgia, including reduced feelings of threat.
Happiness jars can also boost creativity. You can always keep it simple and use whatever container you have on hand with a few pieces of cut up paper next to it. You can also use it as an opportunity to have some fun: you can paint or decorate a mason jar with stickers or ribbon, or you can buy nice stationary to write down your memories for the day. Whatever approach you take, happiness jars are there not only for you to have a source of instant joy when you need a pick-me-up, but they’re reminders that good things can happen every day, no matter how small.
Would you consider keeping a happiness jar? Have you kept one before? Do you think writing down small, but good, things can affect your mental health?