When we remember
April 30, 2013
Would you remember your best friend's birthday if you didn't
have it written down? Could you call up details of the day your son
was born or your brother celebrated his 30th if you didn't have
photos or hadn't kept a journal? Probably. But it turns out the act
of creating and maintaining these close relationships is the very
thing that can keep our minds sharp.
According to a recent O, The Oprah Magazine article from author
Emma Haak, Australian researchers tracked the social behaviors of
700 people over 15 years and found that people who maintain more
close friendships scored better on memory tests. Apparently the
regular contact engages the problem-solving regions of your brain
(Haak gives props to book club debates and talking a friend through
a crisis, but it seems this would apply to any close relationship.
Parenting together, shopping with your five year old, planning
holidays with your mother-in-law…can you say 'problem solving'?)
Peter Snyder, PhD and chief research officer of the Lifespan
Hospital System in Rhode Island goes on to say 'It's important to
be socially connected from a young age so that the lifestyle
patterns you develop become ingrained. We've found that when people
prioritize these relationships, they also protect their brain
So when we set aside special days of remembrance - when we mark
these occasions with shared meals, holding hands, parades, a chick
flick together, prayers or a whole host of personal traditions - we
in essence are helping ourselves remember more than the date. We're
teaching ourselves (and those around us, including our kids) how to
have healthy relationships and how to appreciate and celebrate
them. We're encouraging our abilities to recall important images,
words and feelings from the past.
We spend time with mom and remember the red wrap dress she wore
to our sixth grade graduation. Or how we cried into it three hours
later over a raging case of unrequited love. This memory can come
flooding back, for better or worse. We remember her tenacity, her
perfect hair or the way she still (always) lets you stop hugging
And since 1950, we've set aside the third Saturday in May to
honor Americans who serve in the Armed Forces (Armed Forces Day).
Each of us likely has a connection to someone who has or is
currently serving. Asking them to share more about what they do,
how they've trained, the experiences they've had can give them the
chance to recount strong memories and to feel your support. The act
of hearing their memories can strengthen our own. It also happens
to be a great way to strengthen a relationship.
The last Monday in May, Memorial Day, marks the remembrance of
US soldiers who died while serving their country. History books
give us the facts, but personal relationships tell us who these
people were. Not only how they died, but how they lived. We know
this, the more intimate details of their personalities and life
ambitions because we pass on their memories-our memories-from
person to person. We are each others' memory keepers.
And when we pause to reflect and remember our moms, to
commemorate the men and women serving in the Armed Forces or the
ones who have fallen in battle, we are preserving our memories…as
well as theirs.
Back to Main Blog Page ►