When you have too much on your plate, can’t go on your dream vacation because money is tight, or feel that you’re not moving forward, you might feel down. And when that happens, just remember that life hasn’t always been so hard. Don’t take my word for it—here’s an easy way to prove it.
Go grab one of your old photo albums or open your phone gallery. You might have built up quite the collection of incredible memories with family and friends over the years. It’s the main reason why we take so many pictures—to immortalize our happiest moments so that you can cherish them forever.
There is an issue, though. After posting some pictures on social media, we hardly open our galleries or photo albums to go back to those fantastic times and appreciate our experiences. However, a simple action such as reliving positive memories through photos can change your life for the better.
Improve your mental health
Have you ever wondered why certain people don’t develop depressive symptoms after stressful life events? The secret lies in recalling positive events from their past, bringing those feelings into the present.
For example, when the pandemic hit, we all found ourselves locked in our homes, which wasn’t easy, but we managed to find joy in those hard moments. Aside from making a lot of banana bread, there was another key activity to help us get through it—finding our old travel and family pictures. Knowing that joy has been a common part of life amidst hard times is so valuable.
A study from the University of Cambridge explains how we comforted ourselves by looking at those old pictures during the pandemic. The ability to remember pleasant events in detail is associated with lower cortisol levels and fewer negative self-appraisals in young people at risk of depression. When focusing on positive memories through pictures, our body can release dopamine—the hormone that makes us happy and gives positive energy.
Aside from travel pictures, looking at a photo of celebration dinners or a graduation picture makes us remember our achievements in life. This will give us the power to succeed more by saying to ourselves, ''I have done it once, and I can do it again.''
It’s undeniable that holding the last picture of a loved one or an ex-partner might not always be the easiest thing to do. But those pictures are proof of happy memories and are marks of growth. Scientists also agree that nostalgia’s reputation is much improved—nostalgia can help people cope with dementia, grief, and even the disorientation experienced by immigrants and refugees.
Strengthen your memory
Unfortunately, memories fade in time; If you haven't thought about a memory in years, it won't be as vivid or strong as it used to be. Looking at your old pictures is a way to tell your brain that these are important memories that you want to mark as meaningful, so you can record them in your brain’s long-term files.
Added to that, our ability to retrieve information reduces due to age and so many other factors. That’s why we depend more on external cues such as sounds, images, or smells to jog our memory. Retrieving memories through photos is much easier because pictures can activate two different parts of your brain—the image (of a house) and its verbal label (house).
If you care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's disease (especially in the early stages), a memory box where you gather old pictures can be a great help. Remember to write a caption for each photo, and include names, places, and dates.
By documenting the person's story, you can affirm the positive things he or she has done and, possibly, can still do. Even after the person’s memories fade, creating this kind of treasury shows that you value and respect their legacy—it can also help remind you who the person was before dementia.
There are so many photos of wonderful times on your phone: Don’t let them disappear in the digital world. If you’re keen to make a memory wall in your living room, I’m happy to print out your pictures. And if you’ve realized that some of your old photos are damaged, let me perform magic for you by restoring your photos and bringing them back to life.