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Increase Happiness by Savoring the Past

by Beth on May 20th, 2014

SCN_0001I have written a number of blogs about how mindfulness or paying attention to the present moment can increase happiness. Becoming more mindful has been especially helpful to me because I have a tendency to worry about the future. I am happier now because I have learned to notice when I am worrying about something and to make an intentional effort to bring my focus back to the present.

That said, I think this point needs some clarification. Trying to be more mindful doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also spend time thinking about the future and the past. Making plans for the future and savoring happy memories from the past can both be great sources of happiness.

Recently I was reminded of the joy of reminiscing. A few weeks ago I joined my best friends from college for a weekend at the beach. It was great to see everyone and share stories about our jobs and families. But the truth is we spent much of our time together talking about the past. We danced to our favorite college songs and retold many of the same stories that we tell every time we get together. And we laughed at them all over again. It is always such fun to relive those happy times.

What matters is how you think about the past and the future. Ruminating about bad things that happened in the past or worrying about things that will likely never happen in the future will not make you happy. On the other hand, dreaming about a better future gives you hope and a sense of purpose. And, as positive psychologist Robert Biswas-Diener explains in his latest Ted Talk, you have the power to increase your happiness whenever you want simply by reminiscing about the good ole’ days. If you want to boost your happiness even more, share your memories with others.

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