19

HAPPINESS AND THE REMINISCENCE BUMP

Hey everyone! Today’s post has very little to do with money, or personal finances for that matter. Instead, I explore a psychological phenomenon called “The Reminiscence Bump”, and explain how it can help to better understand the true meaning of happiness!  Consider it my contribution to the International Day Of Happiness, which happens to be today, March 20th! One thing I can conclude from this post is that for me, happiness has nothing to do with acquiring stuff. I hope you like it!

I’m going to go out on a limb here.

If you’re anything like me, chances are pretty good that you often spend time reflecting upon your youth, even on life as a young adult. In fact, you may even consider this period of time to be a ‘glory years’ of sorts, a magical period when time seemed to stand still. For many, our adolescence replays like a cycle of endless summers, rich friendships and new adventures. Even today, the memories can remain so vivid that just hearing a certain song, or watching an old TV re-run or movie will send you back in time, without any effort.

Does this sound familiar? I’ll bet you’re even nodding along as you’re reading this…haha, ok, maybe you’re not that engaged yet, but the idea is resonating with you on some level!

I can state this with some confidence, and it’s not because I have my finger placed so adeptly on the pulse of my audience 🙂

It’s because this is precisely how the vast majority of people identify with this period of their life.

There’s some pretty sound psychology behind it all. In large part, it has to do with something called the “reminiscence bump”.

THE REMINISCENCE BUMP

the reminiscence bumpThe reminiscence bump is the tendency for me, and you, and just about everyone, to carry a greater recollection of events from our adolescent and young adult years, than any other period of our lives.  Most psychologists would set this period to be anywhere between about age 10 and 30.

A person can experience significant events later in life, into their 30’s and beyond, but they won’t carry the same weight, when it comes to the ability to recall those moments years down the road.

Moreover, the emotions associated with the reminiscence bump tend to be very positive. In general, this is true regardless of negative external factors one may have experienced, such as a traumatic event or living through poor economic circumstances.

A THEORY

Like anything, there are numerous theories as to what causes the reminiscence bump. For example, one idea is that because this period occurs when a person establishes their self- identity, life events become more significant, and novel. Researchers have also suggested that our cognitive abilities are stronger earlier in life, which enhances our capacity to store the memories that occur during this time.

REFLECTING ON MY OWN REMINISCENCE BUMP

I’m no psychologist, but I do find all of this pretty intriguing. Perhaps it’s because I tend to be the reflective type. To me, it’s not about living in the past, but taking time to appreciate life, and better understand the things that influence the person I am today.

For the record, I would estimate that my reminiscence bump lands somewhere between 1985 to the late 1990’s. This would cover age 10, to around the time my wife and I got married.

Often, I find that pop culture references from my youth tend to serve as a trigger of sorts. Anytime I hear the song Never Surrender, (Corey Hart) on the radio, or Everybody Wants To Rule The World, it’s 1985 all over again, and my brother and I are watching “Video Hits” after school, before heading out on our bikes for a Slurpee.

To this day, I have an unlimited tolerance for watching Back To The Future and The Karate Kid. Yes, that’s right…Karate Kid. Forget about CSI or The Big Bang Theory, I grew up on MacGyver and Family Ties, and later on, Cheers.

Again, the songs and the movies, they’re just triggers. The memories I carry with me are so much more meaningful. Here are a couple of examples that come to mind:

Family Memories.

I’ve got a very large extended family. So many of my richest childhood memories involve the time spent with not only my immediate family, but my grandparents, aunts & uncles, and many cousins. Weekends in my home usually consisted of family coming to visit, and we would often travel to see our family in different parts of the country.  I have an incredibly detailed memory of so many of those moments, including details of conversations and the emotions I felt along the way.

The Reminiscence Bump.

My grandmother actually lived with my family during the last eight years of her life, and I can tell you I would not trade that time with her for anything in the world.

The Vancouver Years.

I didn’t know how else to label this one.  When I was 20,  I moved away from home for the first time, 3000 miles in fact, to Vancouver, B.C. My brother joined me the following year. The next 5 years included travelling all over North America playing music with my closest friends, including my brother and my future wife, graduating from college, getting married, and beginning a family.
Needless to say, this was a transformative period which set me on a path that I’m still travelling today. It was tough moving so far away from home, but the experience allowed me to grow up more quickly, and many lifelong friendships were formed during this time.

HAPPINESS AND THE REMINISCENCE BUMP

If I can draw any conclusions from this brief look at the reminiscence bump, it’s that relationships with family and friends are the things that truly make me happy. The deepest memories I carry from my childhood involve the people closest to me. In other words, my happiness has nothing to do with acquiring stuff. On International Day of Happiness, it’s a great reminder. : )

I’d love to hear your perspective on all of this. Is your experience similar to mine, or is it something quite different. If you can relate to the reminiscence bump concept, what are the the most significant memories that define your youth?

 

Comments 19

  1. Great article! And such a happy reminder to focus on what’s important. 🙂

    I’m the same way — by far my most significant memories involve people and experiences. And Monkey Island. Lots of Monkey Island.

    1. Post
      Author
  2. Intriguing post! Just the other day I watched a promo video for a youth convention and was blown away – the pumped up music, the high energy sports activities, the serious small group discussions. I wanted to attend, I knew the awesome feeling of being thrown in with hundreds of others with a purpose in mind. Only thing is, I don’t qualify by about 40 years. Sigh……the good old days.

    1. Post
      Author
  3. Love it! I can relate to the tolerance for Karate Kid and Back to the Future! 🙂 All of my Reminiscence Bumps have to do with the people in my life too. And it’s spending time with these people that brings me the most joy and happiness. 🙂

    1. Post
      Author
  4. If I could be a high school senior for the rest of my life, I probably would. I look back on my high school years and can’t think of too many negatives. Really, my entire childhood was amazing. I’ve always assumed this was directly tied to the freedom that we have as kids.

    And that’s why FIRE appeals so much to me. FIRE = Freedom. In a way it’s like recapturing the freedom of our youth, but without the rules of mom and dad 😉

    Have you watched Sing Street on Netflix? Is a moved set in the 80s and focuses on the relationship between two brothers. The soundtrack is fantastic (it’s largely original) and the story is great. I’d bet you’d love the movie.

    1. Post
      Author
  5. Oh, the good old days.Great article. So true. This period is the 1990’s for me and sometimes it is still hard to admit that it was 20 years ago, damn. I live in a foreign country so we had a delay in movies/series/games, the stuff from the late 80’s arrived to us in the start of the 90’s. I still think that the DeLorean is the coolest car on earth besides Michael Knight’s Kitt, Thomas Magnum’s Ferrari and General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard (also don’t forget Herbie 🙂 ) Long hours playing Heroes of Might and Magic, Age of Empires and WarCraft II with friends WITHOUT internet connection. Once started to attend karate class because of the karate kid. Unfortunately there was no Mr. Miyagi so I remained bad in washing cars. Also the tunes from Green Day, Offspring, Blink 182, etc… are still echoing in my head (who am I fooling I still listening these tracks 🙂 ). Maybe youth and freedom makes these memories special.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Peter, thanks for sharing! That’s pretty funny about the delay in receiving new media, which affected which movies and songs you remember so well. I guess it gave you a nice broad time period from which to reminisce. 🙂 Loved watching Knight Rider, and Magnum re-runs…great stuff! 🙂

  6. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” encapsulates such strong amazing memories for me too! You and I are the same age – I relate to so much here. I grew up with my grandparents living downstairs from me. It was so special, my grandmother so often took care of me. Such incredible warmth when I think of her. Love this…

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Linda! We would share many of the same references from childhood, to be sure! I should have mentioned that both of my grandparents lived with us (downstairs as well), however my grandfather had developed Alzheimers and it progressed fairly quickly. He was only with us for a year or so before he passed. 11 children, 34 grand children, he was a great man.

      1. My grandmother as well, at a very young age. And now my mom. It is a painful, wrenching disease. But these people we love leave so much beauty behind. Amazing memories and beautiful legacies of children and grandchildren.

        1. Post
          Author
  7. My thoughts on this are actually quite different. Unlike most people I know, I almost never think about the past. I always believe that the future will be brighter and focus my time on achieving that bright future. Ignoring the past enables me to live without regret or baggage. I’m sure this doesn’t work for everyone, but it works well for me.

  8. Post
    Author

    Thanks for sharing Troy, it’s nice to hear a different perspective. There are a lot of people who get stuck in the past, like you say, dwelling on things they cannot change. It’s good to have that ability to let things go, and focus on what you can change….the future. : )

  9. This explains why nostalgia is so powerful! I forget present day things almost as soon as they happen, but my husband is predisposed to reminiscing on things from the prior year or two with the same big warmth as youth. While this doesn’t come to me naturally, I have found a trick to help me have the same benefits. I started making fairly brief “key events” lists as the year unfolds. Being able to look back on the trips, accomplishments, and experiences is an instant source of happiness and allows me to get far more enjoyment out of weekend trips and professional achievements… It’s sort of a trick for bringing the reminiscence bump forward into more recent years of life! I make the lists for each member of our three person household in the notes section of my phone and then share them with them at the end of the year. It changes the feeling of “Wow, that flew by!” into “Holy Moses, we did some things!” when New Year’s rolls around. Great post!

  10. Post
    Author

    Very cool, Melanie, thanks for sharing! Your idea reminds me of people (more organized than me) who create annual family newsletters, and either send them out in the mail to family and friends, or more often these days, email/share them on social media. I’m never organized enough to do that, but it’s a great way to not only keep family and friends up to date, but create a document of family events to reflect back on years later.

    1. Ha! I am so not that organized. This is the text message equivalent of that. 😀 It is literally a bulleted list. Just enough to recall the memory of events and things.

Leave a Reply