This researcher shares how to create summer memories that last
”Try to be present in the moment with all your senses wide open. What does it smell like where you are? What does the wind feel like against your skin?” shares neuroscientist Helena Backlund Wasling.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
July 02, 2021
This summer might not be a regular one, yet it obviously has every possibility to create unforgettable memories. The secret to making them last, Helena Backlund Wasling, who is an author, lecturer, and podcast host as well as researcher (assistant professor) in neuroscience since some 20 years, tells is try to find events that stick out from your everyday life.
— If you this summer find yourself in a new setting, seeing something beautiful, meeting new people, or trying out something new it is likely that you will form memories from this. Some will last you a lifetime and some will not, however strange that might sound. If your mind is elsewhere during these times you will have a harder time forming memories. Try not to be preoccupied such as involvement in your digital media, checking e-mail, thinking about work after your vacation, and so forth. Try to be present in the moment with all your senses wide open. What does it smell like where you are? What does the wind feel like against your skin? Trying to find those events that stick out from your everyday life doesn’t necessarily mean travelling to the other side of the globe. You can find it in the small things too.
Last year, Backlund Wasling was contacted by Klättermusen to discuss how memories are formed and kept, for the outdoor brand’s special project Made to Last. They identified three important stimuli: a life-changing experience, a moment that ignites a fire for a new passion, or an event that inspires a change in perspective. These are the moments that change us deeply and stay in our memory forever.
To put this theory to the test, Klättermusen planned a demanding expedition, designed to challenge and inspire its participants, and subsequently create memories made to last. They assembled a group of five brave individuals with one shared trait — a complete lack of trekking and hiking experience. The participants, choreographer Sasha Jean-Baptiste, music artist Johan Karlsson, professional boxer Constantino Nanga, surfer Sandra Johansson, and actor Mahmut Suvakci, undertook a 7-day expedition in Áhkká, northern Sweden.
Exposed to the will of nature, the group had to overcome demanding environmental challenges with a mix of excitement and fear of the unknown. Every day presented a new test for their minds and bodies, bringing a sense of completion and achievement after each phase of the journey.
— The project was created to really optimize the participants’ possibilities to form lasting memories from their experiences in the Swedish mountains. As mentioned, events that really stick out from your everyday life routine will be easily remembered so the participants were really in for a ”memory treat”, Wasling tells.
Six months afterwards, she caught up with the participants, interviewing them about their thoughts and reflections about the experiment.
— It was obvious that what they had experienced was a big life event for them. It was not just like going to a memorable party or any weekend with friends. This was something more. The experiment contained so many variables that it was radically influencing the participants. The visual scenery, the cold weather, the physical challenges, the altered sensory experiences from sleeping in a tent and being surrounded with only the wild nature, the taste of the food, and the smells. And not to forget, being in a completely new group of people slowly forming great support and friendship. All these things were very obviously affecting the participants in the formation of their new memories, says Wasling. She adds:
— Research shows that not only can this type of expedition form lasting memories but it seems that being out in nature has health benefits and benefits for our overall well-being. Spending time in green areas reduces depression and high blood pressure among other things and increases one’s perception of general health.
Helena, will you use the experiences from this project in any way in your professional life?
— I was almost jealous to see the films and I long very much for the Swedish mountains and just being surrounded by nature in 360 degrees. I have done one such expedition and it certainly stuck in my memory. In my professional life, I don’t get many experiences that stick out from my everyday life, but this collaboration was such an experience and formed a very positive memory.
Klättermusen’ head of marketing, Ida Holmen, shares how the journey has been exhilarating to be a part of.
— I’m happy that our social experiment did succeed, and the experiences of the group during the trip have stayed with them, creating a genuine connection with their adventure selves and a new passion for the outdoors.