Treasure map of happy memories: a guide to remembering the best moments of your life

Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research in Copenhagen, wants us to become architects of our memories. He believes cultivating happy moments is empowering and crucial to our sense of identity. His latest book, The Art of Making Memories, offers practical ideas on how to create and cement your own joyous life experiences.
Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research in Copenhagen, believes cultivating happy moments is empowering and crucial to our sense of identity. (Sinisa Jolic/ CBC)

Meik Wiking is a firm believer that having an arsenal of happy memories can help you navigate the inevitable ups and downs of life. The good news is, with a few simple techniques, you can actively build your store of happy memories. 

Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark. He's also the author of several books, notably The Little Book of Hygge and most recently The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments. 

In a conversation with Tapestry host Mary Hynes, Wiking shared his approach to cultivating and remembering joyful moments.

Meik Wiking: 'Happiness is a dish with many ingredients. '

3 years ago
Duration 2:08
Meik Wiking: 'Happiness is a dish with many ingredients. '

1. Seek out memorable 'firsts'

MW: "Understanding that there is actually something I can do to influence what my friends and my family remember and having that role as a memory architect is quite empowering.

Life seems to speed up as we get older. I turned 41 and the years just seemed to go by faster and faster. And I think a lot of people have that experience. The reason for that is we have fewer first experiences. There's a huge share of memories that are concentrated around the period from [ages] 15 to 30, in part because we have a lot of first experiences in those years. So first kiss, first apartment, first job, perhaps first car. Whereas after age 41, first experiences are simply rare. So we can try and seek out new experiences and of course going to new places.

Extraordinary things are what stick to memory. So doing something extraordinary is more likely to be something you remember ten years from now. A couple of years ago, I had planned to spend the afternoon reading. But then my friend suggested that we should rent jet skis. I'm not really into machines. I'm not into speed. I'm more of a long-books-difficult-crosswords kind of daredevil. But we did decide to rent the jet skis. It was the first time I'd been on jet skis and I'm sure that I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life."

2. 100 Photo Challenge

MW: "I recommend curating 'The Happy Hundred'. That's something you can do as a family because you have a lot of photos on your phone. A lot of us feel overburdened by the number of photos we have on our phone. So my suggestion is, once a year, as a family or by yourself, you get your phone out and then you go through those pictures and curate 'The Happy Hundred' or 'Happy Ten' or 'Happy Twenty' - you decide - and talk about which were actually our happiest moments in the past year. Get the 100 happiest moments and you get those photos printed out and put them in an old-school photo album. I think especially if you have kids it's a fun exercise because then you get their perspective on what your kids thought were the happiest moments. 

3. Keep a private online photo-journal

MW: "[Another] tip from the book would be to create that private personal social media account. So I advise having an account only you can access where you post a picture a day, sort of like a photo journal. Post pictures of your everyday routine. This is a gift for your future self. This is something that will be fun to look back at ten years from now."

4. Create a "treasure map of happy memories" 

MW: "Rename places that have special meaning to you. I call it 'creating a treasure map of happy memories'. You rename a place based on which happy memory took place there. 

Every year we go to an island in the Baltic Sea and we have a lot of happy memories from that island. And of course those places have official names but I renamed them to fit the happy memories I have from those places. So we have the Wild Cherry Forest. We have the Roxbury Fortress. We have Spearfishing Bay, which is great if you want to catch flounders. We also have Skinny Dip Cove, which was a lovely afternoon. Now calling those places those names just helps me remind myself of the fun happy activities that took place."

Meik Wiking on why Danes are happy to pay their taxes

3 years ago
Duration 2:55
Meik Wiking on why Danes are happy to pay their taxes

5. Take a literal walk down memory lane

MW: "We can go on a literal walk down memory lane. I asked my dad to take me on a tour of his hometown where he spent his youth. We spent an afternoon where I saw where he had worked, where he had lived, and where he'd gotten drunk as a young person. And that was just a really fun memorable afternoon. I think it bonded us together. We had fun. We were at the places where suddenly he would be reminded of a detail or story. So that's something I would encourage everybody to do if you still have one or two of your parents: ask them to take you on a walk of their childhood town or place that's meaningful to them. And if you have kids, maybe you want to bring them along for a memory walk of yours."

6. Preserve memories in special objects

MW: "We often remember stuff by association. So you see this tea kettle and then you're reminded of your trip to Japan. So we need to plan things that will trigger happy memories. What I've done is I've tried to install personal memories, anecdotes and meaningful moments in the stuff I surround myself with. 

One example is when I published my first book a few years ago. I had saved money to buy a chair I really wanted but waited until I had published the book to buy the chair. And now that chair is a manifestation of that sense of accomplishment it was to publish that book. I think finding ways we can install meaningful moments in the stuff we surround ourselves with is a good way to make sure that we are reminded of the happy moments we have.

A British lady in her 30s and her family decided to go to the beach and have breakfast. They go out there and it's cold, it's windy, they can't get the fire going and they end up eating this half-cooked porridge and they're covered in layers of sand. But she says it was one of her fondest memories. It was a really good bonding experience for the family; they're laughing and having a good time.

Now what she might do if she wants to install that memory into something that she surrounds herself with, is she might go back to the beach and she might find a nice little stone and then maybe she can turn that stone into a necklace and give it to her daughter. And now that necklace and that stone will remind her daughter of that time her crazy family went to the beach and had that horrible food but really had fun together as a family."


Win a copy of Meik Wiking's "The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments" or Tracy McCubbin's "Making Space, Clutter Free: The Last Book on Decluttering You'll Ever Need"

We're giving away three prize packs, each with a copy of Meik Wiking's The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments and Tracy McCubbin's Making Space, Clutter Free: The Last Book on Decluttering You'll Ever Need

To enter the random draw, email us at tapestry@cbc.ca with "MEMORIES" in the subject line.

Read the CBC's contest rules here.