In the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Professor Dumbledore says to Harry “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

The key word in Dumbledore’s wisdom is dwell.

Whether it’s dwelling in the past, dwelling in your dreams, dwelling on an argument, dwelling on a mistake, or dwelling on any given situation, as Dumbledore advises (and I’m paraphrasing) life is about living and not dwelling.

However, many research studies in the field of applied positive psychology have found that taking time to reflect on our fondest memories is a positive exercise that will boost our positivity and overall sense of well-being. It’s a strategy that can help kick start us moving forward when we might have unintentionally stalled because of a mishap or setback – whether that’s on a project at work or in our personal lives.

So in this post, let me pose some reflective questions for you – not to dwell on, but to visit for a moment and then get back onto what’s important for you on this day.

This exercise is a top of mind exercise. I don’t want you to have to think deeply about your answers. So when you look at the list of questions below, read the first question, don’t go and read the next straight away, but give yourself a count of five seconds… if nothing comes to mind, move on and do the same with the second question, and continue this process for each of the questions.

Here’s the list:

  • What are your fondest memories with your family?
  • What are your fondest memories with your friends?
  • What are your fondest memories when you’ve been alone?
  • What are your fondest memories at work?
  • What are your fondest memories at school, college or university?
  • What are your fondest travel or holiday memories?

Typically, from this list you will have remembered at least one moment in time that would have been quite vivid in your memory – it came to you very quickly and if you think on it again now for a moment, you’re more than likely to have a smile on your face as you do.

Now, without going into the neuroscience of what’s happening, in basic terms your thoughts and memories create physical responses that you might not even be aware of… a slight quickening of your pulse, your pupils slightly dilate, your skin slightly tingles, and you may even be smiling without knowing.

In Dr Henry Cloud’s book Integrity he writes “when you accept that life is tough, it’s no longer as tough”. That’s not to say tough stuff won’t happen… it will. And that’s the point. To live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life is not shielding ourselves from negative experiences, it’s about developing the character, resources, skills and mindset that enable us to better deal with whatever life tends to put in our experiential path.

Now for most of us when we’re experiencing one of those tough moments, to stop midstream, take a breath and do a bit of meditation or a ‘fond memory reflection exercise’ like the one in this post, is not going to be all that easy or practical. However, what the research tells us is the more we proactively practice these types of positivity and well-being exercises – when things are going well for us and we’re more willing and able to practice them, the more resilient we become when those tough moments do come our way.

So in case you just read through to here without really giving the fondest memory exercise a fair go, here’s your opportunity to add a bit of proactive practice in readiness for whatever might be around the corner.

Let me know if you ended up with a smile on your face from the exercise.