glass memory jar

I expect all my clients to get something useful or valuable from every session. Reassuringly, they tell me that they do. Sometime it is an ‘Aha’ moment, or a complete re-frame of a conflict or problem. Other times it is a new tool, a new idea or a new perspective.

As a therapist and coach I get ‘takeaways’ from my clients too. Like the one I had today:

At this time of year I often provide clients with a list of questions to help them review the past year. Hopefully they gain some learning from their answers. My first question on the list is: ‘What were the 10 best things that happened to you and your family last year?’

Many clients can come up with answers easily and some struggle to see any positives in their year. With these people we work together to recognise that there is more pleasure in our lives than we realise.

Today though, my client (let’s imaginatively call him ‘John’) said ‘Oh that’s easy! We can just go through the memory jar.’

What is a happy memory jar?

A memory jar is not a particularly new idea, but I had never heard of it, I must admit. John explained:

We have a jar in the kitchen, with a pad of paper next to it and a pen. So any time we have a good experience, any one of us can write a note about it and put it in the jar.

At the end of the year, we sit at the table together and read them out. It is sometimes something we do on New Year’s day, or eve. It’s amazing how much you forget about your experiences and it can be great fun revisiting the memories together.

I can really see the value of this and I plan to suggest it to many of my clients.

I’ve seen some great, ready made memory jars online – like this one:

But it really is just a matter of getting any large pickle jar or something similar, a note block and a pen and getting started.

If there is a youngster who can’t yet write, they could draw a picture or you could scribe for them. I do think too it might be good to be aware that some members of your family may contribute less than others, so you might have to write some memories that specifically include them.

Once you have read them all out at the end of the year you could also write out the best of them in a journal or otherwise keep an ongoing record, year on year..

Here’s to building many more happy memories!

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best christmas ever

Some of us spent a lot of time planning and preparing for Christmas. We decided which family members to invite, who to visit, what food to buy, and ofcourse which gifts to get. There are so many things to do and when it gets to the day after Boxing Day, you might be forgiven for wondering if it was all worth it.

I hope you had a very lovely time this year and if you are like me, you still consider it to be Christmas through to Twelfth Night. For most people it never quite works out as planned. Life goes on, in spite of Christmas. You might suddenly find your plans thrown by unexpected illnesses, or car breakdowns or other ‘stuff’. Even if you were lucky enough to escape without the traditional Christmas trip to A&E (I didn’t) you will likely find that some things went better than expected and others went off like a damp cracker.

So here is a crazy thought. Why not, right now, write it all down.

In a journal, or your diary or just in a notebook, write down exactly what happened this Christmas. Make a promise with yourself that next year you will read what you have written and consider planning your holiday period differently.

How to get the best out of Christmas

Here are some suggested things you could ask yourself to get the ideas flowing.

  1. Write down your best moments and experiences. It is really important to do this now, before you forget. It can be so easy for you to choose to remember the bad things better than the good. There are usually lots of great memories at Christmas. From seeing the faces of the children as they open their gifts, to enjoying a laugh in charades. Even that great film you watched or your walk in the morning. These are the real highlights, regardless of how they fitted in to your original intentions. Make sure you record them. Reading over these notes can enable you to relive those pleasures.
  2. Write down the things that you think really mattered to you this Christmas. Was it getting the gift you always wanted, or was it the Turkey, or was it the Church service or the charity work you did. What was really important this Christmas?
  3. What wasn’t important? Did you end up buying lots of chocolates and sweets, only to find that everybody was too stuffed to enjoy them. Perhaps you bought your child a games console and found he spent most of Christmas playing with the yoyo that came in his Christmas cracker at lunch? Maybe you overindulged on wine or rich food to the point where you started to feel uncomfortable and regret it?
  4. What was missing? Who should have been there but wasn’t? What, when you got to the 27th December, made you feel you had missed out?
  5. How would you have done it differently? In an ideal world, what would your Christmas be like? Be really adventurous with this. There is no harm in imagining the Christmas that would be perfect for you. Would it be just you and your partner in front of a log fire? Would you have just cut and run and spent it in the Canaries? What could you change or add to your Christmas plans next year that might take you closer to the Christmas that you really want?
  6. How much did it all cost? The average family spends about £800 each Christmas. Some spend much more and any people take out loans to achieve this too. What did you spend your money on and was it worth it? While there are many unmissables that for some make Christmas complete, I wonder how many presents you will tuck away in a drawer, donate to charity shops or, worst of all possible fates, add to the annual re-gifting circuit? How many left-overs are you still working through or have you had to throw away? What did you buy that will sit in the fridge for a year waiting for you to throw it in the bin on 1 December because it is out of date?

Work through these questions and add any ideas of your own to make a complete review of your Christmas celebrations. Promise yourself that you’ll look at this again near the end of next year and pay attention to what you have learned. It will really help you to focus on a trimmed down (or up-sized) celebration. It could also help with your arguments with others to have a written record of what was good and bad this year.

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