How often do we remember things we’d rather forget and forget things we want to remember? Why do our brains retain some memories and discard others? It all comes down to our five senses, the emotions they trigger and repetition…


Memories are at the core of our lives – without them we literally wouldn’t know who we are. Besides enabling basic functions like guiding us through our daily routines, memories provide the stories that inform us, motivate us, and bind us together. Memories are the threads that form the rich tapestry of our lives.


But how are our memories created? Why are some retained while others lost?


The secret lies in three elements: our senses, our emotions, and repetition. Without our senses (Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, Taste), we’d have nothing to remember and without our emotions (Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Trust, Anticipation, Surprise) we’d have no reason to remember. Repetition helps reinforce these memories as our brain determines that something processed over and over must be important so it stores it for later.


It follows that the memories most likely to endure involve multiple senses, powerful emotions and some degree of repetition. To illustrate this, close your eyes and think of some Thanksgiving memories …


Some of my clearest Thanksgiving memories include:

  • Greeting family members as they arrive with Macy’s Day Parade on TV in the background.
  • Monitoring the Turkey fryer with beer in-hand outside on a crisp, blue sky day.
  • Carving up the Turkey and sneaking a taste of the crispy bits.
  • Kicking a ball around the leaf covered lawn with my nieces and nephews to burn off Thanksgiving dinner.


Although your list of Thanksgiving memories is unique to you, there is likely some commonality around why these memories have been retained while others have faded. These memories most likely involve:

  • Multiple senses – sight, smell, taste, sound and touch.


  • Powerful emotions – mainly anticipation and joy but, depending on your family, they could also include other emotions like sadness and anger.


  • Repetition – you may also have photos you’ve looked back on that have reinforced these memories or you may simply have repeated similar Thanksgiving traditions which has cemented them in your mind. For example, even the smell of turkey can trigger the release of emotionally charged memories because it is associated with positive feelings of family celebrations. Each time we smell it, those memories forge a deeper path into our memory banks.


So, here’s some pointers on creating great, lasting memories:

  • Get in touch with your senses and the emotions they spark within you. For example, if you want to remember a meal, don’t just eat your food, really try to taste it and think about how it makes you feel.


  • Record the memories that move you. Take photos and videos of things you’d like to remember and store them somewhere you’ll easily be able to access.


  • Take time to revisit them often. Relive those precious moments again and again and reinforce them in your memory banks.


Our mission at Arkiver is to help people save and share their precious memories. We do this by providing information to help you better manage and enjoy your memories and through tools like the Arkiver App that helps you collect, organize, save and privately share your memories. Try Arkiver for free.

Logan Metcalfe
Logan is the founder and CEO of Arkiver, a company dedicated to saving life stories. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wondeful wife and two children who inspired him to create Arkiver to preserve their family photos, videos and other memories and share them privately with his family back in New Zealand.