The “Reminiscence Bump” and How It Hurts Us All



Have you ever wondered why it feels like your days melt into each other? Why you lose track of what day of the week it is, sometimes what month it is?

I remember being a kid and it felt like it took FOREVER for Christmas to get here. From Thanksgiving to Christmas morning felt like a million years, and now it feels like Christmas hits in a split second and I’m usually not ready for it. Is time actually moving faster than when I was eight years old, or am I just perceiving it that way? And if it’s my own perception, why is that happening… and how can I make it stop!

I did a little research on this strange phenomenon, and came up with some interesting information that will cause me to live my days a little differently from now on. I hope it does the same for you.

When you’re a child, or a young adult, everything is new to you. Every day is a new experience because you’re encountering things you probably have never encountered before.This is called the reminiscence bump. We even remember more from books we read and films we saw in those formative years. This is possibly because memory and identity are so closely related. We hold on to those experiences from our youth because that is when we were developing our identity, who we are and who we wanted to be. These are the years when we had our first kiss, our first love, our first notable achievements; the things that are highly emotional and like book marks in our memories.

Then we get older. We have all our shining moments filed away in our mind; high school graduation, college, first real job, getting married, having a baby, buying a house… all the milestones that we talk about when we’re old and gray. And the worst thing EVER happens. We fall into a routine…

We get up in the morning. We get our coffee from the same place every morning, we take the same route to the same job we’ve been working for five plus years. We sit at the same desk and we see the same people and our brain, well it just stops recording these events because it’s seen them so many times. Hence, it feels like our days and weeks fly because because our memory has taken a vacation. Nothing noteworthy is happening, it doesn’t feel it has a job to do.

I guess the most important issue at hand is not the science of WHY it happens, but how do we prevent life from becoming one blur of commutes and tv dinners. Here are some tips I’ve integrated into my own life recently, and they have actually made a huge impact not only on slowing time down a bit, but my personal happiness.

1. Wake up earlier:

Even if you have nothing to do and no where to go. Wake up about an hour earlier than you’re used to. Have your coffee at home instead of on the go. Sit outside and watch the sun rise or spend a little snuggle time in bed with your puppy and the paper.

2. Talk to different people:

I’m not saying avoid conversation with your office mate, but seek out different people to talk with. Standing in line at the grocery store? Lift your head up from your smart phone and engage the person next to you. If you go to a party or work event, don’t talk to the people you already know, talk to their guests that you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. For me, I travel around a little bit for work, but even so I find that I stick to the same familiar people in each location that I know. The other day I struck up a conversation with a new co worker that I hadn’t really talked with yet and found out we had a whole lot in common.

3. Expose yourself to different music

If you’re like me, my music exposure is usually limited to my Spotify playlist of about 1,500 songs. There is an area in Spotify that is labeled “Discover” and I’ve been trying to go into it at least once a week and listen to different genres, even different languages of music. It activates a part of my brain that has been laying dormant due to familiarity. Sometimes I cringe at what I hear, but I have found a couple tunes that I really dig, and have added to my old faithful playlist.

4. Change your route

Give yourself some extra time, and take the scenic route to work today. The weather is warming up, it’s time to turn your new music up, roll your windows down, and check out the town you live in. Hopefully get into some less populated areas if possible. Drive by some water or farmland. See how different the sky looks and the air smells when you aren’t surrounded by buildings and cars. This has probably been the tip that has worked out for me the best. I’ve taken to snapping pictures of the scenery and looking back on them later with a smile.

5. Turn the television off

This was the hardest tip for me. I’m a big TV watcher. I have Netflix, Hulu Plus, cable, a DVR… I can’t MISS anything. And it’s pretty much a waste of time but it makes me happy. With two kids I’m not getting out the movies a whole lot, so the television has become my entertainment. But it has also begun to kill my brain. I have three or four books I’ve purchased but have not yet cracked open. I used to devour books like they were Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. That was when I was younger. Now, reading sometimes feels like too much work on my already tired mind. I’d rather just sit in front of the TV and let Law and Order do the work. Recently, I’ve been trying to cut the cord and turn off the television. I’ve been weaning myself slowly. An hour a day that I want to watch something, I’ll pick up one of those books and get lost in it. I’ve rediscovered my love of books and the worlds they transport you to, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you aren’t a big reader, do something else. Make a model airplane, if you’re into that. Go take a walk around the neighborhood. Call an old friend, or hey, your mother. Go through old photographs and start making that memory book you’ve been swearing you would for years. We don’t realize how much time we waste watching TV, but let’s do the math quick.

Two one hour shows a day, doesn’t feel like much… at the time. But that’s 14 hours a week, 90 hours a month, 1,080 hours in a year…that is 45 days a year spent watching television. Over a month of your precious life a year is wasted. Ouch. I don’t want to do the math anymore.

6. Get Active

I know some people aren’t gym people and I’m not going to sit here and say you should be. I go to the gym often and I still don’t really LIKE it, but I know I feel better after I’ve gone, and that is something that is important to me.

You don’t have to go the gym, though! Play with your pets, throw a ball around with your kids, take a brisk walk, bring your kids to the playground and run around like you were ten again. Swing on the swings, burn your legs on the slide, climb around on the jungle gym. (This is a little harder to do if you don’t have kids as a cover, but I still highly suggest it) Bringing yourself back to your childhood when things were sweeter and simpler can only make you feel that way again. I’ve done it, I still love doing it. I love pumping my legs to swing as high as I can and imagine jumping off, but I don’t because my 30 year old legs can’t withstand the shock my ten year old legs could have. I love feeling freed, the wind whipping through my hair. It is priceless, and indescribable, although I’ve tried. So don’t take my word for it, DO IT!

Let’s not allow ourselves to walk through life without living it. The worst thing that will ever happen to you is for you to open your eyes, realize your 75 years old and you’ve spent the last 50 of those years taking the same route to work, drinking the same coffee, watching the same programs in the same mind set. Even a small change can make a HUGE difference.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your life. And pass it on.


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