You have a dream vacation coming up. You want to enjoy and remember it as much as possible.
Photos, of course, are obligatory. They serve as beautiful external reminders of enjoyable times you had. But sometimes, capturing images is at the expense of living in the moment and fully immersed in what’s happening.
Fortunately, we carry deeper, internal reminders with us 24/7: our memories. But our memories are only sometimes as readily available as we might like, especially as we get older. But there’s a tool we can deploy to help us—music.
Memory Cues: What the Science Says
Strong evidence suggests that nearly everything we experience is stored in our long-term memory in some form. But those memories aren’t lost forever; they’re just inaccessible. We can use cues to trigger dormant memories.
Memory cues are any stimulus that prompts our minds to recall a memory. A song. A scent. The feel of a treasured memento in one’s hands. In addition to stimulating mental and emotional responses, memory cues can trigger physiological changes in our bodies. These associations are built from past experiences and help us interpret our current ones. Music is also a type of memory cue. It gets interesting when we consciously use memory cues in the present to help us remember in the future.
The Connection Between Songs and Memories
We all have a particular song that immediately transports us back to a place, time, person, or event with special meaning. It isn’t just one or two songs that can trigger memories.
In a 2009 study, Dr. Janata from UC Davis played random songs from the Top 100 charts when his subjects were 8 to 18 years old. More than 75% of the songs were associated with a specific memory. This effect occurs through the medial prefrontal cortex, retrieving memories and linking music, memory, and emotion.
Using music as a memory cue helps us reconnect with our past.
Now, the Good Bit
We can use music daily to enhance our ability to remember and enjoy our experiences. Subconsciously, your brain will build associations between the music and your experiences. You can try this simple technique by taking a new album and listening to it repeatedly during your next trip.
This technique doesn’t have to be limited to vacations---you can do it at any time, whether you’re trying to remember a special moment or attempting to retain important information you just learned. Be mindful about creating future memories by selecting the music you play daily as an ambient background to whatever you do.
Try this yourself! Log into My Stories Matter free and capture the memories that resurface when you try our music memory cues!