The end of the year is always saturated with feelings of both happiness and sadness: teachers smile proudly as students graduate, parents’ hearts ache as teenagers leave home, graduates look ahead with giddy hearts. We share so many feelings looking back on what used to be, often fondly. The friends and experiences we have during these years shape us for life.
Memories and the power of reflection is often touted in education, but we know it serves a greater purpose than just academics. Nostalgia and the sharing of memories create lasting bonds that buoy us up during challenging times. And graduation, perhaps like no other time, is a moment of great upheaval and a huge part of making that transition successful is remembering the things that kept us stable; family, friends, and special places. Alas, we cannot take all of these things with us when we move away. But we can take memories with us, and savor those feelings in times of need.
What good, you ask, is it just remembering the good times we had in school? Quite a bit, it turns out. Science confirms the effect is significant. Recent research has found “that safe/warm positive affect, relaxed positive affect and feelings of social safeness increased” when focusing on positive social memories, and “negative affect decreased.” In short, recalling good times with friends and family is good for your mental health and well-being.
While this may seem obvious, putting it into conscience practice may not be. I encourage you to sit down with your sons and daughters before they leave, and peruse the 10,000+ photos on your iPhone. Choose those top ten moments of the past few years, print them out, and put them in a gift album. Those printed memories will travel with that person and be a constant, physical reminder of the love, support, and happiness they have experienced.
When we remember the happy times in our life, there is a measurable, significant effect on our well-being. Keep this in mind, as students graduate and move up in life. They will look at their yearbook and family photos with nostalgia, and remember the good times they had and it will help them during those difficult moments ahead.
Addendum: After publishing my March Weekly Howl article, “The Myth of Selective Schools.” I was contacted by a concerned parent, who noted that we should also celebrate the success of our students who do get into Ivy League schools. I couldn’t agree more. We at AAS are always looking to celebrate success at every level. We’re looking at some new ways of recognizing our recents grads and will be working on a new project next year, but I’d also like to take this time to recognize our students who have already achieved this. Congratulations to ALL of our recent grads who got into their first choices this year (such as Columbia), and best of luck in your freshman year. We’re proud of you.