Our interview with NYT best selling author, Meik Wiking: Childhood Memories are a Key to Happiness
If you don't already know Meik Wiking, the CEO at The Happiness Research Institute and New York Times Bestselling author, then you are in for an absolute treat!
You may be familiar with Meik's other titles such as: 'The Little Book of Hygge', 'The Little Book of Lykke' and more recently 'The Art of Making Happy Memories', but did you know that Meik and his team of reserachers at The Happiness Research Institute, are on a mission to understand what makes humans happy, and how can that can be applied to citizens across the world, improving everyone's quality of life?
That is what we wanted to talk about, and to find out his thoughts on family history as well as some of his own childhood memories and stories.
AGAT : Hi Meik, thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions during the promotion of your latest book 'The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments.' I read that you had collected 1,000 happy memories by asking participants to describe one of their happiest memories, so we'd love to know one of yours!
MW: The first one that comes to mind is a warm July day. I had been spearfishing and had caught three flounders and was sitting on a warm rock, looking out over the sea. My breathing was deep and I felt relaxed, at peace and happy.
AGAT: That sounds like the perfect day. Chapter 6 of your book: Capture Peaks and Struggles caught my attention in particular because we have been encouraging our readers to share their own family history stories with us. For some, there are stories of struggle and loss which can be quite challenging to talk about and re-live. In your opinion, how can knowing past struggles contribute to our happiness now?
MW: In any human life there is going to be periods of unhappiness. We struggle, we get our hearts broken, we fail - that is part of the human experience. But unhappiness also teaches us about happiness - and it teaches us gratitude. The aim of my book is to help people experience happy moments and retrieve happy memories so we have something to balance those bad memories out with.
AGAT: Balance is always a good thing. How important is family history to our children's developing minds and do you think it helps to build mental resilience?
MW: Your role as a parent is really important. You can influence what kind of childhood your kids will remember. One simple trick is the power of attention. One woman who read my book was reminded of a time when she was 8 years old - she was having dinner with her mom and they were laughing and having fun - feeling happy - and then her mother said: “I hope you remember this moment”. And here we are - 30 years later she still remembers that moment because her mother pointed it out and made her pay attention to it. Of course it is a tool that can be overused - you can say that to your kids every night but it is an easy simple and powerful tool and in the book we go into the more advanced tools and strategies.
AG: That's a useful too. Do you have any interesting family history stories you'd like to share with us?
MW: So, we know that being at the place where events happened will make you remember them better. Armed with that fact, it makes good sense – and good fun – to go on a literal walk down memory lane. Either your own or the memory lane of somebody you love.
So last summer, as I was researching this book, my girlfriend and I were visiting my dad, Wolf, and I had asked him to plan a “Tour de Wolf”. A walk around Aarhus, the second biggest city in Denmark. My dad had moved to there in the 1960's and worked in the advertising business. He moved back there some years ago.
“I want to see where you lived, where you worked and where you got drunk.” I said.
That afternoon, we visited the places where he had worked. We walked his walk to work in the morning.
We saw the Theatre Bodega where they would have dinner and a pint, the streets where the chauffeurs had been waiting outside the houses, shinning the cars in their uniforms and the pharmacy where my mother worked when my parents met. I remembered stories of how she hated the leeches and that she had to call her boss “Herr Apotekeren” (“Sir Pharmacist”).
I had heard many of the stories before, but seeing the places where they took place made the stories come even more to life. And now some of the stories and memories of my father are integrated into the shared memory of a lovely summer afternoon walking around Aarhus
AGAT: That's amazing you could literally take a trip down memory lane with him. We're big fans of getting offline and going back to basics with paper-based journals. What are your favourite ways to record your happy memories?
MW: One of the tips in the book is "Curate the happy 100". The days between Christmas and New Years´ Eve is a good time to go over the digital photos you, and potentially your family, took this year. Share what you all thought were the happiest moments and select which one hundred photos should go to print. So take active steps to preserve your photos and protect yourself and your family from digital amnesia. Bring your photos out of the digital universe and into real print. The act of being proactive in preserving your digital photos to make them last for decades and for the next generation might well be one more happy memory.
A huge thank you to Meik for taking the time to speak to us on a subject that is so dear to our hearts.