Our son, Max, is moving from Colorado to Oregon tomorrow. It will be the first time in 25 years that he’s lived more than an hour and a half away from home. Now both our kids will live in other time zones; our daughter, Sarah, lives a thousand miles in the other direction.
So now what?
So now, we’ll stay connected virtually, something we’re all used to after a year of social distancing. But those are pretty one-dimensional connections. For a deeper, richer one, I’ll do something I call memory-bathing, which is similar in some ways to the psychological concept of savoring.
Bathing yourself in a memory means recalling it as fully as you possibly can, engaging each of your senses in turn – imagining each sight, sound, taste, scent and physical feeling as if it were happening all over again. Let each sensation fill your awareness; feel it in your body. Linger on every lovely detail. Breathe deeply and let the yummy feelings wash over you like waves of warmth.
This can feel just about as good as the real thing and in fact your brain may hardly know the difference. As author David Allen writes, “It appears that the nervous system can’t tell the difference between a well-imagined thought and reality.” You’ve probably had the experience of imagining something awful and feeling a surge of cortisol and adrenaline run through your body; memory-bathing is simply using this ability with thoughts of love and connection, which instead trigger your brain and heart to produce oxytocin (the “kindness hormone”).
So when I want to memory-bathe about Max, I could remember:
- His silky-smooth baby hair
- Getting a big man hug from him yesterday
- The fancy French vanilla+berry green tea he bought me for Christmas one year, which we’re going to finish this afternoon
- Anything baby-related
- Salmon with Asian noodles – a dish he loves that I’ve made for him many times
- That fancy French tea
- Any of the pictures of him around our house or in my digital photo library
- Watching him play the drums with his band
- Him saying, “I love you, mom”
- His album (though it’s metal, so not too much of it)
Just writing this brings a smile to my face and warmth and peace to my body.
The cool thing about memory-bathing is that it’s free, it’s easy and available to anyone. I use it to feel connected to Sarah, my mom, who passed away in 2016, my friends near and far, my brother in Pennsylvania – anyone I miss. We can even do it with places we love, pets that are no longer with us, wonderful trips we’ve taken and more.
Wishing you wonderful memories and lots of oxytocin.