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On the Beach Study Into Childhood Memory Reveals Brits’ Most Treasured Moments – and Psychology Professor Reveals how We Might Be Able to Remember More

Study into Childhood Memory Reveals Brits’ Most Treasured Memories

A study into childhood memory has revealed some of the nation’s most vivid early memories, with school trips and first pets proving to be the most popular.

The research, collected by beach holiday specialists On the Beach, provides an insight into Brits’ most treasured childhood memories, and reveals why certain memories are more likely to be stored and used to form the story of our lives.

The holiday company has collaborated with Peter Kinderman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool and honorary consultant clinical psychologist with the NHS, who has provided insight into how memories are constructed – and advice which may help people remember life’s best moments more clearly.

As part of the report, On the Beach questioned 2,000 Brits in a bid to gain an insight into the nation’s most treasured childhood memories.

The survey also asked Brits whether they believe their childhood experiences have any bearing on how they behave as adults. Almost three quarters (72%) said their childhood memories shape the decisions they make and how they behave in their day-to-day lives.

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The research revealed a staggering 73 per cent remember school trips vividly, while more than half (55%) said they remembered swimming with armbands.

Almost half (48%) said they clearly remembered performing in school nativities and Easter plays, while 45 per cent said they remembered spending all their time in the swimming pool on family holidays.

When it came to the memories we look back on most fondly, the survey revealed our happiest memories include whole days in the swimming pool on holiday (14%), moving house (11%), making a holiday friend (10%), and our favourite childhood teachers (9%).

Almost half of the people surveyed (48%) said their most vivid childhood memories were formed when the weather was hot and sunny, while 30 per cent said their strongest memories relate to cold winter temperatures.

The research also proved Brits are a nostalgic bunch when it comes to looking back on our favourite memories. A staggering 88 per cent said they talk about their best childhood memories with family and old friends, while 20 per cent said looking back on happy memories helped them feel more optimistic about life in general.

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Almost half (44%) said they looked through their holiday photos and video footage on a regular basis, and more than a third of parents (37%) said they talk to their children about happy memories they have shared together in a bid to help their children remember their best experiences more clearly.

And the nostalgia didn’t end there. Nearly half (41%) of those surveyed admitted they have tried to recreate their best childhood memories with their own children by taking them to the same places they visited when they were young.

The survey also revealed 51 per cent admit to keeping mementoes from childhood such as holiday souvenirs, concert tickets and diaries.

When it came to the influence holidays have on families, 63 per cent said holidays helped them feel closer to their loved ones, while 46 per cent said they were less likely to have family arguments on holiday than at home.

Professor Peter Kinderman commented on how happy childhood memories are constructed and stored as we enter adulthood, and how our early memories are used to help us navigate the world in future. He said: “Philosophers and psychologists agree that we are what we remember – our self concept, our understanding of ourselves, of other people and the way the world works all depend on our memories.

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“Our sense of who we are and our capacity to be happy and fulfilled is hugely dependent on our memories. In mental health, traumatic and unpleasant memories from childhood and the ways in which we get on with our parents are supremely important in determining our mood.

“It’s also true that memories, including folklore type memories, and these days films, books and great literature, are all important in terms of giving us tactics for solving problems in our lives. If our kids are scared on the first day of new school, we say; “do you remember when you joined Brownies, you didn’t like Brownies on the first day, were you scared?” And they say “yes”, and you say, “well you’re scared of going to school, it’s just like Brownies…” Of course, kids are kids, so it never really goes according to plan, but the point is that we learn how to navigate the world using our memories.

“We construct our memories and they are not an exact reflection of reality. Memories aren’t like films, they are more like a cartoon that you redraw every time that you recall something. We’re constructing memories all the time, so kids will build a picture of childhood and a picture of their parents and a picture of what their summer holidays were all about.

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“We are constantly building up this picture of who we are and weaving experiences into the story of our life. One experience of eating calamari on holiday won’t necessarily add one percentage point to your happiness, but the overall experience may have all the elements of creating a happy memory: the eating of calamari, the laughing of the juggler, and the fact that the sun didn’t set until 10pm, and the fact that your parents were relaxed, and it was during that holiday that you kissed a boy for the first time… those things you weave into the story of your life, and that’s how memories work.”

Dr Kinderman’s comments on multi-sensory experiences and how they aid memory provide valuable insight into how memories are constructed and consolidated, and Peter has recommended a meditation tip which may help us to remember special moments more clearly.

The 5-4-3-2-1 meditation method is a popular practice which helps people ground themselves in a moment. The method is traditionally used by anxiety sufferers as it is a way of regaining control over thoughts, but Peter says parents can use it to help keep precious family memories fresh in their minds.

The method recommends focusing on five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

By using all the senses to savour a moment, Peter says it is more likely to stay in the memory.

Peter said: “When it comes to memories, multi-sensory experiences are more likely to stay in the mind, so a moment that triggers all the senses is more likely to be remembered and consolidated.

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“The 5-4-3-2-1 method is one approach we could use. It doesn’t have to be a formal thing, we can just help kids (and ourselves) become more aware of and engaged in the world.

“For example if you are on holiday, you could say to your child: “Isn’t this nice? Wearing your favourite dress and watching the sun go down while the waves lap the sand on the beach. And can you hear those birds singing and the crickets in the background?” Or: “look at that juggler over there, and can you feel the sand underneath your toes and that lovely cool breeze?”

“If you want to hang on to those wonderful childhood memories of your children, and if you want your children to also retain those memories so that they can incorporate them into a story about their life and childhood, then doing this method is a great way of doing so.”

Alan Harding, Marketing Director at On the Beach said: “Our Childhood Memories campaign is all about looking back on those special moments that really define who we are and help write the story of our lives.

“We commissioned this research because we wanted to ask Brits about the experiences that mean the most to them, and the results show that our early memories really are important when it comes to our growth into adults.

“It was heartwarming to see how many people enjoy looking back on their happiest memories, and that so many of these happy moments revolve around the family holidays they took as children.

“As a company we hope we can play a part in forming those special memories that stay in the hearts of the nation, so insight from Professor Kinderman is incredibly helpful for our brand to appreciate the important role we have to play in setting the scene for those moments to take place.

“We would like to thank Professor Kinderman for teaching us how the 5-4-3-2-1 method can be used to consolidate memories, and we can’t wait to try it out ourselves!”

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