Friday, July 27, 2018

The Importance of Memories to Personal Growth

Have you ever thought about how your memories impact your personal growth?  At first glance, it might seem that memories, or looking back, wouldn’t have much to do with growth, or moving forward.  However, memories and connecting with your life’s experience actually provide tremendous personal growth.  Here’s why.

Why We Need Our Memories

Last month, I mentioned the surprising result of {suppressing memories}.  Research shows that when we block things out, the hippocampal processes our brains use to create new memories is compromised.  In other words, suppressing memories makes our brains find it harder to create new memories.  Blocking things out that we don’t want to remember actually makes it harder for us to create memories of things we do want to remember.
 "Every thought we have, every word we speak, every action we engage in – indeed, our very sense of self and our sense of connectedness to others – we owe to our memory, to the ability of our brains to record and store our experiences.  Memory is the glue that binds our mental life, the scaffolding that holds our personal history and that makes it possible to grow and change throughout life.”  ~Larry R. Squire & Eric R. Kandel, {“Memory, From Mind to Molecules”}
Wow.  Have you ever thought of that?  Memory is what makes it possible to grow and change as we live.  

Carol Stewart understands the power of memories.  In her article, {“Memories Connect Us,”} Carol suggests that relationships wouldn’t exist without the memory of them, without the memory of yesterday’s relationship to build on.  Life without memories, she writes, would be like the movie Groundhog Day where relationships would have to start over from zero every day.  So memories connect us in three ways:
  1. helping us understand who we are
  2. deepening existing bonds with others
  3. rekindling old bonds
The trick, though, is to actually get in touch with your memories.  Retrieving them, putting words to them, and giving them a place to exist outside your head is what clarifies and defines your memories.  Memory can dim or even play tricks on you when it’s sort of just floating around in your head.  Writing down memories gives you a chance to sort through and validate them.  Even {remembering hard times is worth something} because of the strength you gained as you overcame, or the lessons you learned in the process.

What Looking Back on Memories Can Do

Reminiscing helps us realize we’ve grown.  It brings with it a certain sense of perspective and appreciation.  Like reading old love letters helps us remember details and can even make us {fall in love again}, looking back, in many circumstances, helps us count our blessings.  It helps us recognize the good in a situation (or after one) and increase our gratitude.  Looking back is empowering.

In {“The Secret Ingredient to Self-Care and Wellness,”} I wrote that recording stories, or memories, is therapeutic.  I’ve experienced this first-hand.  Time spent recording memories (journaling, scrapbooking, etc.) is time for reflection.  

I love re-living precious moments.  The work of writing down my experiences (usually with pictures) makes me put into words something that I did, saw, or felt.  It validates my experiences, but it also helps me sort out thoughts and emotions.  In a way, it helps me make sense of life.  What made it great?  Why was this experience particularly hard for me?  What did I take away from this event, and how does it contribute to my life or who I am?  

This whole process of writing and assigning meaning contributes to my personal growth.
"I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” -Flannery O’Connor
How to Preserve Memories for Personal Growth

Preserving memories requires getting them out of your head, writing them down.  The two main ways of preserving memories are word-only (like a journal) or using both the written word and photos.

Writing down your memories in a notebook is a straightforward way to preserve them.  I personally need to type because my brain goes so much faster than my hand that I end up skipping things I wanted to write.  If you write your story in a computer document, just be sure you print it.  I’ve said it many times, but {technology is a fickle friend}, so a hard copy is the way to go.  

You can always just start chronologically with your earliest memories, elementary school memories, and so on.  Or you can just start writing down memories of your life experience as they come into your head.  In {“Know Thyself Through Your OwnStory,”} I listed several great resources for life story questions that can give you a jump start and trigger memories and stories.  Have a look at them at the link there if you need some helps.

I find that having an audience in mind is a good help, too.  Writing to a best friend or writing to future grandchildren can help guide your mind.  What would you want those people to know about you?  Don’t feel self-conscious about that question.  A humble person I know answered, “Nothing.”  But when he thought about it more and realized that HE wants to know more about his grandparents, he understood how important his own story is to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Don’t just write facts.  Look deeper so you can see your personal growth.  That alone will expand your soul.

I find that pictures are tremendously helpful in preserving my memories.  Photos have tremendous power for bringing back memories and moments in an instant. 

Remember when I wrote about {Reminiscence Therapy} a few weeks ago?  That’s the real deal.  In most cases, thoughts and pictures and everyday things I do or enjoy or struggle with don’t have pictures.  However, in many cases, the great, enjoyable, and special parts of my life DO.  Looking back at photos helps me remember events (and memories) much better than events that don’t have pictures.  You may want to use photos to jog your memory as you go through the process of recording your memories, but don’t forget that you can actually tell your story WITH photos, too.

To make an heirloom-quality book similar to this one {just follow these steps}.

Here’s an example of memories preserved with pictures in a lovely little hardbound storybook.  

There Really is No Time Like the Present

We fool ourselves sometimes into believing that things will settle down after school starts again or after the holidays.  They don’t.  We should know that by now, but we always seem to think that we will somehow be less busy in the future.  

If you set aside time to meditate, read, study, or exercise, you can think of recording your memories and your story as having the same healthy benefits.  If you don’t take time for yourself to do any of those things, might I suggest you would especially benefit from taking moments for yourself to preserve your memories.

A simple computer document or handwritten account will allow you to preserve your memories for personal growth.  Include as many details –as many memories– as you can think of.  You can always narrow down or reorganize them later if you like.  Follow the suggestions in the previous section and you’re on your way.

If you would like to publish your memories as a book like the ones shown here, it makes your already-unique story just that much more unique.  (I might add that it also makes quite a special family Christmas gift!)  A life story published with pictures brings the whole story to life and puts names with faces, too.  Publishing your own book isn’t as complicated as you might think, either.  I’ve got simple steps to help you get started {right here}2021 UPDATE:  That link now includes several different platforms for creating heirloom-quality memory-keeping so you can choose the one that fits you best.

I have been doing this kind of thing for myself for 13 years, and for a few years now {I actually hire outmy experience in making heirloom-quality books (like the ones shown above) for other people.  

Looking back at your own life and making a record of it is indeed therapeutic.  Leaving a lasting legacy this way is a gift for those who come after you also.  

The great thing about telling your own story is, well, that YOU get to tell it.
"History will be kind to me because I intend to write it.”  -Winston Churchill
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This post was originally published at on July 27, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  You can find more #familyhistoryfriday posts about memories, photos, stories, connections, and family by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Important Effects of Family Stories and Family History (with a giveaway from Evalogue!)

"When our hearts are turned to our ancestors, something changes inside us.  We feel part of something greater than ourselves.  Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors."  -Russell M. Nelson

Family history is really nothing more than family stories.  Interest in family history and genealogy has taken a sharp upturn in recent years, and it's no wonder.  There are great benefits of knowing your family's story.  In fact, {Bruce Feiler} studied the effects of family stories on kids, and he called this knowledge the "single biggest predictor of a child's emotional well-being."  {Elaine Reese} reported on a study that showed that knowing family stories gave kids higher self-esteem, lower rates of depression and anxiety, a stronger concept of self, an increased ability to cope with difficulties, and a greater ability to empathize and connect with others.  Adults find the same benefits.

So, apparently, family stories and family history are a really big deal.

Our stories matter.

Every single person and every single family needs the connections that family stories and family history provide.  Today I've got a few helps to get you there--to learn the stories and to preserve and share them-- (and a giveaway, too).

First, these articles will  inspire you to learn and then share your own family stories: 

Those last two articles give some very simple ideas for learning and sharing family history if you're not sure where to start.

Second, I want to introduce you to Rachel Trotter and Rhonda Lauritzen from {}.  Rachel and Rhonda help people write their stories for a living!  They are both talented writers who have a passion for family stories. They believe that storytelling is the most powerful way to connect with others.  I happen to agree.  When we know someone's story, we immediately feel both connection and compassion.  Knowing stories draws us to one another.

"There isn't a person you wouldn't love if you could read their story."  -Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Rhonda recently published a wonderful booklet called "How to Storyboard."  If you're not familiar with storyboarding, it's basically a way to outline and then flesh out a story for maximum clarity and impact.  It's a way to help you write so that your story is clear and engaging, and it applies to both fiction and non-fiction (like life stories or family stories).  Storyboarding helps trigger creativity, guides you in knowing what parts to trim back and what parts to flesh out, and, as Rhonda says, keeps your story "from falling off a cliff."  Rhonda explains the whole process {here}.

You can see Rhonda's beautiful book {right here} (and even scroll down to read my review of the book if you like)!  Best of all, you can win it right here!! 

Rhonda has created a whole kit to help you write your story!  The storyboarding kit comes with
  • How to Storyboard booklet  (Great information and guidance!)
  • storyboard templates (These are really cool--they're reusable and will allow you to plan and adjust your story.  I love these.)
  • Life Story Question booklet (I also have this--it's SO helpful for ideas!!)
  • flash drive
  • post-it notes (for the storyboard itself)
  • high-quality pen
  • clipboard
  • plastic folder
To enter to win this storyboard kit, all you need to do is comment on this post!  In the comment, just tell me something you learned or liked from one of the articles I shared OR tell me what story you would like to tell with the help of the storyboarding kit (Grandma's life story, a book you're writing, etc.).  After you comment, you must also e-mail me at to give me your e-mail address or phone number so I can contact you to arrange shipping if you are the winner.

One winner will be chosen at random on Friday, August 10, 2018.

Now that you're inspired and armed, preserve your family stories!  {Here's how to get started.}  You'll find helpful videos to help you get going at that link, too.

There's really nothing better for your heart and soul, and nothing better for your family!

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Importance of Creativity to Personal Growth

This post was updated 2024.

Whether or not you think you’re creative, you are.  (If you’ve ever said, “I’m not creative,” today’s #familyhistoryfriday post is one you especially need to read.)  

Creativity is not just important to personal growth– it’s important to life.  We touched on creativity last week in {The Importance of Hobbies to Personal Growth}, so let’s dive in a little deeper.  Why is creativity so important?  How are “non-creative” people creative?  Understanding what creativity really is and what it really looks like is the first step to using creativity for personal growth, satisfaction, and happiness.

What is “Creative”?

One of the first arguments I often hear about why someone doesn’t preserve her photos is, “I’m not creative.”  This is by far one of {the biggest memory-keepingmyths that I bust}!  Here’s why “I’m not creative” is incorrect.

First of all, by definition, if you create something, you are creative.  If you create a plan, a side dish, or a garden, you are creative.  If you create a schedule, a relationship, a tradition, or a home, you are creative.  You have created something that did not exist before and would not exist in the same way without you.  Creativity is nothing more than simply creating.
"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.  Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.  Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty. … [You are] a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.”  –Dieter F. Uchtdorf

As Lisa Natcharian says in Rejuvenated by Creativity: Why We Thrive with Creative Expression, "The truth is, creativity knows no boundaries.  Everyone can benefit from the rejuvenating power of creativity.  Engaging in creative activities allows individuals to tap into our inner resources, cultivate mindfulness, and escape the pressures of daily life."

She continues, "When we engage in creative activities, our brains enter a state of flow, where time seems to slip away, and we become fully immersed in the present moment.  This state of flow promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and enhances mood, leaving us feeling rejuvenated and energized."

I'm in!

Three years ago, Dina Tibbs believed she was not creative.  Today she is an Intentional Creativity Teacher.  Her studio outside Denver is a place where women can come to let go of perfection and listen to their internal gifts and wisdom.  So how did Dina go from “I’m not creative” to having completed training to help others embrace their creativity?  She realized this:
"As humans we are, by our very nature, creative. Our entire lives are nothing but creations. Calling yourself creative is nothing but a shift in perspective and intention.”  –Dina Tibbs
Becoming Creative

So, as it turns out, changing your mind about what you think about yourself is how you can “become” creative.  

If you let go of the idea or belief that you aren’t creative, you are allowing yourself to be creative.  Letting go is one of the main tenets of personal growth, so it follows that if you change your attitude about what creative is or isn’t, then you are free to create without inhibition.  I will never paint or sculpt like Michelangelo, but those skills are the tiniest fraction of what it means to be creative.

Once you have let go of the incorrect ideas of what creativity is or isn’t, you’re ready to embrace the creative part of your soul.  Next, think back to {the scientific study} I mentioned last week:  trying new things and exploring actually makes you more creative.  New experiences, motivation, and learning have something in common:  dopamine.  So if you still aren’t sure that you’re creative, just try something new.  Like this {Yearbook }.

Your brain will take it from there.

Think of something you’d like to learn or something you’d like to be better at.  Or think of something you already like to do.  So many things we like or do are indeed creative.  Can you make a living room feel cozy and inviting?  Can you make a cake look like the Eiffel Tower?  Or can you throw a great dinner party?  Are you a listener, creating relationships of trust?  Do you create confidence in those you love?  Can you create a flower arrangement?  What talents do you already have, and which ones would you like to develop?  Don’t put restrictions on creativity!  

Remember:  creating anything that did not exist before and would not exist in the same without you is creating.  It’s creativity.

A Fun, Meaningful, and Important Way to Be Creative

As I already mentioned, many people believe that they are not creative, and if they are not creative they therefore cannot be memory-keepers.   They (mistakenly) believe that preserving their photos and the memories that go with them is not something they can do.  This is entirely false.

Because guess what.  If you take a picture, you are creative.  You have created something.  You have brought something into being that did not exist before.  Then when you publish or print that picture and write down a little something about it, you have created again.

And it’s really not more complicated than that.

You are creative.

One of the most important things I want to teach people about memory-keeping is that these two books (one above, one below) are the same thing.  They are the very same thing.

These two books are about different events, yes, but as far as “creativity,” they are exactly the same thing.  

Know this!  Remember this!  These two books preserve memories the same, they preserve photos the same, and they tell a family story exactly the same.  These two books were both CREATED, so they are both creative.  The person creating either of them makes something out of nothing and feels the satisfaction of creativity.

Why You Should Get Started Right Now

How do you like being creative?  Do you like creating meals, plans, relationships?  Do you paint, try {Pinterest} pins, or birthday parties?  Make time to be creative.  It's a powerful way to achieve both personal satisfaction and growth.  

Memory-keeping is one of the most important ways I know of to be creative because it affects so many other things.  The {benefits of memory-keeping} are pretty amazing because they are both short-term AND long-term.  Both kids and adults have a stronger sense of self when they reminisce, as well as lower stress, lower depression and anxiety, and greater sense of purpose.  Looking back at happy moments has been shown to literally {increase happiness in the present moment}.  Memory-keeping fosters gratitude and creates a sense of perspective.  It can even help with {healing from grief}.

So there really is no time like the present to be a memory-keeper.  Create something tangible from those memories floating around in your head and those pictures floating around in the cloud.  

Make a meaningful thing that did not exist before, and enjoy the heart-warming satisfaction of creativity.

Three Options

If you are drawn to more in-depth creating (like the Disney book up there), then I have an amazing option for you.  If you want something faster and simpler, I have a different amazing option for you.  And something amazing in between.  All you need is your computer!  See which one you prefer:

All these options are my personal recommendation because they’re such high quality and will really PRESERVE your memories and photos for generations.  They are head-and-shoulders above the run-of-the-mill photobook options we see these days.

No matter which of the options you like best, I hope you notice that ALL THREE ARE CREATING, so all three are creative.  Any of those options give me personal growth and satisfaction from creating.  Any one gives my kids and my family {all those memory-keeping benefits}, too!

I hope you feel more creative than you did when you started reading this post.  You should.  You ARE creative, and you always have been.  Create something meaningful right now!
"Creativity may be the nearest one-word definition we possess for the essence of our humanity, for the true meaning of soul.” -Matthew Fox
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This post was originally published at on July 20, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  You'll find more #familyhistoryfriday posts about family, photos, stories, memories, and making connections by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

The Importance of Hobbies to Personal Growth

In today’s culture of busy-ness, it can be easy to think of hobbies as an extravagance or an indulgence.  However, hobbies are an important part of personal growth.  Learning a new skill, developing a talent you already have, and doing something simply for the pleasure of it benefits your brain, heart, and attitude.  Hobbies are good for your overall well-being.  If you’re not sure what this has to do with #familyhistoryfriday, keep reading!

The Purpose of Hobbies

My friend Lori Jackson from Choosing Wisdom wrote a wonderful article last year on hobbies.  In {“Why Should I Pick Up a New Hobby?”} Lori wrote:
"Too often we associate hobbies with people who have too much time on their hands when it should be the reverse.  Hobbies should be what we work to make time for. Anything that stretches us, gets us up and moving, and trying new things helps us mentally, physically and socially.” -Lori Jackson
She followed this up with a list of the benefits of hobbies, including:
  • a mental break from stress
  • a challenge to the brain as we learn something new
  • greater positivity and lower depression
  • connections with others, even if indirectly
Now that sounds pretty good to me!

And that's why this is true:

Did you know that {trying something new actually helps you be more creative}?  According to Fast Company, in {“7 Surprising Facts About Creativity, According to Science,”} “there’s a major neuroscientific basis for the link between openness to new experience and creative thinking.”  So if you want to be more creative, just try something new!
"You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.”  -Maya Angelou

Your New Creative Hobby

What new hobby would you like to try?  Playing a musical instrument, gardening, and playing a sport are all great ideas.  What if, though…  

What if you could take up a new creative hobby that would serve additional purposes besides your own personal growth and satisfaction?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your hobby could strengthen family bonds, increase your kids’ self-esteem, and actually create lasting benefits for generations?  What if that same hobby increased your gratitude, reduced your stress, and increased your sense of purpose?

Here’s a hobby that {really does all that}.

Believe it or not, you already have all the components, so you just need a few tools.  Just gather together these ingredients:
  • your photos
  • your memories
  • your computer (or tablet/phone, depending on how you do it)

Because photos can be overwhelming these days (since we take a gazillion of them), I have lots of ideas and resources to simplify things right here.  

You can take those three simple ingredients to learn a new hobby that is not only good for you but good for your family– now and for generations!  Everything you need to get started on your new AMAZING hobby is right here.  I've even got video tutorials so you can choose what fits you best, from fast & easy solutions to creative digital scrapbooking (both professionally printed at the highest quality there is)!

So are you ready?  Are you ready for a new hobby that gives you all the benefits of learning a new hobby as well as all the benefits of memory-keeping AND blesses your family for generations?

I thought you might be.

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This post was originally published at on July 13, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.
Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts about photos, memories, stories, family, and connections by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

How to Stop Being Overwhelmed by Your Pictures (with a video tutorial)

This post was updated in 2022.

I am SO excited to bring you this solution!!  

Digital photos are a double-edged sword!  We can take as many photos as we want, but then it's easy to become so {overwhelmed from having too many photos} that we never do anything with those images.

My Favorite Solution to Stop Being Overwhelmed by Your Pictures

One of my favorite solutions to getting out from underneath your photos is a family yearbook because they're SO EASY to organize.

That's because you already know where your photos go.  Halloween photos from 2017 go in the 2017 yearbook on the October pages.

Here's one family yearbook style:

And what it looks like inside--two pages for each month:

I wrote a while back about what makes family yearbooks THE BEST SOLUTION I've seen to too many photos, and I included the best way I know to actually CATCH UP ON YOUR PHOTOS (the Two-in-One Plan).  You can read all about it and get all the tips and information you need right here at this link:

{One Solution to Too Many Photos:  Family Yearbooks}

Family yearbooks provide a great way to narrow down your mass of photos into your favorites from each month, so you can actually SEE THEM.  Have you ever thought about that?  Taking tons of pictures often means {you never see them again}!!  Why bother taking them in the first place?

If you stick with 2 pages per month, choosing only your favorite pictures, you can make family yearbooks in no time at all.

However, two pages per month is not required--you have flexibility to add more pages as needed, of course.

The Best Yearbook Options for Quality--and Getting Exactly What You Want

There are a couple of high-quality options I recommend for yearbooks.

And options are so important!  You have to find something you love because it makes it so much easier to do!  If you love it, it's fun.  If it's fun, it's easy to do.

Here's a really simple way to create yearbooks:

The templates are free to use, and so is the software.  Books are professionally published with the highest quality papers, inks, and bindings in the industry!  There are SO many templates to choose from, and updated templates are being added all the time.

Or, if you prefer a more creative and flexible system where you get to design pages on your own (or use blueprints), get to know Artisan.  (It's my personal favorite!)  You can place text and photos anywhere you want on a page, design the covers yourself, and more.  And since books created using Artisan are also professionally published at the Forever Print shop, they are printed with the highest quality papers, inks, and bindings in the industry. 

Either one is a pretty great way to completely change your life.  

Yearbooks can really alleviate your overwhelm. 

P.S.  If you need some help with photo organization first, I have more organizational helps at this link and some very helpful videos here, but you can start with this one:


NOTE:  I am a Forever affiliate (a decision I made because I love it so much), so you will find several affiliate links in this post, from which I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.

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