How can I find my happiest memories

He recently turned forty, and that has left its mark on Meik Wiking. His hair is now growing in places where it shouldn't, the words he says sometimes sound a bit old-fashioned, and he's starting to develop quirky habits. And like many people, he used the milestone birthday as an opportunity to question his life, Wiking said at a meeting in Munich: "I thought: Now I've had half of my life behind me recall?"

Actually, Wiking should be able to look back on its past in a relaxed manner, after all, the Dane heads the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. As a happiness researcher, Wiking, who actually studied political science and business administration, explains to cities and governments in Mexico, South Korea and other countries what a successful life looks like. His book "Hygge", in which he popularized the Danish way of life full of cozy socks and scented candles, has sold more than a million times worldwide. No wonder, then, that Wiking soon saw the positive in its attack of midlife crisis. "I've been thinking about what I can learn from the past. What memories make me happy?" Because for him it is clear: "People who have happy memories are happier overall."

The result of his considerations is his new book "The Art of Good Memory" (Lübbe Verlag). In it, Wiking deals with the question of how it is possible to remember the happy moments and how to specifically create moments that one will remember fondly. Basically he does what writers like Vladimir Nabokov and Marcel Proust did before him when they cobbled together a story from fragments of their lives.

For this reconsideration he returns to the places of his childhood. Wiking visits the house in the small town of Haderslev where he grew up, hoping that the smell of old books will stimulate his memory, leafing through photo albums and interviewing thousands of people with his institute in order to understand the mechanism of remembering. The finding from his research sounds simple at first: "The most important thing is to be attentive. If you are not attentive in a situation, you will not remember it." But you don't have to have attended a mindfulness seminar to know how difficult it is often to concentrate fully on the moment.

Wiking determines how the reminiscence effect works: Since we are particularly attentive when we do something for the first time, we remember these life situations more intensely. Conversely, this means that we remember less and less new things the older we get, because what was new and exciting in the past will repeat itself more and more often over time. "As you get older, you have to look specifically for new experiences," recommends the author. "Ideally for those for which you have to leave your comfort zone, because we remember things particularly well for which we had to overcome ourselves." For Wiking this means in concrete terms: Although he doesn't like high speeds, he lets friends persuade him on vacation to fly over the waves on a jet ski instead of reading a book in a relaxed manner. "I asked myself: what are you most likely to remember ten years from now?" He doesn't regret his decision, even if the excursion ends, unsurprisingly, in a crash landing.

You can't not remember

After the conversation you can't get rid of the thought that the Dane is promoting a kind of hygge for the soul. While Hygge is primarily about curating the exterior, the apartment, it should now be about caring for the interior, with carefully selected beautiful memories. In the Instagram age, however, that sounds more like a threat: Aren't too many people constantly busy showing off the seemingly happy moments of their lives? For Wiking it is different: "These people are not interested in creating memories. They are interested in how other people see them - not how they perceive the world themselves."

You can of course smile at that, the hyggelig feel-good atmosphere that Wiking's book exudes with its sunset photos, colorful illustrations and pastel tones. But with memories it is like communication: you can meet NotNot recall. "Our memories are not perfect. We constantly, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, decide which memories to present as our stories," says Wiking. And if you have to remember anyway, why shouldn't you create beautiful memories in a targeted manner? At the end of the day, the memory rooms are just like the real rooms: You can furnish them carelessly or not even bother with them, but it doesn't make you happier.