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Would Someone in Your Life or Community Benefit From Reminiscing?

By Kimberly Burnham

Reminiscence therapy is defined by the American Psychological Association as the use of life histories — written, oral, or both — to improve psychological well-being. The therapy is often used with older people to improve memory, mood, and overall function or activities of daily living. It can be used with anyone to improve brain function and experience all the benefits that come with a sharper mind.

Here are five tips from the field of neurotheology or the idea that our brain influences our spirit and that what we believe and focus on influences our brain health.

1. Emphasize reconnecting and enhancing the meaning of one’s own experience:

A a 2016 article in the “International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry” reported, “Reminiscence therapy has been reported to improve the well-being in patients with dementia. However, few studies have examined the effects of spiritual reminiscence, which emphasizes on reconnecting and enhancing the meaning of one’s own experience, on patients with dementia.” Researchers concluded, “Findings of this randomized controlled trial showed that hope, life satisfaction, and spiritual well-being of elderly patients with mild or moderate dementia could significantly be improved with a six-week spiritual reminiscence intervention.”

2. Incorporate music and art:

An “Asia Pacific Psychiatry” journal article reported that elderly participants with subsyndromal or mild depression and subsyndromal anxiety responded well to Tai Chi exercise, Art Therapy, Mindfulness Awareness Practice and Music Reminiscence Therapy. Researchers noted, “Participating in these psychosocial interventions led to a positive improvement in subsyndromal depression and subsyndromal anxiety symptoms in these elderly subjects over a year. This simple, inexpensive and culturally acceptable approach should be adequately studied and replicated in other communities.” Consider how music in your faith community could be used to enhance the mood and decrease anxiety in your community.

3. Talk about past experiences:

A recent article noted that happiness has a considerable impact on elderly quality of life. Really it could be said that happiness impacts anyone’s quality of life and then goes on to impact the person’s family and community. The article explored the benefits of reminiscence therapy on positive emotions. Researchers noted, “Comparison of the mean happiness scores of the intervention group in the four measurement times revealed a significant difference only after the third and sixth sessions. The elderly participating in the matched group sessions can be effective in increasing positive emotions.” Who do you talk to about how you feel about your past and making mean of your life experiences?

4. Sharpen your mind:

Can whether you look at your past or how you look at your past influence how well you can think, live and experience happiness? A 2016 article in the “Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology” indicates yes. Researchers noted, “The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of reminiscence therapy on cognition, depression, activities of daily living of institutionalized mild and moderate Alzheimer patients. The study was conducted with a total of 62 patients in four homecare in Ankara, Turkey. Reminiscence therapy sessions were held with groups consists of 4-5 patients, once a week with 30-35 minute duration for 12 weeks.” They concluded, “at the end of reminiscence therapy sessions, increase in cognition and decrease in depression were found statistically significant in intervention group.”

5. Help someone who lives alone:

Is there someone living alone in your community? Stating that “the loss of cognitive function and memory interrupts the independent activities of daily living of older women living alone, and it eventually causes role loss, increased dependence, declining self-esteem, and low quality of life,” researchers proposed individual reminiscence therapy for better memory self-efficacy, memory practice, and quality of life. After the four week study, S. Sok, et al said, “individual reminiscence therapy can be utilized as a nursing intervention for improving memory, cognition and the quality of life of older women.”

And it is probably not just older women who benefit from the sharing and making sense of life experiences.


About Kimberly Burnham

Author of "Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, A Daily Brain Health Program" Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine) investigates the relationship between memory, language, caring and pattern recognition to create a daily brain health exercise program enabling people to achieve better neurological health, mood, and quality of life. She is on a mission to create more peace and understanding in the world by collecting and writing about the nuanced meaning of “Peace” in 4,000 different languages and is looking for funding to complete the project. Known as The Nerve Whisperer, Kimberly uses words (books, presentations, and poetry), health coaching, guided visualization, and hands-on therapies (CranioSacral therapy, acupressure, Matrix Energetics, Reiki, and Integrative Manual Therapy) to help people heal from nervous system and autoimmune conditions. She also focuses on vision issues like macular degeneration and supports people looking for eye exercises to improve driving and reading skills as well as athletic visual speed. An award-winning poet, Kimberly grew up overseas. The child of an international businessman and an artist, she learned Spanish in Colombia; French in Belgium; then Japanese in Tokyo and has studied both Italian and Hebrew as an adult. The author of “My Book: Self-Publishing, a Guided Journal”, she can be reached for health coaching, publishing help, bible study zoom presentations or talking about peace at NerveWhisperer@gmail.com or http://www.NerveWhisperer.Solutions.

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  1. What if our memories are fuzzy, but we want – and should – remember them? How can we recall them again?

    • Kimberly Burnham,PhD

      Thanks Lu. Is there anyone else who shared the experience that you could talk to? Do you have any photographs that will jog your memory? Sometimes sitting in a quiet space with a friend who asks you or you just tell them what you remember in sensory details can be helpful. If you don’t remember the details try to remember the color of the clothes the person was wearing. What sounds could you hear outside? Was the person tall or short? Did they have cold hands or a deep voice? What are the details you can see with your mind’s eye of the colors, sounds, tastes, smells, textures, or temperature? What sensations did you experience?

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