Do you easily forget those memorable events from your vacation? Having trouble retaining that stress-free, joyful feeling you had while exploring backcountry regions? Then try out this simple trick during your next trip:
Use a different shower gel, preferable one with a distinct new and pleasant smell.
Why does this work?
When you smell a new shower gel you have no particular memories connected to it yet. However by using it during the entirety of your trip your brain will connect the smell with all those fun memories. It becomes meaningful to you. Eventually, it will automatically trigger the feelings you experienced then, even when you are just standing in the shower at home and no longer on vacation*. Like the smell of your favorite food making your mouth water even when you are not hungry.
* Tip: Don’t use this shower gel too often when you are back home – just when you need that extra boost- otherwise it will likely lose its unique meaning.
In Psychology the mechanism behind this trick is called classical conditioning.
Classical conditioning is a learning paradigm that explains how a once neutral item, sound, smell, taste, … (a stimulus that does not elicit a reaction in the beginning) becomes the signal for something else; you learn the connection between them.
Pavlov’s dog: Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who is best known for his research into classical conditioning. In his experiments with dogs he demonstrated that dogs could learn the association between a bell and food. Once they learned this connection, the dogs already started to salivate (an automatic reaction to food) when they heard the sound of the bell without food being offered.
Maybe you already experienced something similar with a song that was playing on the radio. Do you have such a song that instantly brings you back to one of your adventures, making you smile?
Author: Nicole has taught about learning and conditioning for multiple years at university .