Author Archives: David

Happiness: The Family Experience

Ask anyone what they want most of out of life, and chances are he or she will reply: “to be happy.” But what exactly makes people happy, and how can you get the most happiness out of life? If you abide by the age-old adage, “money can’t buy happiness,” you may be missing a fine distinction: spending your money in different ways may bring you varying degrees of happiness.

Imagine that you have an extra hundred dollars to spend and want to treat yourself to something special. Scientific research offers you the following advice on how to spend it: choose an experiential purchase rather than a material one. In a 2003 paper on this topic, experiential purchases were defined as “those made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience: an event or series of events that one lives through.” Meanwhile, material purchases were defined as “those made with the primary intention of acquiring a material good: a tangible object that is kept in one’s possession.” Examples of experiential purchases include family vacations, massages, or tickets to a baseball game. Material purchases, on the other hand, include clothing, an iPad, or a sleek new car.

Another recent study demonstrated that compared with material purchases, experiential purchases make people happier both in the immediate term as well as after the experience has passed, leading to longer-term happiness. Though evidence is mounting that experiences are more satisfying than material possessions, scientists are still investigating why this is the case. One possible reason, suggested by the work of Travis Carter and Thomas Gilovich,  is that experiences cannot be compared like material possessions, and because of that, the satisfaction you get from an experience is more robust. Think of it this way: it’s easy to compare two expensive watches, but it’s far more difficult to compare vacations in two exotic locations. In addition, the scientists found that people have more difficulty making material versus experiential purchase decisions, and that people also tend to second-guess and ruminate over material purchases more than experiential ones.

Happiness research can be applied to everything from public policy to psychotherapy to the choices we make in everyday life. The next time you are faced with the option of splurging on an experience or a possession, consider that an experience may not only make you happier, but can also bring happiness to the people you share it with.

That is why we at Reel Tributes believe so strongly in what we do. A family history documentary is a genuine life experience and an investment for the whole family. It is a purchase that allows you to preserve lasting memories, strengthen family bonds, and create long-term joy that a new toy simply can’t provide.  In the words of one client:

We staged a “premiere” of Nana’s tribute movie at her 90th birthday party to over 100 friends and family.  At the conclusion of the movie there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  It has been over 2 months since the big unveiling and the family is still raving about how much they learned about Nana from the video that they never would have otherwise….The overall consensus is that Nana’s Reel Tributes Video was an invaluable gift to our family. 

If you’re looking for long-term happiness, think about what’s most important in your life. Most likely, it’s not the material possessions you own. Experiences and family bonding: the two sources of happiness that will stick with you and your loved ones.

The Value of a Personal Historian, by Dan Curtis

If you’re thinking of hiring a personal historian, keep reading.  If you’re a practicing personal historian, remember that potential clients don’t really care what you do. What they care about are the benefits they’ll get from hiring you.  I must admit that I sometimes forget this fact.  So as a reminder to myself and to anyone else who needs a prompt about the benefits -  here are five important ones. Can you think of more? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

1. Your story will get told. This is the most important benefit of all. Countless times  people have told me that they started working on their life story or that of a family member but never seemed to be able to get it finished. Hiring a personal historian means the work will get done on time and in a professional manner.

2. It’s more fun.
Let’s face it, sitting alone with a blank computer screen or piece of paper and waiting for inspiration to strike can be daunting. We are by nature conversationalists. Sitting with a personal historian who is a skilled interviewer and empathetic listener makes telling your story an enjoyable experience.

3. Your story will be richer in detail. Because of the familiarity with your own story, you can easily miss details that others would find fascinating. You need a personal historian who is fresh to your story and has the skill to bring out the richness of your life’s journey.

4. A personal historian relieves you of the burden of  producing your film. Putting together a life story is an overwhelming undertaking for most people. From start to finish it requires a set of skills  that include – interviewing, editing, research, photo enhancement, design and layout, and printing.  A personal historian takes on these production tasks  and ensures that all are handled professionally.

5. A personal historian has the time. Are you someone who simply can’t find enough hours in a day to devote to working on your own story or that of a family member? Hiring a personal historian relieves you of the guilt of not putting in the time you need to get your life story or that of a family member told.

Thank you to personal historian Dan Curtis for this article, which was previously published on his blog. You can learn more about Dan and his work at http://dancurtis.ca.

Family History Day…Coming Up!

Learn genealogy from the experts at the upcoming Pennsylvania Family History Day! While you’re there, stop by the Reel Tributes exhibit and say hi to Caleb.
More details in the flyer below. To register and see the full schedule, visit http://pafamilyhistoryday.eventbrite.com/
Hope to see you there!

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Innovative Healing for Alzheimer’s Patients

 

Not long ago, frequent recollection of past experiences by older adults worried healthcare professionals, who saw this as a sign that the patient was “living in the past.” Recently, however, the professional and popular opinion of reminiscence has undergone a drastic reversal. Dementia researchers now understand that reminiscence therapy is “one of the most popular psychosocial interventions in dementia care, and is highly rated by staff and participants.”

Unfortunately, many of us have encountered dementia’s most common form, Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.4 million Americans of various ages currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s causes memory, thinking, and behavioral problems. However, not all memories fade at the same pace. In the early stage of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients retain their long-term memories and are able to recall events from earlier in their lives, even though they may have difficulty remembering incidents that occurred recently, such as what they did earlier that day. As Alzheimer’s progresses, symptoms become more severe, interfere with daily tasks, and take a giant toll on both Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, various medications, therapies, and supplements are being researched as tools to fight the disease and decrease its heavy burden.

Among these exciting interventions is reminiscence therapy, which involves talking about experiences and events from the past through open-ended questions and the use of tangible prompts. Reminiscence therapy:

  • can be conducted in either a group or individual setting
  • typically involves prompts including home videos, music, photographs, or audio recordings
  • increasingly includes family caregivers in the process

Reminiscence work has been studied as a way to improve mood, cognition, comfort, and general well-being in those with dementia. While research on the effects of reminiscence work has greatly increased, it is still difficult to draw definitive conclusions about its efficacy because many of the studies conducted were small, and the reminiscence protocol used varies from one study to the next.

While the precise benefits of reminiscence therapy are still being confirmed, one fact remains indisputable: it’s critical to capture the memories of your loved ones before it is too late. The Reel Tributes team attended the recent Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Philadelphia. Time and again, we heard the same story: “I wish I had done something sooner. My father recently passed away, and hardly a day goes by without feeling regret for not recording his story before his condition deteriorated.” We had at least 30 conversations of a similar tone.

Don’t let your family fall victim to the same mistake. If your family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, time is of the essence. Record his or her story as soon as possible. This will not only be an enjoyable experience for you and your family, but it will also provide important medical benefits for the Alzheimer’s patient.