Jaillan Yehia

Its Official: Your Phone IS Ruining Your Holiday Memories

Written by Jaillan Yehia

Post Categories: Opinion

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We all suspect that our collective phone obsession is ruining our holidays, stopping us from being ‘in the moment’ and leading to the weird phenomena we all secretly suffer from: If you didn’t take a photo of it, it might as well never have happened.

Well now it’s official – our worry that digital photos are numbing our senses has been proven. It’s not just Insta-official, but Oxford University official, so you know it’s serious.

A leading experimental psychologist, along with a team of Oxford experts teamed up with the holiday company TUI to research  holiday memories  – the deep-rooted kind you have from when you were a kid, in the pre-digital age.

We’re talking about memories that conjure up not just sights, but sounds, smells and other imperceptible feelings like a soft breeze in your hair or the sensation of waves crashing against your feet.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Remembering the sea breeze in Mexico

They studied 2,000 adults and discovered that half of us now suffer from ‘digital holiday amnesia’, meaning we’re increasingly relying on our smartphones to store our memories for us – and just as we thought, our real memories are getting lazier by the year.

On my phone in a helicopter

On my phone in a helicopter – sheesh

What’s the solution? Well to get your holiday memories to last longer than 2 weeks you have to put down your phone camera (I know, have they met us?!) – and draw a picture instead.

That’s because experiencing something through your camera just isn’t the same as experiencing it first hand (we kind of knew that, didn’t we?) but by drawing you employ all your senses to be present in the moment, and that cements the scene.

Art retreat Kent

Trying to draw something makes you examine it in a new way

The scientists say that only sight is stimulated when you’re taking a photo (with hearing also being triggered when filming a video), but the other senses aren’t awoken, yet when you draw the same scene, you unlock all senses.

Sight, sound and touch, as well as a cool sense called proprioception (akin to spatial awareness) are all triggered when concentrating on sketching, and this combo is what enables your brain to solidify the memory.

Art retreat Kent

Some sketches from my drawing holiday

Having recently gone on a drawing holiday which I seem to remember in far greater detail than other trips I took around the same time, I’d agree with this conclusion. Even though I did take a handful of photos of the weekend, my memories are of the moments I spent drawing the scenery.

The sensory expert, Professor Charles Spence, took two British artists who possesses a rare neurological condition called synaesthesia (where their senses are inter-connected in a unique way) to a TUI Sensatori resort which is specially designed to fuel all the senses.

As Professor Spence mentions in this video, Sensatori resorts are not just talking about stimulating all your senses while on holiday, they’re actually doing it  – with everything from aromatherapy, cuisine, massage, sketch kits and of course waves crashing on the beach and sand between your toes all conspiring to rebalance your senses.

If you’re not into art don’t worry: other actions like writing down what you did on holiday works to help your memory too, and doing other experiential activities like taking a cooking class on holiday also seems to help memories form in our brains rather than our hard drives.

Mexican Yoga retreat

A beach yoga class is a great workout for the body and all the senses

The professor sums it up, like this: ‘When we watch something unfold from behind a lens, we’re not truly living and sensing the experience. Smartphones can prevent us from creating fully-fledged memories. It’s only by really engaging with our experiences on holiday through all of our senses that we can hope to process all the stimulating information to lay down the sorts of memories that will last.’

Think your senses might be more connected than the average holidaymaker? You can take this specially designed quiz.

Thanks to TUI Sensatori for inspiring this post

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