• Helen Gregory

“Regrets, I’ve had a few,” …sang Frank Sinatra, whose famous lament evolves into a powerful case for unapologetically doing things his way.

Like Frank, everybody has regrets, whether small or sizeable. We all wish that we'd done something differently at some point in our life – and as we get older, we can particularly fixate on those chances we didn’t take rather than the ones we did. But regret can be a misunderstood emotion in a society which encourages us to be positive and forward-looking. After all, what possible good could ruminating on past mistakes do?

However, feelings of regret can become overwhelming and destructive, so instead of obsessing about them, or dismissing them, perhaps we could lean into those negative emotions and use them to clarify our lives and teach us something about ourselves. By looking backwards with the aim of moving forwards, we can even convert our regrets into fuel for progress.

So how do you come to terms with regret? It’s about being kind to yourself and offering yourself the same compassion as you would someone who was unburdening themselves. Admitting your thoughts, feelings and actions by telling others – or writing about them – can bring physical and mental benefits; according to scientists, self-revelation is linked to reduced blood pressure and better coping skills.

It’s also about the ability to accept yourself, to recognise that there was a wider context to your actions and to understand that you made those decisions based on the values and the information you had at the time. This can lead to remorse and self-knowledge, but above all, being able to feel regret ‘well’ is the strongest sign of a life meaningfully lived.

You can use the theme of regret to spark off your life story book. How about writing some notes about ‘what held me back from applying for my dream job’ or ‘why I lived the life I wanted instead of obeying my parent’s wishes’?

Approached with an open mind and willingness to self-reflect, regrets can build bridges, mend relationships and even improve the future as, by understanding what you regret most, you can understand what you value the most. And these findings will underpin a considered and stimulating life story.

  • Helen Gregory

I heard a song on the radio recently that transported me back in time to when it was in the charts. It had such sentimental resonance that I got goosebumps and could visualise where and with whom I’d been listening to it, all those years ago.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to get ‘the chills’ listening to music. Research shows that this happens because music stimulates an ancient reward pathway in the brain, encouraging dopamine to flood the striatum, a part of the forebrain activated by addiction, reward, and motivation. Whether it’s the music from a first dance, lullabies from childhood or a theme tune from a favourite TV show, music has the ability to take us back in time and remind us of our past, giving you that flashback feeling.

We process music cognitively, emotionally, spiritually and physically - and it plays a key role in accessing our memories. It’s also an important tool for helping connect to people with dementia and there’s a great website - - that gives tips on curating music for them. When speech fails someone and their memories are lost, sufferers can still connect to, and sing, the same songs from their childhood. Music seems to activate widespread networks across the brain all at once, so even if some parts are damaged by dementia, music can still reach other parts. These brain networks are active for all of us every time we tune into a piece of music.

Most people find that particular music will vividly reanimate times in their life, which can be in turns nostalgic, uplifting and emotional. So why not sit back and put a favourite album on to jog some memories? You might also find that those song lyrics even help to articulate some life experiences and express those feelings that are hard to put into words. And then use them to start writing your life story!

  • Helen Gregory

A client admitted to me recently that she only had a handful of photographs with which to illustrate her life story book. It got me thinking about the importance of looking after your photos, not just those old black and white prints in dusty boxes, but the ones scattered across phones, tablets and digital cameras.

When you're ready for a project, why not start by discarding prints that are blurry, feature your thumb or are too bright or dark. When you've selected those worth keeping, write a quick note on the back of each one using a soft lead pencil - never a ballpoint pen, which can damage the surface or seep through - labelling either the event it took place at, the people in the photo or where it was taken.

While you’re sorting photographs, remove any glue, tape, staples, rubber bands and paper clips. Then when you’re ready to store them, prevent them from sticking together using sheets of acid-free tissue paper before fixing them into albums with photo corners, never glue, and if possible don’t keep them in the loft, where they could be exposed to fluctuating temperatures and damp. One easy way to safely store your prints is to digitize them – scanning or photographing with a good quality camera, and then organising them into folders and albums - by date, by event, and by who’s in the photo.

When sorting out all the pictures on your phone and computer, pick those you feel are especially important, name the file, then create folders for them. Make at least two copies - one for your computer or laptop and make another on a DVD, portable hard drive, or on the cloud – better safe than sorry.

With the nights drawing in, use the darker evenings to sort out both those modern and vintage photos. Not only will you feel a sense of satisfaction at clearing out cupboards, you’ll also find it’s a great way to spark memories and conversations with friends and family– and your life story book!


If you're ready to write your book but don't know where to start, contact Memory Lane Books and we'll take you through the process from start to finish! 


07799 764414