Happiness 101

The Power of Positive Memories

Have you ever lost yourself in a good memory for a while? Maybe you reflected on a wonderful vacation you had with loved ones. Aside from giving you a feel-good moment, did you know that memories, especially positive memories, are powerful in other ways too? And now, research is backing that up.


How We’re Wired

As human beings, we evolved to recall situations that cause us pain so we can avoid it or make plans to deal with it before it happens. It’s an ancient early-warning system of sorts. While this served us well when most of the animal world was trying to eat us, it can work against us in the modern world. That means our desire to remember the positive aspects of our lives isn’t as easily triggered as remembering the painful aspects. However, new research shows that positive memories allow you to access deep personal resources that can inform your choices and experiences and contribute to better mental health.

Science Agrees: Positive Memories Can Heal

Of the numerous studies on positivity, one particular study published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, showed impressive results. Using a technique called Social Broad Minded Affective Copying (BMAC), test subjects who were diagnosed as having suicidal thoughts were simply asked to recall a recent positive memory of being with another person. As they did this, their brain waves and vitals were monitored. The results showed that when a test subject was engaged in remembering a positive memory or experience that involved another person, all the areas of the brain involved in creating feelings of self-worth were activated. The person re-experienced the event as if it were happening again and received the same benefits and feelings of positivity as the first experience. This opens up epic possibilities for creating a wonderful reality for ourselves with the proper tools.

Positive Experiences build Positive Memories

It is now emerging from several seminal studies that human beings can consciously alter their own brain. The more you practice positive emotions and positive memories, the more your brain will change to accommodate this new normal. It’s a type of activation, and like lifting weights to build muscle, having positive emotions and positive memories upon which to call, build strong mental health. The sciencey word for this is experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Boiled down to its simplest definition, it is your brain’s ability over time to quickly access positive emotions by accessing positive memories and to remain in that state. This is a powerful tool to have at your fingertips, often at the price of only recalling something wonderful. You can literally shift that negative filter we inherited as primitive humans (our default mode) and deliberately shift it to a positive filter.

How Can it Work?

Simply recalling good memories sounds rather farfetched, but the truth is ,when you are stressed out, your brain shuts down your cognitive emotion regulation. This cycle, or downward spiral, can literally be interrupted by a positive memory, which thus frees up your brain to actively handle what is going on in a positive way. A 2019 study from England discovered that patients diagnosed with clinical depression had the inability, or a blocked ability, to recall positive memories. In fact, their cortisol levels were at the bottom. This led scientists at Boston University to do their own long-term study. Their research suggests that the key to treating certain mental health disorders may very well lie in the retraining of the mind; to allow positive memories to leave a stronger footprint on the brain than negative ones.

Choose Your Mental Real Estate

This same study out of Boston University discovered that positive and negative memories are stored in completely different places in your brain. The ramifications could be huge after further research is conducted. Consider that there could be a treatment that, coupled with retraining of the brain, could completely reverse such disorders as depression or PTSD. That’s huge. That’s powerful.

How Do You Use this in the Real World?

There are quite a few ways you can apply this to your everyday life. And many of them are pleasurable to do, take almost no time, and can have a massive impact on the quality of your life. Here is a list of a few things you can do to help switch off the negative filter and create a new positive one.

  • Keep a picture on your work desk of a favorite vacation spot. In times of stress, simply lose yourself in that moment once again.
  • Create a list of your top 10 most favorite memories (like a top 10 playlist). Spend time each morning flooding your brain with feel-good hormones, and then go take on your day.
  • Keep a picture of your loved ones where you can see them often. Recall the situation that prompted the photo, what this person wearing, and engage all of your senses in that one moment.
  • Find mementos that represent something positive and make an appointment to touch them once a week, recalling why it is special to you.
  • Keep a gratitude journal (literally counting your blessings boosts positive emotions).
  • Practice self-care by spending some time alone, maybe with a good book, a lovely scented candle, and a wonderful fluffy blanket.
Visit Our Facebook PageVisit Our Facebook PageVisit Our Facebook PageVisit Our Facebook Page