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How to Use Positive Memories to Boost Your Mental Health

Research in the area of positive memories has shown our positive memories have the capacity to reduce anxiety, by reducing the way we react to and experience threatening situations, and can ease the symptoms of depression.

I recently had a trip away to wales for my Birthday.

I always like to book a trip away for my Birthday, It means I fully enjoy my birthday, and create great memories for me to look back on, in later years looking back on those memories gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

In fact this year looking back on my Facebook memories while I was away made me smile, laugh and feel good that my birthdays had been full of wonderful events such as concerts, theatre shows, meals out and hotel stays and it made me feel very lucky that I have been able to enjoy so many wonderful moment with friends and family.

This made me think about the strength of memories.

Anxiety and depression can often be fuelled by a negative outlook on life, worry about the future or looking back on the past with regret and can almost lead to a place where it doesn’t seem possible that life can be good.

Very often bad memories of past events fuel these feelings and can even trigger the anxiety.

Memories can be very strong for us and we can experience the emotions we felt at the time, if those bad memories haunt us all the time then we can feel very low and this can lead to feelings of worthlessness, sadness and even trauma responses.

Our minds often have a tendency to focus on the negative as a protective factor. Our brains are wired to remember the things that bring us pain, this is our highly effective primitive brains warning system that is wired to keep us safe from danger, safe from the bad things in life. So, if we remember and store the bad stuff, we are more prepared if it should happen again. It is a great survival mechanism but not so great for helping us feel good.

Our brains capacity for remembering the positive isn’t as easily triggered as the negative, those of you with anxiety or depression will probably be aware of this.

2 people laughing making happy memories no anxiety
making happy memories

However, we all have good memories stored somewhere and it is just allowing ourselves to bring them to front of mind and experience those good warm feelings which can make us feel good again as we recall them.

Research has found that we can use positive memories to work hard for us, giving us ways to strengthen our positive thoughts and improve our mental health

So, take a moment and recall do you revisit your positive memories or your negative memories more often.

People who recall more happy memories are generally more positive people and those who recall the negative memories are generally more negative people,

It has been suggested that our positive memories have the capacity to reduce anxiety by reducing the way we react to and experience threatening situations and can ease the symptoms of depression.

Savouring a happy memory can help you re-experience the event contained in your memory and actually if you engage all of your senses into the memory it can help to increase feelings of warmth, social safeness, more connection to others and increase calmness in someone whilst reducing negative thoughts.

Research over the last few decades has shown that we have the capacity and ability to change the neural pathways in our brain. Because positive memories activate positive emotions the more you practice recalling happy memories the more your brain will change to accommodate these thoughts and feeling. Its apparently called experience-dependant neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is quite a new science based on the fact that we have the ability to change the neural pathways in our brain and so create a different way of experiencing things.

If you continue recalling happy memories over time it becomes easier for you to access your positive emotions and therefore you engage in more positive experiences in the here and now

We are increasing our positive filter instead of feeding our negative filter

So, start making memories that you can recall and relive and start to deliberately practice positive reminiscing to increase your wellbeing.

Start by enhancing your positive experiences so that you are making those positive experiences into memories.

Become more mindful of the present by telling yourself this is a moment to remember and savour, not only will you enjoy the moment in the here and now much more but you will be enhancing the memory to recall at a later date.

Pay attention to the colours, the sounds and especially your emotions and how you are feeling, if you can savour those it can easier to relive them later.

The stronger your emotional link the easier it is for you to recall it.

alarm clock to set for your memory moment
set your clock for your daily memory moment

Start to put aside some time daily or weekly to look back on the moments you savoured, by creating a routine of reminiscing.

Like all things it becomes a habit and you will find over time you will start to automatically recall positive memories.

I am an avid taker of photographs and photographs can enhance your positive memories all those photos of my past birthdays enabled me to really relive those moments in the here and now and recall all the fun, joy and positive moments I experienced in those past years.

Recalling the people you spent that time with can also enhance the memory the feelings you had towards that person in that moment of happiness can be felt emotionally in the here and now enhancing the feel good factor of the memory.

So why not start taking a memory moment every day.

Here are some ways to facilitate your memory moment

  • In this modern day and age Facebook updates memories every day, so tap into them but really take some time to think about those memories and relive them

  • Look at photos on your phone

  • Maybe you have photo albums you can look back on

  • Make a scrap book and fill it with mementos and photos

  • Do you have a mementos box that you can dip into- mine has birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, letters tickets from concerts, airplane tickets, postcards, seashells, anything that brings back wonderful memories for me?

Laura Knight Dip.Couns MBACP is an expereinced and qualified counsellor and CBT Therapist who runs her own private practice SeeClear Counselling in Poole, Dorset.

She is an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist and specialises in working with anxiety and panic attacks, helping adults move from a place of fear and worry to a place of calm, leading a happier more fulfilled life.

Laura can offer Face to Face, telephone and video counselling.

You can contact Laura by text or phone 07975733029

Or E-mail

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