Positive memories could be used as a way to help boost mental well-being, new research finds.
Therapists have traditionally focused on addressing negative emotions, as these are most pressing.
However, researchers are now looking at how positive emotions can be used in the therapeutic process to aid healing.
People in the study were asked to focus on positive social memories.
They used mental imagery to explore happy interactions they had experienced.
They did this after completing a relaxation exercise.
This was designed to help them focus on the present moment rather than allowing their thoughts to drift away.
Then, once they had the positive social memory in mind, they were encouraged to savour it.
Participants focused on their own positive feelings from that memory as well as on the positive feelings of the other person.
The results showed that people felt socially safer and more positive and relaxed after the exercise.
At the same time feelings of guilt and fear were reduced.
The study’s authors explain that the technique…
“…aims to bring an individual’s attention to the sensory components and the emotions associated with the positive memory, as well as eliciting, elaborating and processing personal meaning held by the individual that may run counter to more negative beliefs.
Increasing positive emotion can have a range of benefits.
Positive emotions are associated with increased mental wellbeing, better physical health and occupational success and thought to increase access to more psychological resources, broaden potential behavioural options and reduce attention to, and experiences of, threat.”
Dr Peter Taylor, one of the study’s authors, said:
“The results provide preliminary support for the effectiveness of the social BMAC in activating specific types of emotion.
These results suggest that the BMAC has the potential to be a practical and effective method for boosting mood amongst individuals with specific mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice (Holden et al., 2016).