What makes some people happier than others? Research says memory recall.
Memory is the third word of Dr. Diener’s Attention, Interpretation and Memory (AIM) model for a happy approach to life. In this post, you’ll learn how to harness the power of your memory for an even happier life.
Research shows it works.
There is a growing body of research showing how memory biases can actually work in our favor where happiness is concerned.
The way happy people recall memories is one characteristic that separates them from unhappy people.
Researchers found that happy folks were no different from others in the amount of positive and negative events they experienced. Where the upbeat participants differed was in how they recalled events. Happy folks had the tendency to err on the positive side, even treating adversity with humor or mentally emphasizing personal recent progress rather than focusing on problems.
The challenge is that our memories are not as accurate as we might think!
As it turns out, research shows that memory is not an exact match of events, but reconstructs events rather than duplicates them.
The good news is that we can willingly reconstruct them. And it is our reconstruction of memories that can make us happier. Here’s TWO happiness booster methods based on memory.
Memory Recall Mood Booster
Our moods affect our memories and our memories affect our moods.
In a phenomenon called “state-dependent memory,” good moods bring to mind good memories, and bad moods bring to mind unpleasant memories.
Here’s how to use our memories to positively boost our mood.
Spend 10-15 minutes thinking happy thoughts. Accentuate the positive. Mentally relive your successes and triumphs. Recall times when you have felt particularly loved and connected with others. Research shows that, after thinking about happy events for just 12 minutes, people are more focused on past successes, feel better about themselves and have higher expectations about what they can accomplish in the future.
A bit skeptical at first, I tested this out for several weeks. I tried to remember fun moments that made me feel happy. Times when I was a kid, riding my first bike, playing on the beach, laughing with my friends, and meeting my wife. It worked great, got me going in the morning and helped me realize the power of memory recall for positive purposes.
I found that just like research shows how asking ourselves a simple question can give us a happiness upgrade, mentally reliving some successes and good times can boost your mood in no time…in fact, in less than 15 mins!
Interestingly, just as the pendulum can swing towards happiness, it can go the other way if we start thinking about the negative events too. Be aware. This is the best time to reconstruct and recall those mood boosting memories.
“Savoring” – A Happiness Mood Booster
Psychologists have begun studying “savoring,” the process of active enjoyment of the present, and of using active appreciation to enjoy a past success.
What’s the key to effective savoring?
Focused attention. Taking mental snapshots of the good happening now, for future recall.
Happier people have a bank of stored good memories, sort of like a mental photo album of good stuff.
By taking time and spending effort to appreciate the positive, people are able to experience more well-being. This research suggests that positive people have developed the habit of taking a mental snapshot of good moments and successes as they happen.
In short, the more we “savor” moments we have today, the easier it is to access them in the future. And that is how we can harness the power of memory for a happy approach to life!
- Memory is the third word of Dr. Diener’s (AIM) model for a happy approach to life.
- The memory recall mood booster gives us a temporary happy boost by connecting us with past triumphs and moments we felt loved and supported.
- “Savoring” positive moments by paying close attention to the details of good stuff happening now makes it easy to recall them later. “Savoring” bumps up our long-term well-being.