Did you know that having the blues or being depressed affects how you retrieve memories? When things move along normally for you, negative experiences and their associated emotions fade away quickly compared to happy ones.
Not so when you are depressed, particularly if you’ve struggled with depression for over 2 years. The longer you suffer from depression, the more vividly you’ll recall negative experiences and dark feelings. Happy times fade quickly when you are depressed.
I have tested this research in my office with clients. Often I ask chronically depressed clients about their last joyful memory. To see their genuine struggle in answering this question is painful for me. They try very hard, but have great difficulty in recalling positive experiences and the connected feelings of happiness. A few are successful to a degree. Those few may make comments like this one…
“Well Dave, I can tell you about a time I ‘should’ have felt joy, but I did not…” Many times this is as good as it gets when I ask this question. Many more times clients argue that they have had no positive experiences to feel joyful about at all!
Is that amazing to you? It is to me! The power of depression to infiltrate the mind and close a person off from recording positive experiences and/or the accompanying happy feelings is terrifying.
Is it true that people, even those suffering from chronic depression, have no positive experiences in their lives? Of course not, but it FEELS that way.
Obviously feelings are not always facts then when it comes to being depressed.
How to Be Happy
How do I correct this in depressed folks? I was hoping you’d ask (wink). I use a process I’ve created called, ** Re-Memory-ing **
It involves mining the memory, both current and past, for golden memory-nuggets. And it works like a charm.
Here’s how it goes:
You’ll first reach backwards into the past and pull a positive memory into the present. Sometimes we have to go back years. You are invited to visualize being exactly back in that wonderful moment in time. Usually this works best with your eyes closed.
Questions I might ask during this process:
- Who’s with you?
- Are there any smells?
- What is the temperature?
- What are the colors in this place?
- What is going on around you?
- How are you feeling emotionally?
The result is a VIVID re-memory-ing of a joyful event from the past. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is!
Then I have you identify the primary place in your body where you experienced those wonderful feelings. You will generally identify the center chest area, but not always. Next, I ask you to put your hand over this area and say:
“This is where I store my joyful feelings from pleasant experiences.”
Repeat this three times.
You may have figured out from what I’ve already shared that you naturally store memory in a variety of ways, one being physical. And you do this without even knowing it. All I do is help you realize this and consciously anchor the spot on your body that holds feelings of happiness and joy.
There are a variety of fantastic ways to utilize this exercise once you re-memory and anchor a pleasant past memory.
Just a few incredible ways to put your anchor into action:
- Visit your anchor many times per day
- Use it while thinking about an upcoming event
- Start a journal and write 5 gratitudes daily
- Begin your day on the right foot
Once you anchor a positive experience and ‘visit it frequently’ it will become easy to slip back into a completely vivid recollection of this memory. Revisit by simply closing your eyes for a few seconds, placing your hand over your physical anchor spot and allow the memory to collect in intensity over a few seconds.
Visit your anchor right before thinking about an upcoming event. Then, with your hand still on your anchor spot say:
“I am placing my intention for this event INTO my joyful anchor place.”
Repeat this three times.
Now, visualize the upcoming event, feeling the joyful feelings from your anchor place. Use your imagination to make the intensity as strong as you can.
There, now you’re Re-Memory-ing how to be happy!
Dave Turo-Shields, ACSW, LCSW is an author, university faculty member, success coach and veteran psychotherapist whose passion is guiding others to their own success in life. For weekly doses of the webs HOTTEST success tips, sign up for Dave’s powerful “Feeling Great!” ezine at http://www.Overcoming-Depression.com