While we all have both good and bad experiences in our life, the fact is that your memories can play a big role in your stress management. Which memories are you allowing to replay in your mind? Are you focusing on the good memories or the unpleasant ones? While I’m certainly not suggesting that you try to erase your negative memories, you can use the power of positivity to lower your stress when recalling any memory.
Science tells us that our emotions engrave the brain with memories, but our emotions also distort it.
Memory is a three-stage process. The first is the actual experience—the original information. The second is the storage or consolidation of the information over many hours, days, months, and years. The third stage has to do with the retrieval of the memory when you later “relive it.” This retrieval and reliving of memories is susceptible to distortion—and this is the point where you can either increase or reduce your stress level.
Memory and Stress Management
We tend to recall fewer details of pleasant events than we do of troublesome ones. In addition, we tend to retrieve and reconstruct our emotional past in a way that is consistent with our current emotions, and this affects how we recall our experiences and the stress we feel associated with the memory.
Age also is in play as the memories of older adults tend toward being more positive. Older adults appear to manage their emotions better by paying less attention to negative things.
Experts suggest that one way to enhance accuracy in emotional memories, while also damping down their negative overtones, is to put a positive spin on a bad situation—a technique referred to as cognitive reappraisal.
Putting a positive spin on an experience can not only reduce your stress level and aid in stress management, but the practice also can sharpen memory.
Although I have been suggesting for years to focus on positivity, it is only after reading the research that I recently learned this practice also sharpens memory.