How Happy Memories Can Combat Stress |

How Happy Memories Can Combat Stress

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When it comes to managing stress and anxiety, yoga, meditation and exercise are great at getting the endorphins flowing – but what about the times when you’re tossing and turning in the middle of the night with your tummy in knots? A 3am workout isn’t going to do you any favours when your alarm’s set for 6:30am.

So what’s the solution? New research suggests there’s a simple trick to clear your mind of negative thoughts. In a study published in the journal of Nature Human Behaviour, psychologists found that thinking about past times of happiness and fond memories can actively shut down the body’s stress response.

The study placed two groups of subjects in a series of stressful situations. The first group were told to recall a happy memory, whilst the second were asked to recall something neutral from their past. Not only were the first group found to be in a much happier mood than the second, they also reduced their levels of stress hormone cortisol.

Previous studies have also highlighted the power nostalgia has on the mind. At the University of Southampton, Professor of Social and Personality Psychology, Constantine Sedikides and Senior Researcher Dr Tim Wildschut have built a whole programme of research on how nostalgia can be used as a tool to battle against anxiety and depression.

Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Sedikides revealed that meaningful positive memories, such as song lyrics, can help boost levels of optimism, inspiration and creativity. He theorised that nostalgia is an inbuilt neurological defence mechanism, which actively works to protect us against negative thoughts and situations. It could even help strengthen relationships by increasing empathy and helping you create a more meaningful bond. It couldn’t help to try, right?

Be it a difficult relationship or piling pressure at work causing your stress levels to soar, taking a moment to remember something that once made you smile could divert your mind – giving you a boost when you need it most.


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