How Savoring Memories Can Help Relieve Stress

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            When I was a child in the 80s, I recall people talking about finding their “happy place” when they were experiencing distress.  The “happy place” (as I understood it) refers to a state of mind, often connected to  a point in one’s past where they could recall and relive feelings of peace, safety, inner tranquility, and even joy and happiness.  When in times of stress, it can be very helpful to anchor oneself to a state of mind attached to positive memories as a way to reconnect with this feeling.

  To find a happy place for oneself, one must simply root through memories that evoke these peaceful feelings, fully immerse oneself in those feelings, and let that feeling shape their responses to stressful events today.  As I went through training as a therapist, I would learn that this was an oft-recommended approach that has worked for many, but in the 80s, it was still a new idea, at least to me. 

It seemed a little iffy, but as a child, I instinctively felt that this would be an effective way to feel more positive feelings in a stressful present moment: by borrowing peace from past moments, kind of like following an emotional map to where one wants to be, rather than trying to carve out a path through the stress blindly. 

Research now shows that this can indeed work for stress management.  Studies on visualization, savoring emotions, and reliving positive memories all converge to paint a pretty positive picture.

So how can you use this information to your advantage?  There are several ways.  

Learn To Savor The Moment

Focusing on the happy moments of the present can help you to practice mindfulness as well as to intensify positive feelings and prolong the experiences you have that are fulfilling.  By fully appreciating them when they unfold, you can also more easily recall them when you are in a place of stress, and you can recall how you felt when you were experiencing these moments.

 That makes it more possible to access these feelings of peace when you need that feeling again.

Embrace Your Past

By culling your past experiences, you can uncover more positive memories to relive.  By sharing these memories with others, you can expand on the positive feelings they bring, both for the past and in the current moment.  You can also identify the stressful ones you have, and work on accepting them and letting go of the pain they may hold. 

Visualize a Bright Future

By imagining, in deep detail, what you want in life, you can become more focused in attaining it.  By clearly "seeing" yourself succeed at something, you gain more confidence and mastery.  By imagining yourself, right now, feeling as peaceful, confident, and happy as you've ever been, you can experience those feelings, or at least bring yourself closer to feeling that way right now.  Learn to use your imagination to create the feelings you'd like to have now.  This can be your "happy place."

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