Do you feel frustrated when your brain focuses on the negative aspects of past events or experiences? The tendency for this happening can be quite often depending on the chemistry of your brain. The good news is that there is a way to reverse your brain processes.
Since your brain tends to look for reoccurring patterns (healthy or unhealthy), it is important to take initiative towards presenting positive memories. You are probably thinking, “what does that mean and how do I do it?” Think about times in your life when you’ve taken the time to reflect on photos that bring you a smile or even to laughter. Can you think of specific type of photos you enjoy looking at? How do you feel while looking at them? Recently, I was looking at my Google photos on my phone and reflected on many that brought me joy and pleasant emotions. Photos related to times spent in nature (hiking, bouldering, and swimming) reminds me of my connection to God’s creation and friendship bonds. Just looking at these types of photos encourages me to continue making weekend plans to go out and enjoy nature (beach, mountains, hiking trails, etc). Another set of photos I enjoy looking at are when I have traveled with family and friends. It brings up positive memories that were created and helps me look forward to making new positive memories.
If you find yourself going through a downward spiral focusing on the negatives in your life, looking at photos may help you move towards an upward spiral. Think about other ways to focus on positive memories from your past. Do you have home videos that you can reflect on and enjoy after a long day at work? What about sharing some positive memories with your family members during dinner? Are there family traditions that you have enjoyed and look forward to?
The important part of these exercises is to do them often, especially when you are feeling “sad” or “depressed”. After engaging and reflecting on positive memories, you will soon begin to focus on positive memories in your life and be able to pick them out easily. During depressive episodes, it may be more challenging. Therefore, a helpful hint is to just reflect on one positive memory each day until you begin to feel better. Share these positive memories in your counseling session or with someone you feel is genuinely interested in listening to you.
Another important piece to moving towards an upward spiral is to avoid being around others that share their negative perspectives. Make it a point to surround yourself around others that focus on positive memories.