Emotion Memory: Improving memory for positive things
Achieving happiness starts with our brains. We have talked before about how happiness skills are learnable. If happiness skills are learnable, then these skills, just like other skills, rely on the brain. Just like recognizing the color of a flower, or recalling the name of a friend requires the brain to function quickly and efficiently, happiness too requires the brain to function quickly and efficiently.
But the brain is actually quite lazy. The brain’s goal is to use as little energy as possible and still keep us functioning. The way it does this is by learning from our behavior and experiences, and creating networks that make it easier for us to continue doing what we have always done with little additional effort.
The bad news is that when we continually engage in thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors that generate negative emotions, our brains actually get better at generating these negative emotions. And as we get older, the brain becomes more and more resistant to change. In childhood, the brain is still growing at a rapid rate, and these processes are very changeable. But, by the time we reach adulthood, we have to exert far more effort to undo these patterns in the brain.
- In short, if we are sad a lot, it is easier for our brains to be sad.
The good news is that brain is changeable throughout our entire lives. The brain’s ability to change is referred to as neuroplasticity. Just as you might see an older adult starting to go the gym and eat right, repeatedly engaging in happiness activities changes the way the brain functions. The more you practice happiness activities, the easier it is for you brain to generate happiness. Over time, you have to exert less and less effort to increase happiness.
For example, let’s say you learn to play the guitar. You can’t completely stop playing the guitar and expect that you will still be great at it. But, you wont forget everything about playing the guitar. And, the longer you play guitar, the less you have to practice it to still maintain your guitar skills.
Happiness is the same way. So, to be happier, we need to train the brain to more quickly and efficiently generate happiness for us.
Activity: Positive memory
Now it's time to watch a short video.
Do you remember the words you memorized?
Good effort! Now you understand how difficult it is to retain positive information in our minds. Keep practicing and fill your mind up with positive memories!