The latest study, published in Nature Human Behavior, has found that remembering positive memories and experiences can help reduce the risk of depression in young people who have had a difficult childhood.
Remembering the good times could be an important weapon to avoid serious mental health problems in adulthood and adolescence.
Researchers found that mental health disorders which first occur in teenage years are severe. And they are more likely to reappear in later life. Training teenagers to use positive thoughts to control their emotions was found to decrease stress hormones. It can also improve self-image over the long-term.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is now the leading cause of disability, affecting more than 300 million people worldwide.
The disorder often first arises in adolescence. This is a critical developmental time period during which an individual experiences considerable changes in brain structure and chemistry. Exposure to early life stress is a known risk factor of depression.
Depression often arises during the adolescent. Various mental health complications in later life are related to adverse experiences in early life. Like being bullied, poverty, parents having mental health difficulties, neglect and abuse.
Mental illness is more severe and less responsive to treatment, so it is important that we have a better understanding of how we can decrease vulnerability before depression occurs.
What does this study tell?
Memories are critical to our sense of self, decision-making and mental health. People spend much of their waking time pondering about past experiences and planning the future.
Some have proposed that this continuous mind-wandering makes us doomed. But pondering about joyful events may increase positive feelings and reduce the stress hormone release after any stressful incident.
Researchers of the study wanted to know whether recalling positive events could protect against stress. To comprehend this, they collected measures of stress hormones, mood, and negative thoughts. They collected all this data from 427 14-year-old teenagers who were at risk for depression due to hardship experienced during childhood.
This research was conducted at the University of Cambridge. Researchers of the study exposed that those who recollected more definite positive memories (like a happy 13th birthday), had less negative feelings about themselves.
They found that these individuals when entering the study had lesser levels of the stress hormones cortisol one year later. This may propose that training youngsters recall definite positive memories could decrease the risk of depression.
Interestingly, remembering positive and encouraging memories lowered negative views and depressing symptoms in those who practiced at least one worrying event during a year of study. But in those who had not experienced such negative events, recalling positive events did not affect depression and negative thoughts.
These findings propose that recalling specific positive memories may promote mental health especially in teenagers at risk of depression. Remembering positive events after any bad incident may protect against undesirable thoughts. This may lead to fewer depressive symptoms.
Expectations and possibilities of these results
These research findings could help introduce methods for preventing depression in teenagers. It also provides techniques for improving treatment.
One possibility is that training teenagers with a childhood history of hardship in reminding positive memories may help figure resilience and prevent mental disorder in them.
One popular practice which could aid with increasing access to positive recollections is keeping a journal. It serves as a way to preserve those details you may forget later. Though it needs to be studied further, it may be useful to write down both positive and negative events which have occurred. It would indicate how they affected your mood and thoughts.
But, this may not be an operative method for people struggling with clinical levels of despair. In such cases, these findings may be applied in well-known treatments, to possibly improve their effects.
People who are suffering from clinical depression may struggle with recalling specific positive events. For these individuals, training positive memory remembrance may work best when it is combined with established treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT involves the training of patients in using different techniques to challenge negative feelings. This study proposes that being able to recall positive events from the past may aid disconfirm negative thoughts.
Further study should investigate whether this ability to recall specific positive events could be trained and whether this would boost therapy results in vulnerable youth.