…forgive me for quoting Kool and the Gang but can you remember what you were doing on March 11th 2001? How about September 11th 2001? The chances is are you cannot remember anything about March 11th but can remember quite a lot about September 11th, where you were when you heard about the twin towers attacks, who you were with and how you felt. The reason for this is that when emotions are aroused, the brain takes note. It stores as much detail as possible about an emotion-filled event, wiring it for quick recall. That emotion-charged memory can be summoned at a moment’s notice, even after a long time has passed. Far more easily than a memory without any emotion connected to it.
A study included nine young women. First, the women were shown 180 pictures that were evenly divided between pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant images. The women rated how pleasant (or not) they thought the images were. While the women looked at the pictures, the researchers performed brain scans on them. About a year later, the women returned for a follow-up test. They saw the old images again, along with 90 new ones (30 pleasant, 30 neutral, and 30 unpleasant). Brain scans were performed again. As the images appeared, the women pressed a ‘remember’ key indicting they remembered the image and specifically recalled seeing it a year earlier and knowing its details. Or they could press a ‘know’ key meaning the image looked familiar but they couldn’t remember details about it. Lastly, they could say the image was new. The women were better at recognizing the emotional pictures than the neutral ones.
Two brain regions are active during successful retrieval of memory: the amygdala (emotions) and the hippocampus (long term memory). The same areas also successfully encode emotional memories.
Often we have stronger emotions when ‘bad’ things happen to us and we are less likely to celebrate our successes. Watch a golfer and you can see the emotion on their face when they play a bad shot, but when they play a good one, they are often British and are less likely to show positive emotion (perhaps a thoughtful nod!). As a result we are more likely to remember all the times which are less inspiring to us (for example the times we played badly) and are less likely to remember the more positive stuff in our life. If you struggle to get this balance in your life then Cognitive Hypnotherapy can help you identify what you enjoy in life and use them to create a more meaningful life. You may be interested in Project You.
Celebrate you successes you are more likely to remember them and it will give you a more balanced view of your life! So after me: “Celebrate good times, come on!”