When you're living under the weight of depression, it's easy to get stuck in a cycle of negative emotions. But new research shows that a specific way of recalling happy memories could help boost your moods. A British study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science found that people who recalled positive memories using a "method of loci" strategy — a strategy that involves associating memories with physical objects or locations — could remember more of their memories over time than people who simply grouped them by similarities. Even if you don't use this method to recall memories, simply thinking back to good times can help lift your mood. Here are a few ways to recall the good times in your life.
2 / 9 Haul Out the Photo Albums
Everyone has them — albums or shoe boxes full of photographs from years past. Opening up these caches and shuffling through the photos can be an effective mood-booster when you're battling depression. Looking at old photos and appreciating things in your past could generate positive thoughts and emotions, said Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and founder and executive director of the Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia.
3 / 9 Write It DownCommitting good memories to paper can help them become more concrete and also serve as a way to preserve those details you may forget later, Deibler said. So grab a notebook and pen and start writing about something fun you've done. You might even buy a special journal just to help with this approach to conquering major depressive disorder — and soon find yourself with a smile on your face as you think back on these special experiences.
4 / 9 Look at KeepsakesDo you still have your corsage from senior prom? A ticket stub from a movie you enjoyed seeing years ago? Sifting through these mementos can also be a way of remembering special times and providing a respite from major depressive disorder. Make the time to hunt through your attic for that old box of treasure and see what's inside. You could find a memento that you forgot you had. (You knew you were saving that stuff for something, right?)
5 / 9 Connect With People From Your PastA great way to relive happy memories is by talking with the people who helped make them with you. "People with depression can be very isolated," Deibler said. "Just connecting with others is very helpful — telling stories about things in the past, reminiscing about meaningful events in your lives. It can help you to feel good about what's happened." So, call up that old college roommate or high school friend for a brunch or lunch date — you'll probably leave with a smile on your face.
6 / 9 Go to Your Happy Place
Visualizing a time when you felt happy and secure can be a good way to deal with emotionally difficult moments, said Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, a psychotherapist and dating coach in McLean, Va., who uses this strategy with some of her clients. "Often what they choose is an experience in which they were truly and completely in the moment, without the concerns and distractions that get in the way of peacefulness," Coleman says. Then, during times of distress in your journey with a major depressive disorder, the happy place can be recalled using meditation techniques. Coleman likens it to "bottling up a happy moment and saving it for those rainy days ahead."
7 / 9 Put Your Memories on Display
Why keep mementos from your past stuffed in a drawer? Displaying photos and keepsakes around your house can help trigger happy memories more frequently because you'll see the items more often during the course of your day, said Carole Lieberman, MD, a psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, Calif. Take a few minutes to put those pictures into frames and hang them on your wall. Not only will you add interest to your décor, you'll add a potential mood-booster to lessen your depression.
8 / 9 Remember …With CautionNot everyone reacts to memories the same way, and for some, remembering can actually cause a further slip into depression. "Some people can become sad and reminiscent of things that are no longer in their lives," Deibler said. "That's not helpful, obviously." If you find that recalling things from your past brings you down rather than lifts you up, you'll need to try a different tactic for a major depressive disorder.
9 / 9 Keep Working With Your Mental Health ProfessionalWhen you're experiencing symptoms of a major depressive disorder — like persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and loss of interest in normal activities — recalling good memories isn't an adequate treatment on its own. But as you work with your psychotherapist or other mental health professional, he can help you channel these memories in a way that reinforces your therapy and depression medications to help you feel better.