memory and depression
One of the many fiendish ways depression perpetuates itself in the sufferer is to make it difficult to remember autobiographical events – ie things that you have done or experienced. This is important because non-depressed people, it seems, can and do call on detailed positive or self-affirming memories to cheer themselves up, using such memories to regulate their mood.
Research suggests that depressed people can benefit from purposefully thinking about happier times, if only they could remember any!
learn to recall helpful memories despite feeling depressed
Help is at hand: it has now been shown that using the “method-of-loci” technique, with a bit of initial effort recalling important memories is fairly easy – even when you are depressed.
The method of loci can be used to memorise anything, but in this context, and according to research by Dalgleish et al from Cambridge University, it goes like this:
- think of 15 positive memories [this is the hard part!] – in as much vivid detail as possible, with sounds, colours, smell etc
- think of a journey you know so well you can imagine it easily in your mind – could be the route to work, or the layout of your house
- assign a different memory to each of 15 points along the journey by imagining an association between the memory and the point – eg picture crossing the winning line at school race day with your staircase watching in the crowd (the more incongruous or bizarre the association the better)
- now you should be able to make that journey in your mind’s eye, recalling each memory point by point
If you do this mind journey often, the memories will automatically come to mind when you make the actual journey. So walking up the stairs at home will remind you of winning that race. And that will have a positive impact on your mood.
try it and see
This looks like a straightforward experiment to try. Mind you, after thinking about it all day I have only managed to come up with one powerfully positive memory. Maybe we need a technique for that part too!
sources and further reading
Williams et al (2007) Autobiographical memory specificity and emotional disorder