Using the Past to Enhance the Present: Boosting Happiness Through Positive Reminiscence

Abstract

Two studies explored relations between positive reminiscing and emotional experience – a survey of naturally occurring reminiscence (Study 1) and a field experiment testing the affective consequences of two styles of reminiscing (Study 2). In Study 1, frequency of positive reminiscing predicted perceived ability to enjoy life, and students who reminisced using cognitive imagery reported a greater ability to savor positive events than those who reminisced using memorabilia. In Study 2, students were randomly assigned either to reminisce about pleasant memories using cognitive imagery, reminisce about pleasant memories using memorabilia, or think about current concerns (control condition) for 10 min twice daily for a week. Both reminiscence groups reported greater increases in the percent of time they felt happy over the past week than the control group; and happiness increased more in the cognitive imagery group than in the memorabilia group.

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Correspondence to Fred B. Bryant.

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Bryant, F.B., Smart, C.M. & King, S.P. Using the Past to Enhance the Present: Boosting Happiness Through Positive Reminiscence. J Happiness Stud 6, 227–260 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-005-3889-4

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Key words

  • cognitive imagery
  • happiness
  • memorabilia
  • positive affect
  • reminiscence