Why is everything beautiful in the memory

Anyone who is usually in a cheerful mood and is able to reinterpret moderate situations for a small celebration of everyday life will probably not get a depression so quickly. There is simply less room for depression because the perception is so positive. Although this connection is obvious, it could be used more often and better in everyday life and therapeutically. This is the result of a team of psychiatrists led by Anne-Laura van Harmelen from the British universities of Cambridge and London.

In the trade magazine Nature Human Behavior the English scientists describe how they brought more than 400 adolescents with a tendency to depression to keep coming back to pleasant memories. The participants, who were on average 14 years old, should not just think of something beautiful in their conversations with the researchers, but rather look in their memory for experiences and moments that were associated with certain terms that the psychiatrists gave them. In this way, people can remember positive experiences in a more targeted manner.

In the course of the following twelve months, the young people were observed further and a year later the conversations and interviews were finally repeated in a similar form. It was found that the adolescents subjectively showed fewer signs of depression and rated themselves less negatively and disparagingly if they repeatedly remembered pleasant things during the one-year trial phase.

Low self-esteem and devaluing thoughts are more common in people who are prone to depression. In addition, the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva was lower in those adolescents who were able to remember pleasant moments more often. Morbid depression, on the other hand, is associated with increased cortisol levels.

Depressed people often find it difficult to indulge in comfortable nostalgia

"Remembering 'good times' apparently makes young people more resilient to stress and less sensitive to depression," says Adrian Dahl Askelund, who led the study. "That is an important point, because people can be taught to think about positive experiences in a targeted manner. This can support them and possibly counteract depression." Incidentally, healthy people use this technique more often - when they are in a bad mood, they consciously bring back fond memories. Depressed people, on the other hand, have difficulty thinking about pleasant moments, as recent research has shown.

In some cases, the first signs of depression appear during puberty. "Mental disorders that already occur in young adults are usually more severe and are associated with a greater likelihood of a later relapse," says Anne-Laura van Harmelen. "It is therefore important to find ways to strengthen psychological resilience, especially in those who are at a particularly high risk of depression." True, it is not advisable to just live in a beautifully colored past and see everything pinkish-red. The English psychiatrists suspect, however, that reactivating pleasant memories in a targeted manner and encouraging those affected to do so on their own could help prevent a number of depressive episodes.