A new U.K. study highlights the effectiveness of using positive memories and images to cultivate positive emotions.
The study is based on the theory that savoring positive memories can generate positive emotions.
Conceptually, increasing positive emotion can have a range of benefits including reducing attention to and experiences of threat.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool investigated individuals’ emotional reactions to a guided mental imagery task focusing on positive social memory called the “social Broad Minded Affective Coping (BMAC)” technique.
Dr. Peter Taylor from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society said BMAC is an intervention that aims to elicit positive affect or emotion through the use of mental imagery of a positive memory.
The study aimed to investigate individuals’ emotional reactions to the mental imagery of a positive social memory.
Researchers also wanted to examine possible predictors of individuals’ responses to this intervention. It was expected that the results would help to indicate when the social BMAC may be used most effectively in clinical settings.
For the study 123 participants, recruited online, completed self-report measures of self-attacking (thinking mean, diminishing, insulting, and shaming thoughts about oneself), social safeness (feelings of warmth and connectedness), and pleasure.
Participants were then asked to recall a recent positive memory of being with another person and to complete the social BMAC prompt sheet.
Following this, they were provided auditory instructions to guide them through an initial relaxation exercise and the social BMAC. The aim of the relaxation exercise was to focus individuals’ attention to themselves and the present moment.
The social BMAC intervention guided the person through a positive social memory. Participants were encouraged to engage all the senses, think about the meaning of the memory to them, savor the positive feelings they experienced, and consider the positive feelings in the mind of another before reflecting upon the feelings they experience as well as what this means to them. It then asks the person to enjoy that feeling.
Participants completed state measures of positive and negative affect and social safeness/pleasure before and after the intervention.
The exercise was especially successful for improving social safeness. Specifically, the study found that that safe/warm positive affect, relaxed positive affect and feelings of social safeness increased following the social BMAC, while negative affect decreased.
“The results provide preliminary support for the effectiveness of the social BMAC in activating specific types of emotion,” said Taylor.
The study is published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.