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A general sunny outlook might improve how you remember the past


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Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

Memory is an imperfect, highly impressionable thing affected by all sorts of variables: Anxiety can create fogginess and impede your ability to recollect moments of your life, and nostalgia can act as rose-tinted glasses when you look back on the past (which is important to remember when re-examining long-dead romantic relationships). Adding to the list of things that make memory malleable is a new study that found evidence that your mind-set before a life event can actually affect how you remember it.

In the (very complex) study, published in Psychological Scienceresearchers shared 12 random scenarios with 27 people. The participants were asked to imagine the situation either going well or going badly (their choice!) and then describe it aloud for three minutes. After 15 minutes, the participants were given narratives of how the events turned out one year later, with a mixture of good, bad, and neutral outcomes and details. Two days later, the participants were given 12 positive and negative details about the hypothetical event and were asked to indicate which had appeared in the earlier narratives.

The participants who had imagined the scenario going well were more likely to misattribute positive details to the event than those who had pictured it going badly were. However, people who had foreseen the event going badly did not falsely attribute details to the case.

“Healthy adults tend to have an unrealistically favorable outlook, and our studies suggest that one potential benefit of this optimism might be that we remember events in a more positive way, which could contribute to general well-being.” —study co-author Dr. Aleea Devitt

“Research has shown that healthy adults tend to have an unrealistically favorable outlook, and our studies suggest that one potential benefit of this optimism might be that we remember events in a more positive way, which could contribute to general well-being,” study co-author Aleea Devitt, PhD, says in a press release.

Although the results of this study can’t be taken at face value—it only focused on 27 people, and the methods seem confusing if not unwieldy—it’s not the only research suggesting that happy thoughts lead to better health. So there might just be a reason to wear your rose-tinted glasses daily.

If you need to improve your memory, try snacking on some dark chocolate or taking more breaks

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