Day 15 – Social/Emotional
Throwback Thursday. I confess that I really had no idea what this term meant until about a month ago. I’d seen it posted behind a hashtag all over social media but quickly dismissed it due to my lack of understanding. Only recently did I learn that this weekly trend encourages social media users to look back and share a fond memory, usually in the form of a picture, from their past.
Let me just say that I’m not a super savvy trend follower on social media sites (clearly). In fact, I occasionally revolt and refuse to participate just out of spite directed at really no one in particular. I only recently caved and joined Instagram solely because my father mentioned in passing the inspirational quotes he continued to see on my friend’s “feed” (I figured that was a pretty clear sign that it was time). Due to this distaste for peer pressure compliance, I had inwardly vowed never to participate in this “silly” social media movement.
The reason I tell you this is because I, Megan Mansfield, am about to not only participate but dedicate an entire post to Throwback Thursday. Why? What does this have to do with health and wellness, you ask. If you’ll allow me to stray from my typical scientific-based review of daily topics and instead share a personal story, I’ll explain.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a specialist’s office waiting for what felt like an eternity for the doctor to grace me with her presence. This day’s wait seemed particularly lengthy because I was waiting to receive results regarding a potentially serious health condition. As I sat propped up on a paper-covered table clothed in my ever-so-fashionable hospital gown, I felt my thoughts slip from the land of the rational to the depths of negativity. I imagined the doctor speaking the words of the worst possible scenario. It might as well have happened, for as soon as the imaginary-movie within my mind ended, my anxiety meter spiked to epic proportions. Before I knew it, I was feeling near tears.
Dramatic? Perhaps. But the good news is I’d rather lose my pinky toe than cry in public (okay, that was dramatic). Moisture creeping at the corner of my eyes was my check back to reality. I knew I needed to reel it in.
I leaned back and started trying “positive thinking”. Have you ever tried that in the midst of a crisis or cruddy day? As humans, the portal from positivity to negativity is often easy to go through but difficult to return.
Suddenly, for no reason in particular, I started thinking about my family and a vacation we took over 18 years ago. My 3 siblings and I were spending the evening at the hotel while my parent’s enjoyed a much deserved dinner out. We took this parental freedom and played games, goofed off and at one point, I may or may not have been deceived into thinking I had ESP. This sudden flood of favorable times brought such a warmth into my heart and started an avalanche of childhood memories. I remembered the times we played “tester-choice” in the kitchen to see who could create the most delicious treat. Falling asleep to my mother’s stories of her gator-catching Grandaddy infiltrated my consciousness. Lazy days spent drawing upside faces on our chins and then hanging off the back of our blue sofa to record nonsensical conversations between bald-headed faces played across my memory.
Suddenly, I felt the corners or my mouth tweak into a smirk. I might as well have been plucked straight from the physician’s office and been planted firmly in the pleasurable days of my delightful childhood.
What I realized was remarkable. Memories had controlled my mood. This was not a contrived exercise where I tallied off terrifically “positive” things while sitting in a sterile office but genuine joy that sprung forth through a small moment spent reveling in charming recollections. I’d never attempted, or even known, the power of such a simple act.
This is not a new idea— using positive memories to control mood. Memory is a powerful thing and is constantly being studied to better understand its influence on human action. A study completed in 2007 by Gillihan, Kessler and Farah showed a positive correlation in over 300 men and women between memory recall and effective mood regulation. There was also a correlation between negative memory recall and mood worsening— so keep it upbeat cause this is a two-way street.
Interestingly, this memory-mood connection also works in the inverse. When our mood is elevated and focused on positive thoughts, neurons are activated that actually improve your ability to remember (source). This means if you’re studying for an exam or preparing for a presentation, thinking cheery thoughts while you’re working channels improved memory recall, resulting in improved performance.
It was an accidental but influential “Eureka!” moment I stumbled upon that day in the doctor’s office. The truth of it was rooted in research but its significance to me went much deeper. As a woman, or more accurately as a human being, I often feel my emotions are running me as opposed to the opposite. To have gained such exact and immediate control on the brink of breakdown went beyond exciting— it was empowering.
So here I sit, tasting the tartness of every letter I type. Eating my words is beginning to be a staple diet for me it seems. Yet, I’m willing to sacrifice a little ego in exchange for the merit I see in a social media movement as it connects to my experience that day. Perhaps there is something powerful in something that appeared silly. Call it what you may, but today, enjoy the essence of a little Throwback Thursday.
Today’s challenge is simple. Participate in your own personal version of Throwback Thursday by remembering a time, event or moment in your life that elicits nothing but pure pleasure. Let these thoughts permeate your mind and mood… they have the power, I promise. Don’t hoard this happiness either. Share your restorative rememberances via picture or post on social media.
I’d love to share in all your cheery recollections so don’t forget to hashtag #MyWholeFoodHabit and #Loveumentary or share on My Whole Food Habit’s Facebook page.
In a show of good faith, I will share my own Throwback Thursday moment— a commemoration of the original memory that brought a smile to my face during a dark moment in a doctor’s office all those days ago.
P.S. I highly recommend you go out and redo, reimagine or recreate your memory to really leave a happy imprint in your heart. This was just as fun to replicate with my hubby now as it was to remember doing all those many years ago as a child.