Positive Reminiscence

Happier people don’t dwell on the the tough times. Instead, they reminisce on the positive, using their intensely positive experiences as a sort of databank, accessing good memories when they need a boost. Here’s how.


  • Type: Visualisation / Written
  • Time needed: 20+ Minutes
  • Frequency: Daily for 3 days, then at will.

Short version

Think about a positive experience from your past. Anything from a pure hedonistic pleasure, to a deeply meaningful experience. It could be big or small. Then visualise the experience for 20 minutes, in as much detail as you can. Try to “evoke” the way you felt at that time.


  • Boosted mood


This is pretty similar to the Best Possible Self exercise, except instead of looking forward, you look backwards.

Our memories are full of positive experiences, but it’s quite easy to forget about them, as we get caught up in the toils of today. But these past positive experiences are like a memory bank of pleasant emotions, that we can draw out and experience at any time.

It’s like how, when you catch up with an old friend you always end up reminiscing about the good times. And it makes you happy, right? There’s a certain joy associated with that. Part of that is due to the human element – you’re recreating over a shared experience, so it gives you a sense of connection to another human being. But, part of it, is simply in the reliving itself. So reminiscing also works, even when you don’t have a friend around.

How to do it

1) Pick a positive experience from your past.

Maybe the time you saw Pink Floyd on their arena tour, or when your team won the league.

It can be something that’s more meaningful than pleasurable per se – holding your child for the first time, or the exact moment when you knew you were in love.

It can be a small thing – that time it snowed and you got the day off school. Or it can be a big thing – when you got that job you wanted.

You can also go through your old photos to jog your memory.

2) Visualise it, in as much detail as you can for up to 20 minutes

Try to relive the experience in your mind. Imagine you’re a floating ghost, travelling through time, and you just slot yourself into your old body. Relive the experience from a first-person perspective. To help you do this, you can use the following prompts:

  • How/what did you feel?
  • What did you see?
  • What did you hear?
  • What could you taste?
  • What could you smell?
  • What were you wearing?
  • Who was with you?
  • What happened?

It’s important here not to analyse the experience. Just relive it. Let that experience fill your consciousness, and try to evoke the feelings you felt at that time.

As you practice, you’ll find something that works. Maybe you remember the feeling of the chair you were sitting in that time you had a deep conversation with your spouse. Maybe you remember those four iconic guitar notes from “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” and you just get the chills down your spine once again.

With practice, you get good at this. You find ways to trigger the feelings consistently, and quickly

3) Write down your triggers (optional)

After each session, keep a track of the memory and a few of the triggers that triggered positive feelings most effectively. You might also write down the emotions that were triggered.

After a while, you’ll build up a databank of triggers for different emotions, that you can activate whenever you need.

Need to feel happy? Recall that picnic you went on with your friends. Lacking in motivation? Remember that speech you heard that got you fired up. Need to relax? Maybe use that time you relaxed on a quiet beach, that hot sunny day.

As noted, this last step is optional. Don’t feel you have to be so systematic if you don’t want to. If you prefer, just use whatever positive memory comes to mind, without planning or recording anything.


Do this exercise three days in a row. You can use the same experience or a different one each day. The reason for stopping at three days is that when researchers study these types of exercise, they often use this schedule. But if you want to continue, and you feel like you’re getting some benefit, feel free to carry on. If the exercise starts to feel stale, or like a chore, take a break from it, try something else.