As if feeling grumpy wasn’t a drag enough unto itself, scientists have discovered yet another drawback to a negative mood; it can handicap your brain’s ability to record new memories.
What’s more, bad moods can trigger the calling forth of negative experiences from your past, a neuroscientific phenomenon known as ‘mood congruence’.
Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Central Queensland University Talitha Best explains: “Mood and memory share overlapping neural networks and brain regions, so changes in mood can be accompanied by reduced cognitive speed and processes.”
The upside is that the opposite also holds true.
When good vibes flow your brain receives a boost. “This has positive effects on cognitive abilities such as memory, planning, organising and decision making. Encoding information, flexibility and innovative thinking processes are enhanced,” Best says.
3 ways to seed a good mood & strengthen your memory
1. Melt stress with meditation
Stress activates the release of the hormone cortisol, which interferes with neural growth, learning and your physical health.
On the flip-side, researchers argue that meditation can stem brain ‘thinning’. Says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, “This has a big implication for an aging population: use it or lose it – which applies to the brain as well as other aspects of life.”
2. Solidify healthy habits
A consistently nutritious diet is like fertiliser for the brain. “It’s not so much about what or how much, but rather the habitual pattern of fruit, vegetable and nut intake across the mid-life that is related to better brain health in older adulthood,” says Best. “A little over a long time adds up to a lot!”
Steer clear of high-fat and highly refined carbohydrates, too. These foods are linked to brain tissue shrinkage in older adulthood.
3. Make yourself available
Staying socially connected gives your grey matter a boost, says Best, so make time for catch-ups short and long.
“Social connection, interaction and emotional attachment are important for supporting neural connections in regions of the brain related to memory performance.”