Mental vitamins

Metaphorical ‘vitamins’ for each of your senses can influence how your mind stores, codes and recalls information. A lack of positive ‘vitamins’ can affect your sense of mental wellbeing. For example, sometimes you visually remember the experience in glorious technicolour. Sometimes, the memory may be fuzzy, a bit black and white or vague. Some memories may have music attached or a particular smell which helps you recall.

When you play through a memory, your conscious mind can actually tweak these different types of information – changing the colour, focus or distance of the visual image (something technically called ‘sub modalities’). When you do this, your remembered experience changes, as can your emotional attachment to that memory. Which can be quite handy. Sometimes, we might want to relive a great experience and connect it closely to our sense of who we are – our confident, successful, compassionate self. Sometimes, we might want to forget a memory of a time when things were uncomfortable or a bit meh.  So how can we tweak these memories to keep mentally healthy and in peak mental performance?

Well, the best place to start is to spend some time reflecting on a few recent memories and having a play. You can explore different experiences. For some memories that you want to strengthen, you could try to tune up – like adding a ‘vitamin’ pill to the memory. The exercise below is designed to help you start thinking about how this all works.

Exercise: Add a ‘vitamin pill’ to a memory

  1. Think of an experience you have had in the last week.  Try to pick something simple like a meal or meeting a friend – avoid anything that is emotional for you for this exercise. Close your eyes and try to remember as much of this experience as you can visually. Now, go through the list below and notice how your visual memory of that event is stored.  Some points in the list may not seem relevant for this particular memory.  
  2. Then, do it again for several other memories and notice any differences in the visual processing.
  3. With your favourite of these memories, try tweaking the visual memory to make it stronger by increasing some of the options listed on the right in the picture below. For example, mentally move in closer, make it brighter or focus on the key area in the scene. Notice how that makes you feel about this experience.
  4. With your least favourite of the memories, try tweaking the visual memory using the options on the left. For example, step out of the scene and stand a distance away from the action, make it black and white or place the scene in a picture frame. Notice how that makes you feel about this experience.
  1. You could do the same with the same memories but the auditory information. Take the same memories or new ones, do a ‘sound check’ using the auditory ‘vitamins’ as outlined in the picture below and then play with the memories. You may find that some points in the list have a big impact whilst others have none. Notice how the changes affect your emotional attachment to each memory.
  1. Try again with any kinaesthetic, olfactory or gustatory information that you may have attached to those memories. Notice how the changes affect your emotional attachment to the memories.