Turning to and replaying happy memories is a tactic I’ve been using for some time for supporting myself during more turbulent times.

Our thoughts create neurochemicals that inform the body and turn on or off various processes. Negative thoughts help to create stress hormones which then have an impact on our endocrine, immune, digestive, and even our reproductive systems. When our sympathetic nervous system, or fight/flight response, is activated, the body prioritizes more vital functions such as our heart, lungs, and senses. This is why, when stressed, we can experience a higher heart rate, a quicker breath, or have dilated pupils or sensitivity to light, sound, smell, or touch. Our body is in a state where it is on alert and ready to fight or flee from danger.

When we spend too much time in this state or get stuck in it, we can experience symptoms that impact the systems the body is no longer prioritizing, and we can become fatigued by the amount of energy our body is exerting internally.

Of course, there are situations that warrant this level of protection, but sometimes our body can inadvertently be activated in this state emotionally (and chemically through those emotions) by our thoughts.

Today, after learning my grandmother passed away, I felt myself being pulled in that direction—the pit in my stomach and the rawness in my chest. My body needs to move through the process of grief and feel all it needs in order to do so, but my mind can be a supportive component to this process. Rather than going into levels of guilt that would add more pain to an already tough time, I chose to pick through photos of happier times and sink into those feelings.

We cannot control much of what happens in the world or in life, but we are empowered to choose our perspective and how we experience and process the world, including all that it brings to our life. If you are pulled in a direction where your inner thoughts or experiences are adding more to what you are trying to manage outwardly, flip the script. Nurture yourself with whatever thoughts or feelings would be of most benefit, even if that means turning to a memory to bring about that relief in the present.

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