Our Thoughts Affect Our Feelings

In my book, The Founder of our Peace, I describe how researchers did an experiment in which 134 people put their hands into icy cold water, inducing a heightened level of stress. Prior to plunging their hands into the water, half of the study participants thought of neutral memories, while the other half thought of positive memories. The researchers found that those who thought of happy memories were much calmer than those who did not, and their stress levels were significantly lower. Summarizing their results, the researchers stated, “We can use something we already do naturally—recalling the positive past—to buffer the detrimental effects of acute stress in the present moment.”

In this study, researchers had participants merely think about positive memories. Through the miracles of technology, we can take this to the next level by looking at positive memories—something akin to mental time travel. Try this approach: select your favorite twenty, fifty, or a hundred photos—ones that evoke happy memories–and put them in a special folder on your phone or computer. My “happiest photos” folder includes baptizing a child, enjoying a reunion with dear friends from my freshman ward at BYU, playing in the leaves on a fall day, performing with my family in the Nauvoo Pageant, and snowboarding with Lani. Looking at these pictures invokes positive memories and triggers a response of gratitude for the happy experiences I have had. Recalling our positive past leads to both lower stress and greater peace.

We see this same lesson in Mosiah 25. Watch this video and you’ll see some of my favorite pictures!