Emotional well-being is vital for our daily endeavors and our overall health. Many researchers have investigated the effects of past memories on emotional wellness. Although the findings differ, the majority of the studies agree that our present emotional well-being is a product of our past experiences. Memories of the past have enduring effects and determine our emotional well-being. Even if people may not remember much about their past, the fewer details they remember have a remarkable impact on their present.
Childhood and adolescence are critical development stages that shape brain growth. It is in these stages that most brain cells grow and rapidly mature. Experiences during these stages, good or bad, have a huge implication on emotional control and social interactions (Tov, 2012). More importantly, adolescence is considered a sensitive stage of development, with high developmental risks and opportunities. Any traumatizing experience that was faced during these stages is likely to have negative implications on a person’s present emotional well-being. For example, sexual abuse has been found to affect emotional development even during adulthood. Victims of sexual abuse have a problem with expressing their feelings and controlling their emotions. Thus, someone who has memories of abuse in the past may find it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship today.
More importantly, good memories of the past have a positive effect on our emotional well-being and overall health. There is a positive relationship between good memories and emotional wellness in young adults, including healthy relationships, lower drug abuse, and fewer health problems (Tov, 2012). Similarly, people who have loving memories of childhood, especially their relationship with their parents, are likely to have better health and fewer mental disorders as they grow older. Remembering high levels of affection from parents in early childhood always triggers positive emotions and leads to better physical health and few cases of depression today.
The digital age and the emergence of social media platforms such as Facebook improve memories of our past experiences. Log on to Facebook today, and the platform will pop up what you posted one year, two years, or even ten years ago. On one side, being able to go back in time is interesting. At the same time, it triggers mixed feelings about the past. Digital memories evoke reflective nostalgia and lead to high production of dopamine if the memories are good, but can also lead to feelings of disappointment if the memories are grim (Philippe et al., 200-9). In the case of an old relationship, digital memories elicit a feeling of sadness and leave someone longing for something. Part of the reason why psychologists advise young people to limit their time on social media platforms is to avoid being triggered by these digital memories. Thus, digital memories can cause happiness, sadness, or even trauma, but can have little effect when people take appropriate precautions.
Overall, memories of the past can cause us to be happy or sad, thus affecting our emotional well-being today. Whether it is childhood, adolescence, or digital memories, they determine our emotional states and our ability to cope up with difficult situations today.
Philippe, F. L., Lecours, S., & Beaulieu‐Pelletier, G. (2009). Resilience and positive emotions: Examining the role of emotional memories. Journal of personality, 77(1), 139-176.
Tov, W. (2012). Daily experiences and well-being: Do memories of events matter? Cognition & emotion, 26(8), 1371-1389.