Do Happy Memories Make You Happier?

Viewing past experiences positively can affect current state of happiness, according to a new study. The study considered the five basic personality traits and determined how these affect a person’s life satisfaction relative to how they perceive their past. The study looked at characteristics that would describe a person as conscientious, agreeable, extraverted, open and neurotic. They examined the levels of each trait that a person exhibited to assess their analysis.

In a recent article, the evidence revealed that people who were more outgoing were more apt to view past life experiences positively, and those who appeared to struggle with moodiness, were less likely to be happy. “We found that highly extraverted people are happier with their lives because they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past and are less likely to have negative thoughts and regrets. People high on the neurotic scale essentially have the exact opposite view of the past and are less happy as a result,” said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, and coauthor of study with SF State graduating senior Jia Wei Zhang.

“This is good news because although it may be difficult to change your personality, you may be able to alter your view of time and boost your happiness,” said Howell in a related article. He believes that treasuring and enjoying the positive memories or only seeing the good in the bad experiences could provide a useful tool to help others improve their sense of life satisfaction. Previous studies have offered evidence to support the findings that a person’s inherent character trait plays a major role in determining their sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. These new results support that evidence further. “Personality traits influence how people look at the past, present and future and it is these different perspectives on time which drive a person’s happiness,” Howell said.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • RY@N


    May 6th, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    A happy memory does definitely make me happy. But how happy that memory is and what it’s constituents are-all of these things matter when it comes to it making me happy. So if I try and enjoy a trip with friends to the maximum extent possible, I certainly believe it will make me happier to look back at the trip for me than it would if I had a negative experience during the trip.

  • helen


    May 11th, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a video in our head where we could replay memories and remember exactly what happened? I would love to relive many of my childhood memories. I have some adulthood ones I’d like to forget, or at least be able to replay to see if my perspective today remains true to what actually happened back then. Memories are often convoluted, not crystal clear.

  • Jasmine


    May 12th, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    It’s obvious bad memories make you sad, and happy ones won’t have the same effect. You need to think positive to be happy whatever the external circumstances are. Every cloud has a silver lining so look for it in the bad ones.

  • Gail


    May 12th, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    Outgoing people often have more happy memories anyway. They have more friends to be with and tend to enjoy and experience more activities, so they have more chances at making happy memories and good experiences to draw upon.

  • Lisa


    May 14th, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    I have several happy memories but thinking about them doesn’t really help me when I’m down at all. I wind up more upset because I know I was happier before.

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