Does recalling an unpleasant interaction with our boss make you demotivated? Keep calm! A study reveals that self-guided positive emotional imagery training has great potential to improve the everyday emotional well-being overcoming negative emotions. “The close relationship between the human imagery system and our emotions can cause deep emotional perturbations”, said Dr Svetla Velikova of Smartbrain in Norway. “Imagery techniques are often used in cognitive psychotherapy to help patients modify disturbing mental images and overcome negative emotions,” Velikova added.
The study appeared in the journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. The psychological testing showed that depressive symptoms were less prominent. The number of those with subthreshold depression, expressing depressive symptoms but not meeting the criteria for depression, was halved. Overall, volunteers were more satisfied with life and perceived themselves as more efficient. Researchers set out to see if such techniques could become self-guided and developed at home, away from the therapist’s chair.
There is great interest in ways to combat such everyday negative emotional responses through imagery training. To find out, if we can train ourselves to use imagery techniques and optimise our emotional state, they turned to 30 healthy volunteers. During a two-day workshop the volunteers learnt a series of imagery techniques.
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The participants learnt how to cope with negative emotions from past events through imagery transformation, how to use positive imagery for future events or goals and techniques to improve social interactions and enhance their emotional balance in daily life. They then spent the next 12 weeks training themselves at home for 15-20 minutes a day, before attending another similar two-day workshop.
They compared the results of the participant psychological assessment and brain activity, or electroencephalographic (EEG), measurement, before and after the experiment. “This combination of EEG findings also suggests a possible increase in the activity of GABA (gamma -aminobutyric acid), well known for its anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties,” the researcher explained.