Recalling positive autobiographical memories is a powerful emotion regulation strategy that can be used to repair low mood and alleviate negative affect. Unlike healthy individuals, those with current or past depression do not experience an improvement in mood as a consequence of recalling positive memories. We tested whether differences in processing mode might account for this impairment. Following mood induction procedures designed to ensure equivalence of mood state, depressed (n = 35) and recovered depressed (n = 33) participants were instructed to recall a positive memory and focus on it while adopting either an abstract or a concrete mode of processing. Participants in the abstract processing condition experienced no change in mood, while those in the concrete processing condition showed improved mood after memory recall. This research illustrates that the process by which positive autobiographical memories are recalled is important in determining their emotional impact and suggests that psychological interventions for depression may be improved by explicitly targeting processing mode.