Life is full of ups and downs, so it’s inevitable that we’ll go through experiences that we’d rather forget sooner or later. Luckily, there are several methods to train your mind to cope with negative memories in a healthy way. Here’s how to forget a bad memory:
Method 1: Creating Healthy Thought Patterns
1. Avoid triggers
If you happen to get blindsided by a bad memory when you go to certain places or are surrounded by certain things, then you need to identify what those are and avoid them. Avoiding them completely will facilitate the bad memory fading out of your mind because you’ll have fewer reasons to call it up.
With the above being said, not all triggers are entirely avoidable. Maybe you simply don’t want to have to change your routine or stop listening to your favorite band just because your ex broke off your relationship last time you were listening to them.
2. Think about the memory until it loses power
Normally, your first instinct is to attempt to avoid thinking about a bad memory, however, as counterintuitive as it may seem, it actually pays you better to do the opposite. Instead of pushing it out of your mind, allow yourself to remember what happened, and think about it until the memory loses its sting. Eventually, you’ll simply stop thinking about it so much. When it does pop into your mind again, it won’t be as painful anymore. Take comfort in the fact that the event that caused the bad memory is now over.
3. Try memory alteration
Did you know that your memory changes slightly every time you remember something? Your brain makes up for tiny gaps in memory by replacing them with false information. You can actually take advantage of this by replacing the bad parts of a memory with different information. For example, if you remember feeling scared and alone, try to remember what occurred to eventually make you feel better.
4. Focus on happier memories
Our brains can get into ruts that are difficult to climb back out of. If you tend to dwell on bad memories quite a lot, you should train your mind to switch to happy memories instead. Don’t give a bad memory enough time to change your mood or make you feel anxious. The moment that it comes into your mind, shift your thinking to something happier. Practice positive thinking until you override automatically falling into a mental rut. You can do this by pairing a bad memory with a good one. Have a good memory fresh in your mind to keep you from having to rack your brain for something positive in the moments that you’re feeling bad.
5. Learn to be in the present
Teach yourself to focus more of your attention toward the present moment – it’s called being mindful. Focus on the here and now, as opposed to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Being mindful is a great stress reliever, and can help you to get more out of life. It’s about letting go of things you cannot change, and just “being”. Pay attention to how your body feels right here, right now. Pay attention to your senses – what do you hear, see, taste or smell? Don’t limit your senses to past memories.
Method 2: Having a Positive Outlook
1. Consider what you learned from the event
You can learn something even from the most horrible experience, although it might take you a rather long time to realize it. If someday you can bring yourself to look back at the situation and see the wisdom you gained from it, your bad memory will likely lose some of its sting. Every cloud has a silver lining – you just have to come to realize it. Negative experiences are an inevitable part of life. Difficult experiences make you stronger and make you appreciate the more pleasurable moments. Without feeling bad, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate feeling good. Furthermore, you should always count your blessings and be thankful for what you have in the present moment.
2. Form happy new memories
Bad memories tend to fade away with time, but you can help to speed up the process by living as fully as you can and creating positive new memories to fill your mind with. Spend more time doing the things that you enjoy, and in the company of those that make you happy. The more positive memories you can make, the less significant the negative ones become. Try going to places you’ve never been before so that you can have brand-new experiences wholly untainted by the past. Travel to a new city, or be a tourist in your own. If traveling isn’t for you, try changing up your routine in some other way. Try a new restaurant, or invite all your friends over for a dinner party.
3. Keep yourself busy
A full schedule and a stimulated mind equal less time to dwell on negative thoughts. Make it a point to go out with more friends if you tend to spend a lot of time by yourself, or visit your family more often. Read a good book, or pick up a new hobby. Time spent sitting around with nothing to do makes it more likely that you’ll dwell on bad memories. Physical activity is always good to consider, so take up something new, such as soccer or kickboxing. You can also try walking a certain number of miles each day, or even yoga. Another thing to consider is creativity – pouring your energy into creating something such as a painting, writing a song or finishing a DIY project will restrict your time for thinking about bad memories. Last but not least, volunteering is a great way of helping others while taking your mind off of your own problems.
4. Avoid alcohol and drugs
Mind-altering substances just have the tendency to make everything worse, especially if you’re in a depressed or anxious state. Alcohol can increase depression, irritability, and anxiety, as can drugs. Using alcohol and drugs to forget bad memories often leads to addiction, so you should seek help now if this is already a behavioral pattern for you. Other forms of escapism, such as gambling or overeating, could also be detrimental to your health, and thus should be avoided. Acknowledging such behaviors is important
5. Make your health a priority
Being consumed with negative thoughts can make it difficult to take good care of yourself, but if your body is in a good state of health, it can have a big effect on the way you think. Eat nutritious food, get plenty of sleep and work out a few times a week to keep your bad memories at bay.
Images by Deposit Photos.