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.