How to forget a bad memory: 5 tips from mental health experts

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A failed relationship, fumbling while delivering an important presentation, missing a step and tumbling in front of a crowd, or having a traumatic life experience, we all have our share of bad memories. Our life is a sum total of the good and the bad. We have all encountered bad moments in our life that feel hard to forget. We manage to quickly brush aside some of these, while others leave a deep impact on our lives and stick with us. A major heartbreak could be one such experience. Letting go of memories isn’t as easy as it seems. Despite our best efforts, we can feel flashbacks of the past coming back to us time and again, and robbing our peace of mind. Is there a way to forget bad memories, we wonder?

According to experts, thoughts of past bad moments in life can cause headaches, stress, sweating and even stomach aches, and drain away all the energy from our body. The feeling is invariably unpleasant as even a single trigger can bring back unwanted memories. The good news is that you can invest in yourself to change the way you look at life and build a healthier future through good habits.

Health Shots got in touch with clinical psychologist Dr Kamna Chhibber, and Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Founder- Director and Senior Psychiatrist, Manasthali, to understand how to forget bad memories and overcome the past.

how to forget a bad memory
A bad past or a memory can be hurtful. Here’s how you can forget a bad memory! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How to stop bad memories?

Wanting to put all your energy towards living a happier life is often easier said than done. You can either adopt a growth mindset and keep yourself to all the experiences life offers, or you can choose to stay stagnant in the whirlpool of the victim mindset.

Time heals, and the past can be forgotten by bringing a slight shift in your mindset and habits.

1. Try to learn from that experience

A bad moment comes in life to teach you something. “Saying goodbye to an unpleasant experience is no cakewalk. Instead, you can open yourself up, and try to learn from that experience rather than letting it rule your present,” says Dr Chhibber.

As per Dr Kapoor, it is important to give yourself the time to reflect on the experience in an objective way first. “Ask yourself questions like What lessons can be learned from this experience? How has it shaped you into the person that you are today? While it is important not to dwell on negativity, gaining insights can help you find meaning and grow from the situation,” she adds.

2. Focus on what you have today

“You can focus on what surrounds you today. You can direct your attention towards the good things in your life currently. You can look towards the people who stood by you and supported you. With time, those bad memories start fading as the novel experiences of life start surfacing,” says Dr Chhibber.

how to forget a bad memory
Try to reflect on your bad past objectively to heal from it. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Acknowledge and accept your emotions

“Begin by acknowledging the emotions associated with the bad memory. It is natural to feel upset, angry, or hurt. Allow yourself to experience these emotions without any judgment. Recognize that it’s okay to feel this way and that you are taking the first step towards healing,” explains Dr Kapoor.

4. Practice self-compassion

Be kind to yourself throughout the process. Understand that everyone makes mistakes or faces difficult situations. Treat yourself with compassion and avoid self-blame. Remind yourself that you deserve to move forward to lead a fulfilling life.

5. Seek support

Get in touch with trusted friends, family members, or a therapist with whom you can share your feelings. Talking about your experience with someone who can provide guidance and empathy can be immensely helpful. “They can offer a fresh perspective and support your healing journey,” adds Dr Kapoor.

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