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

A failed relationship, difficulties during an important presentation, a missed step and a fall in front of a crowd, or a traumatic life experience, we all have our share of bad memories. Our life is a sum total of good and bad. We have all had difficult times in our lives that are hard to forget. We manage to brush some of them aside quickly, while others leave a deep impact on our lives and remain etched in our memories. A major heartbreak could be one of those experiences. Getting rid of memories is not as easy as it seems. Despite our best efforts, we may feel flashbacks from the past coming back to us time and time again and robbing us of our peace of mind. Is there a way to forget the bad memories, we wonder?

According to experts, thinking about past bad times in life can cause headaches, stress, sweating and even stomach aches, and drain all the energy from our body. The sensation 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 your outlook on life and build a healthier future through good habits.

Health Shots reached out to clinical psychologist Dr. Kamna Chhibber and Dr. Jyoti Kapoor, founder-director and senior psychiatrist of Manasthali, to understand how to let go of bad memories and overcome the past.

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

How to stop bad memories?

Wanting to devote all your energy to living a happier life is often easier said than done. You can either adopt a growth mindset and stick with whatever experiences life offers, or choose to remain stagnant in the whirlwind of victim mindset.

Time heals and the past can be forgotten by making a slight change in your mindset and habits.

1. Try to learn from this experience

A bad time comes in life to teach you something. “Saying goodbye to an unpleasant experience is not an easy task. Instead, you can open up and try to learn from that experience rather than letting it rule your present,” says Dr. Chhibber.

According to Dr. Kapoor, it is important to first give yourself time to reflect on the experience objectively. “Ask yourself questions such as: What can we learn from this experience? How did that make you the person you are today? While it’s important not to dwell on negativity, gaining knowledge can help you find meaning and move on,” she adds.

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2. Focus on what you have today

“You can focus on what’s around you today. You can direct your attention to the good things in your life right now. You can turn to the people who supported you and supported you. Over time, these bad memories begin to fade as new life experiences begin to surface,” says Dr. Chhibber.

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

3. Acknowledge and accept your emotions

“Start by recognizing 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 there is nothing wrong with feeling this and that you are taking the first step towards healing,” says Dr. Kapoor.

Read also: Understanding depression: what you need to know about a loved one who has it

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 blaming yourself. Remember that you deserve to move forward to lead a fulfilling life.

5. Seek help

Connect 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 extremely helpful. “They can offer a fresh perspective and support your healing journey,” adds Dr. Kapoor.

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