Stopping the bad memory loop


Do you dwell on bad memories, lingering there and reliving hurtful emotions? Doing so can lead to emotional distress, especially when stopping the memory is difficult.

Reducing the impact today from what happened in the past

When these feelings of old embarrassments or sad feelings sneak up, thinking about the context of the memory rather than the emotions you felt is an easy and effective way to relieve some of the negative feelings experienced when recalling the event. According to a new study, researchers found that thinking about the contextual elements of the memories significantly reduced their emotional impact.

The mind’s eye can refocus

“Sometimes we dwell on how sad, embarrassed, or hurt we felt during an event, and that makes us feel worse and worse. This is what happens in clinical depression – ruminating on the negative aspects of a memory,” noted Florin Dolcos, psychology professor of the Cognitive Neuroscience Group. “But we found that instead of thinking about your emotions during a negative memory, looking away from the worst emotions and thinking about the context, like a friend who was there, what the weather was like, or anything else non-emotional that was part of the memory, will rather effortlessly take your mind away from the unwanted emotions associated with that memory. Once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be consumed on the negative emotions as much.”

You can make the glass half full

“Suppression is bottling up your emotions, trying to put them away in a box. This is a strategy that can be effective in the short term, but in the long run it increases anxiety and depression,” stated Sanda Dolcos, co-author on the study and postdoctoral research associate at the Beckman Institute and in the Department of Psychology. “Another otherwise effective emotion regulation strategy, reappraisal, or looking at the situation differently to see the glass half full, can be cognitively demanding, the strategy of focusing on non-emotional contextual details of a memory, on the other hand is as simple as shifting the focus in the mental movie of your memories and then letting your mind wander.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology


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