10 Ways to Release Painful Memories From Your Mind
Memories are a tricky thing. It allows us to look back on beautiful moments in our lives and make positive changes for the future. However, sometimes unwanted memories rise to the surface. Sometimes memories are merely uncomfortable, and we cringe at the thought of them. Other times, memories worsen because we associate them with our negative emotions.
If you have trouble pushing aside painful memories or leaving them in the past, that can seriously impact daily life. Because of this negativity, many people will banish painful memories from their minds and try to force themselves to forget about them. Unfortunately, ignoring past pain only allows the feelings to build up or surface when you least expect it. Letting go might seem harder than forgetting altogether, but there are many ways that you can begin this journey.
Whether these memories affect your mood, self-esteem, or ability to function daily, don’t let your memories control you. Learning to let go of traumatic, unpleasant, and upsetting memories can be freeing and empowering. Read on to discover how you can begin releasing these painful memories from your mind.
10 Ways to Release Painful Memories From Your Mind
1. Committing To Working Towards Releasing These Memories
If you are reading this article, chances are you already have the desire to release painful memories. However, the desire cannot become a reality unless you commit to putting in hard work and effort to let go. If you are in an otherwise stable place mentally, deciding to research and implement strategies to combat painful memories should be intentional. In addition, your motivation should not be to forget the memories that ever happened but rather to accept them as part of your life that you can begin to move on from. This is related to a technique used by many mental health professionals called acceptance and commitment therapy. This therapeutic technique has been proven to work by researchers, and the purpose of it is to embrace negative life experiences.
2. Gently Confront The Memories
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, revisiting painful memories gently and compassionately can be the first step to letting them go. Make sure you are in a calm and positive mindset before attempting this. Research shows that bringing the memory to mind and thinking about how you felt in the moment can put the pain you experienced into perspective. In our memories, the hurt and pain of past events can overshadow any other parts of that moment.
Think critically about how you felt in the moment. Were there any positives that came out of that situation or positive emotions you can remember about that day? Was it sunny outside? Were you wearing one of your favorite shirts? Considering these details at first may be challenging, but considering them can take the focus away from the pain.
Of course, there are levels to this. If the memory you want to let go of is traumatic, you might need the help of a therapist or psychologist to work through it. But if it was a less traumatic memory, you might want to do this yourself. Sometimes painful memories eat away at our consciousness because we are afraid to think about them. Facing them can help overcome this fear and reassure you that you are safe where the events in that memory can no longer harm you.
3. Introduce Positive Habits Into Your Lifestyle
Sometimes painful memories can feel like a curse that plagues our everyday life. Because of this, the weight of the memories can deplete our energy, happiness, and wellness in other aspects of our physical and mental health. The further you spiral into a cycle of reliving these memories, the worse the outcome for your mind and body.
Positive habits can be as simple as including light physical activity, a healthy diet, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and engaging in social life. Painful memories can make us withdrawn and distant from ourselves and others. A good way to override them is to create habits that will improve your overall wellness. When you feel physically and mentally strong, it will be more difficult for those memories to creep back to the surface.
4. Foster Healthy And Healing Relationships
One of the best ways to overcome painful emotions is to make sure the new memories you make are positive. Surrounding yourself with people who value you and make you feel safe and secure is essential. Creating a warm and nurturing environment for yourself helps painful and traumatic memories fade into the background.
It is easy to feel like you have to work on change all by yourself, but reaching out to others for a shoulder to lean on is never something to be ashamed of. This is particularly the case if you harbor painful memories that revolve around a toxic or abusive relationship you experienced. Another benefit of fostering healthy relationships is that it creates a safe space for you to be vulnerable with a loved one about those memories if that is something you wish to do.
5. Come Up With Some Positive Affirmations Or Mantras To Manage Your Emotions
Positive affirmations and mantras are not only valuable for fighting against negative thinking, but these techniques also have the power to help lessen the burden of painful memories. Positive affirmations or mantras are phrases you remind yourself of when you fixate on a painful memory. For example, let’s say your painful memory revolves around when you experienced physical violence.
An affirmation surrounding this could be, “I am healthy and whole,” “I feel safe in my environment; that situation is in the past,” or “I am strong and resilient.” At first, it might feel silly to say these affirmations out loud. However, research shows positive affirmations are a powerful psychological tool to combat negative thinking and traumatic memories. Furthermore, positive affirmations are even more powerful when used with other therapeutic methods.
6. Try Doing Meditation And Mindfulness Exercises
It is essential to be cautious when delving into working through painful memories. Sometimes even thinking of them can trigger one to enter a bad mental state. One activity that is worth trying is meditation and mindfulness.
Experts reveal that meditation is good for everyone’s mental health and wellness and can help them let go and cope with painful memories. If you have never tried meditation or mindfulness exercises, you can find plenty of beginner options for free online. On the other hand, exploring some trauma-based meditation practices might be helpful if you practice meditation but haven’t seen any difference.
7. Attend A Support Group And Confront Your Emotions and Past Memories
When navigating painful memories, it is easy to feel isolated and alone. Joining a support group of people going through similar hardships may help you find community. Sometimes it takes someone who has been through similar experiences as us to help us feel genuinely understood.
In addition, developing relationships with strangers with whom you do not have established relationships can expand your support group, provide a no-pressure environment for you to express yourself, and allow you to address the painful memories in a safe environment.
8. Find Tools And Hobbies That Help You Express Yourself
Sometimes it is difficult to find the right words to express a painful memory. This can lead the emotions and thoughts associated with that memory to build up in our minds. Finding some method for self-expression and expelling those emotions into the outside world is essential.
A great way to do this is to find a tool, hobby, or activity that allows you to express yourself. One example would be to take up some form of art like painting, drawing, or photography. Many studies show how art can be a helpful tool in indirectly processing painful memories and the feelings you experienced in the moment and in retrospect.
9. Stray Away From Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms Sifting Through Past Memories
If your painful memories impact you daily, there is a chance that you have developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to push the memories aside, forget them, or numb your emotions. These can include using substances, eating unhealthy foods in excess, sleeping too much or not enough, isolating yourself from friends and family, working too many hours, or using romantic relationships to forget the pain.
Although it is normal to turn to these quick fixes, at the end of the day, they almost all do more harm than good. Of course, it is not a big deal if you want to have a drink on the weekend to unwind from work, you feel like dedicating one of your days off to sleeping late into the day, or you are eating an unhealthy meal. It becomes a problem when we rely on these methods to feel better.
10. Explore Those Painful Memories With The Help Of A Trained Professional
Though it may be intimidating to seek professional help, once you take the first step, there is potential for it to be a rewarding experience. Talking it out with an unbiased third party can help organize your thoughts and feelings on the matter in a judgment-free zone. But another reason you might want to acquire the help of a professional is if you do not want to talk about the memory.
There are numerous treatments that clinical psychologists and counselors use to tackle traumatic memories neurologically. For example, one of these treatments is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR therapy uses eye movement exercises to release traumatic memories.
Final Thoughts On Some Ways To Release Painful Memories
Painful memories have the power to haunt us long after they occur. While it is normal to have painful memories as you go through life, there is no reason for those memories to impact your quality of life today. Whether you are looking to try intensive therapeutic methods or start slow with something you can do, like meditation or finding an engaging hobby, there is no right way to begin your journey. However, incorporating some of these strategies is the first step to releasing painful memories and past emotions. Then, you can move to move toward a positive and healing future.
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