If Your Bad Memories Keep Playing on Repeat, Here’s a One-Second Hack for Snuffing Them Out

Photo: Unsplash/Jayce Eduarte
When a memory keeps playing in your head on repeat, the desire to cast an IRL version of a Harry Potter "obliviate" charm becomes oh-so-strong. But even though we muggles haven't figured out a way to manipulate memories just yet, there's one mind trick that works almost like magic.

Here's how it works: Instead of mentally screaming Shut up! Shut up! Shut Up! at whatever childhood trauma or embarrassing moment keeps surfacing, you simply bring to mind another memory instead, reports Forbes.

In the past, researchers at the University of Cambridge found that asking yourself to recall an alternative memory from your past causes you to passively forget said memory that just keeps sliding into your mental DMs. And now, a recent study published by the same team in Nature Communications has gone one step further to find that actually, you actively extinguish the unwanted recall through this process, which is called retrieval-induced forgetting.

This replacement method could also work for songs or jingles that get stuck in your head (AKA, earworms), too. Because although Ariana Grande's new #girlpower anthem is jammy, it might get old after your brain replays it for the umpteen-millionth times. And finally, you might consider using the same replacement logic for your exes. Consider this another vote for the old saying, "You can’t really get over one person until you get under another."

Here's how to ask for a day off—for the sake of your mental health. Plus, why you should never, ever get back with your ex for the same reason

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  1. Bekinschtein, Pedro et al. “A retrieval-specific mechanism of adaptive forgetting in the mammalian brain.” Nature communications vol. 9,1 4660. 7 Nov. 2018, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-07128-7

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