Researchers have determined a simpler and a more effective emotion-regulation strategy that has neurologically and behaviorally been proven to lessen the emotional impact of personal negative memories.
Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, led by psychology professor Florin Dolcos of the Cognitive Neuroscience Group, studied the behavioral and neural mechanisms of focusing away from emotion during recollection of personal emotional memories, and found that thinking about the contextual elements of the memories significantly reduced their emotional impact.
Dolcos said they 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.
He said once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won't be focused on the negative emotions as much.
This simple strategy, the study suggests, is a promising alternative to other emotion-regulation strategies, like suppression or reappraisal.
These results were published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.