How Your Brain Reshapes Memories: Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Have you ever thought about a past memory and then either started feeling bad for yourself or embarrassed and beating yourself up? Ever wondered why that embarrassing thing you said or did when you were drunk at that party 5 years ago still feels like it happened yesterday, and every time you think about it, there’s a new twist? That’s because our brains are sneaky little buggers.

How Our Brain Plays Tricks on Us

When we experience something, our brain stores it like a quick note on a post-it (this is known as a short-term memory). As time goes on, especially when we’re dreaming at night, our brain moves that note to a more permanent journal – that’s it finding its way to our long-term memory.

But here’s the interesting part: every time you think back to that moment, your brain takes out the note and sometimes doodles on it based on what you’re feeling right now or new stuff you’ve learned. That’s why memories can feel a bit like a game of telephone; each recall might bring a slightly different version.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

This memory doodling means sometimes we remember stuff not exactly as it went down. That’s why two people might remember the same event differently. But on the flip side, since memories aren’t set in stone, we can play around with them! This part comes down to your mindset. People with a fixed mindset will continue to dwell on them, beat themselves up, talk negatively about themselves. Remember what I said about how our current emotions can influence past memories? So, if you continue to think and talk negatively about them, you could potentially distort the memory to be worse and worse. Your thoughts can then begin to spiral out of control. You might think: “I’m always like this. I’ll never change.” The memory never disappears, causing continuous embarrassment or pain. You begin allowing these moments to reaffirm negative self-beliefs, making you hesitant to try new things or put yourself in similar situations again.

Here’s how someone with a growth mindset handles it. Felt embarrassed by something in the past? Let’s find a way to laugh about it now or see how it made you the awesome person you are today. those with a growth mindset see their abilities and intelligence as malleable. With effort and the right strategies, they believe they can grow and evolve. Embarrassing memories and mistakes aren’t indicators of permanent flaws but are seen as lessons in the journey of self-improvement.

Using the same scenarios of awkward situations, a person with a growth mindset might think: “That was a misstep, but what can I learn from it?” They accept the embarrassment, understand that everyone has off moments, and think of ways to handle similar situations better in the future. The memory, while still cringe-worthy, becomes a guidepost for growth rather than an anchor of shame.

Strategies to Harness Memories for Personal Growth

Our relationship with memories can shape our emotional responses, behaviors, and even our future choices. While the emotional weight of some memories might be heavy, we have tools at our disposal to help reshape our relationship with them.

Here are some invaluable tips on reframing memories:

  1. Cognitive Reframing: Dive deep into your memories. Write them down and challenge the negative interpretations. By consciously shifting your perspective, you can discover new, more positive ways of viewing past events.
  2. Mindfulness and Meditation: Let go of judgments. Practice mindfulness to observe thoughts and feelings without criticism. Meditation techniques, like loving-kindness meditation, can bolster compassion and support the reframing process.
  3. Gratitude Journaling: Start recognizing the blessings around you. Maintain a gratitude journal to highlight the positive moments and growth from past experiences. With time, this practice can illuminate the brighter side of challenges.
  4. Therapy and Counseling: Sometimes, an external perspective is a game-changer. Professionals trained in modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can guide you through the process of revisiting and reframing difficult memories.
  5. Positive Affirmations: Words have power. Craft and repeat affirmations that combat negative beliefs stemming from challenging memories. This practice can gradually reshape your self-image.
  6. Physical Activity: Move your body to move your mind. Engaging in regular exercise not only offers numerous health benefits but can also elevate your mood and provide clarity, helping you tackle even the trickiest memories.

Final Thoughts

Think of reframing memories, especially the tough ones, as chiseling away at a block of marble. You start with this big, rough chunk, and bit by bit, you chip away to find something cool inside. It’s not a quick thing – it takes time, patience, and sometimes you might need a little help or advice. So, when a memory stings, just remember you’re still working on that masterpiece. Every chip, every polish is getting you closer to showing off something amazing. Keep at it and shape your story the way you want!