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Loving Yourself: Throw Those Thoughts Away

Friday, March 15, 2013

Now that we have a couple of concrete techniques in our pocket in preparation for letting go of our negative thoughts, we are taking the next logical step. Yes, we can spend all kinds of time and energy in doing this, or we can take a shortcut. I don't know about you, but I love shortcuts. All in favor say, "I"; all opposed say, "No". That's just what I figured . . . We innately know that there is a better way to do this. Do you REALLY have a year or two of your life to invest in a process, and to move on? Heck no - that's absolutely right!

So here's the key: If you want to get rid of unwanted, negative thoughts, try just ripping them up, and tossing them in the trash. Oh how I wish I'd have known this 40 years ago! Could have saved myself a lot of trauma, worry, and weight gain! It's the psychological equivalent of reading Cliff's Notes in school for your book report!

In a new study, researchers found that when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw the paper away, they mentally discarded the thoughts as well.

On the other hand, people were more likely to use their thoughts when making judgments if they first wrote them down on a piece of paper and tucked the paper in a pocket to protect it.

"However you tag your thoughts -- as trash or as worthy of protection -- seems to make a difference in how you use those thoughts," said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

Some types of psychological therapy use variations of this concept by trying to get patients to discard their negative thoughts. But Petty said this is the first study he is aware of that has validated that approach.

"At some level, it can sound silly. But we found that it really works -- by physically throwing away or protecting your thoughts, you influence how you end up using those thoughts. Merely imagining engaging in these actions has no effect."

The findings suggest that people can treat their thoughts as material, concrete objects, Petty said. That is evident in the language we use.

"We talk about our thoughts as if we can visualize them. We hold our thoughts. We take stances on issues, we lean this way or that way. This all makes our thoughts more real to us."
That's why we identify with our thoughts as we do - in our actions, our opinions, etc. . . So that being said, doesn't this make sense?

For the study, the researchers conducted three related experiments.

In the first experiment, 83 Spanish high school students participated in a study they were told was about body image. Each participant was told to write down either positive or negative thoughts about his or her body during a three-minute period.

All the participants were asked to look back at the thoughts they wrote. Researchers told half of the students to contemplate their thoughts and then throw them in the trash can located in the room, "because their thoughts did not have to remain with them." The other half were told to contemplate their thoughts and check for any grammar or spelling mistakes.

The participants then rated their attitudes about their own bodies on three 9-point scales (bad-good, unattractive-attractive, like-dislike).

Results showed that for those who kept their thoughts and checked them for mistakes, it mattered whether they generated positive or negative thoughts about their bodies. As would be expected, participants who wrote positive thoughts had more positive attitudes toward their bodies a few minutes later than did those who wrote negative thoughts.

However, those who threw their thoughts away showed no difference in how they rated their bodies, regardless of whether they wrote positive or negative thoughts.

"When they threw their thoughts away, they didn't consider them anymore, whether they were positive or negative," Petty said.

In a second study, 284 students participated in a similar experiment, except this time they were asked to write negative or positive thoughts about something most people believe is good: the Mediterranean diet (the diet emphasizes high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes and unrefined cereals, with olive oil as the basic fat).

In this case, some threw the thoughts away, some left them on their desk, and some were told to put the paper in their pocket, wallet or purse and keep it with them.

All participants were then asked to rate their attitudes toward the diet, and intentions to use the diet for themselves.

As in the first study, those who kept the list of thoughts at their desk were more influenced by them when evaluating the diet than were those who threw them away. However, those who protected their thoughts by putting them in a pocket or purse were even more influenced than those who kept the thoughts on their desk.

In other words, those who wrote positive thoughts about the Mediterranean diet and put those thoughts in their pocket rated the diet more favorably than those who wrote positive thoughts and simply kept those thoughts on their desk. And, those who wrote negative thoughts and put them in their pocket rated the diet more negatively than those who kept their thoughts on the desk.

"This suggests you can magnify your thoughts, and make them more important to you, by keeping them with you in your wallet or purse," Petty said.

But how important is the physical action of throwing these thoughts away or keeping them in your pocket? To find out, the researchers conducted a third experiment using computers. In this case, 78 Spanish college students wrote their thoughts in a computer word-processing document. Some later used a mouse to drag the file into the computer recycle bin, while others moved the file to a storage disk.

Just as in the previous studies, participants made less use of negative thoughts that they had trashed -- by dragging them to the recycle bin -- than did those who saved the thoughts by transferring them to a disk.

In one other condition, some participants were told to simply imagine dragging their negative thoughts to the recycle bin or saving them to a disk. But that had no effect on their later judgments.

"The more convinced the person is that the thoughts are really gone, the better," Petty said. "Just imagining that you throw them away doesn't seem to work.

"Of course, even if you throw the thoughts in a garbage can or put them in the recycle bin on the computer, they are not really gone -- you can regenerate them. But the representations of those thoughts are gone, at least temporarily, and it seems to make it easier to not think about them."

Petty said the researchers plan to see if this technique could work to help people who have recurrent negative thoughts that are intrusive and bothersome, such as thoughts about the death of a loved one.

"It is often difficult to get rid of these thoughts. We want to find out if there is a way to keep those thoughts from coming back, at least for longer periods of time."

If you wrote down your most nagging negative thought, take it, wad it up, and throw it in the trash can. If you did the I Reject It technique, try writing down your next negative thought, and then throw it in the trash. Can you imagine the landfill we would create if everyone did this?!

Thanks for stopping by!
***Google Images***

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
SAMI199 3/22/2013 6:59AM

    emoticon I am going to start literally throwing the negative thoughts out -No Recycling either-lol.

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PRNCSCUP1-2FULL 3/21/2013 5:27PM

    Wow! I am having recurring thoughts and even full blow nflashbacks of the day my mom died (12/12/12). I need to try this technique right of way. But, my first ( and yes, negative) thought is guilt of throwing thoughts of my mom away! But, here on the same thought is not thoughts of my mom, but of her death.... You may have just opened a door to a restored life for me! Thanks for sharing! A technique I use with clients in therapy with negative and worrisome thoughts is bubbles. I keep a few bottls of bubbles in my desk and will take clients outside and ask them to imagine blowing those thoughts into a bubble and letting it fly away or burst! It gives adults a touchline to childhood and it allows them to throw negative thoughts way in a concrete, but sort of fun way. Thank you. this one really helped. Even thoug hI'm a therapist, I still struggle with my depression. New ideas always help me which in turn will help my clients!

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GLENDA2013 3/19/2013 8:30AM

    Great Post...Great Ideas!!!!!

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JESSICABOOTY 3/18/2013 11:26PM

    I'll try some of these and see how it goes. Thanks for finding out about it. You certainly have a large storehouse of ways we can get our heads on straight. Thanks for all your help.

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KIMCOLLINGS 3/18/2013 4:50PM

    That is really interesting. I like that it's a concrete thing I can do. Going to give it a try.

hey...just tried it. I crumbled it up and threw it away and then I thought...."TO THE SHREDDER". I really took care of it..he..he! I'm going to write a good one and tuck it in my purse now. I like this exercise.

Comment edited on: 3/18/2013 5:04:17 PM

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2HAMSDIET 3/17/2013 12:00AM

    Good stuff thank you!

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CARRAND 3/16/2013 8:34PM


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SERENEART 3/16/2013 6:35PM

    thank you for posting. emoticon

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JANEMARIE77 3/16/2013 4:58PM


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BARBARAROSE54 3/16/2013 10:54AM


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L*I*T*A* 3/16/2013 10:50AM

    emoticon emoticon

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KATHRYN1955 3/16/2013 10:15AM

    What a neat idea! I am going to do this and as we burn with wood, I will take it a step further and throw the negative thoughts into the fire and visualize them as being transmuted into positive energy for all my fellow-Sparkers!! But I believe it is equally important (or more) to write down positive affirmations and keep them in a special place where one can look at them on a regular basis.
Thanks Sharon, I needed to be reminded of this.
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GOANNA2 3/16/2013 5:05AM

    Thanks Sharon, I will give it a try.

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BARHAAS 3/16/2013 3:31AM

    I really like this technique. It helps to take a thought (positive or negative) and give it a physical representation. Then, when we save it safely or toss it, the physical act will give it more meaning and make it a more powerful experience. I like it! emoticon emoticon

Thanks again Sharon! emoticon

I'm looking forward to savoring my positive thoughts and have been reminded to clean out my email files and journals of negative ones...along with other negative thoughts, too...Here's to breathing in fresh new positive and constructive energy...

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MICKEYH 3/16/2013 12:41AM

    Thanks Sharon, I will take your advice. emoticon emoticon

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DUXGRL1 3/16/2013 12:06AM

    Definately worth a try!

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JADOMB 3/15/2013 10:56PM

    I'm afraid I might just fill a landfill if I tried that. ;-) I actually do something similar to that without the waste of paper, and that is giving my negative thoughts and troubles to my Lord. To me, prayer is very strong medicine. But as I always say, what ever works, do it. ;-)

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COCK-ROBIN 3/15/2013 10:47PM

    Yes! I make an effort to throwing negative thoughts away all the time.

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JACKIE542 3/15/2013 9:29PM

    I have done this, and it does work. It makes me feel that I don't need to think about any negative comment I have written down. emoticon

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HARROWJET 3/15/2013 9:23PM


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KALISWALKER 3/15/2013 8:03PM

    That's amazing! I am going to work on it!

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MADAMES 3/15/2013 7:50PM

    I love this, and I will give it a try.


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ROSES17 3/15/2013 7:00PM

    Very interesting!!! Wish I had known this earlier in life.

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COMPUCATHY 3/15/2013 6:55PM

    Very cool! I will give it a try! Hope you have a great weekend ahead of you! Enjoy! Keep up the good work! Thanks for the encouragement! Spark on! emoticon emoticon

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    Love this technique . Will definitely give it a try. Thanks again for this cool series.

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1CRAZYDOG 3/15/2013 6:12PM

    Yes! I have always journaled and it does help so much to get things in black-and-white! But I love the idea of writing the negative thought or idea on a piece of paper and chucking it in the garbage! Really a great way to cement in your mind that the idea is not worthy of further consideration!!!!


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LYNNWILK2 3/15/2013 6:08PM

    Spot on! a study worth taking point of and praciticing the positive images tucked away and looked at ... Another great blog in your series and so helpful when trying to work through the thoughts that keep us from progressing forward. Thank you Sharon. Again, love this series.

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