To Banish a Negative Thought, Throw it in the Trash

November 30, 2012 | By | Comments (2)

Think you’ll never be able to shake the bad way you feel about certain things? (Think: the clutter in your entryway, your ever-so-plump thighs, or your relationship with your in-laws). Well, it may be time to think again. A new study (tip of the hat to Medical News Today for pointing it out) shows that bidding farewell to negativity could be as easy as writing down the thought on a strip of paper and then physically tossing it into the garbage. (Sure beats pricey therapy!)

Why does this work? When you tag a thought as garbage in the real world, it actually becomes irrelevant in your mind too. In a paper recently published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers asked participants to write down either a positive or negative thought about their body. Half of the participants were asked to review what they had written, and put it in their pocket; the other half was asked to throw out the paper. A few minutes later, all the participants were asked to rate their body image. Those who had tossed their papers weren’t influenced by what they had written, but those who held onto the negative thoughts rated their bodies poorly.

So go ahead: Write down every little angry idea that’s popped into your head lately—the annoyance of hanging Christmas lights, the dread of overnight guests—then throw  the paper away. The exercise might just lead to a happier holiday season.

Check out nine more easy ways to feel happier.


  1. CT

    “Those who has tossed their papers weren’t influenced by what they had written . . .”

    All this experiment seemed to show was that hanging on to scraps of paper with negative body images was associated with negative future thoughts. It DID NOT show that throwing away the paper made future thoughts more positive. So your article is not based on the scientific findings of the experiment. Typical of most journalism — you just don’t have a good enough grounding in science or logic to understand so you make up an article that will sell.

    December 2, 2012 at 1:57 am
  2. Pamela

    Great article! I think I will try this today. Thanks!

    December 3, 2012 at 11:18 am

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