trash-1new study from Ohio State University and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain, and published in Psychological Study found that when a person writes an unwanted thought down on paper and throws the paper away, he or she mentally discards the thought. Conversely, when a person writes down a thought and puts the paper in his or her pocket—or hangs on to the thought in any way–the person is much more likely to use the thought when making judgments.

In the first study, 83 high school students were told to write down either positive or negative thoughts about his or her body. Half the of the group threw their thoughts in the trash, and half were told to contemplate their thoughts and to check for grammar or spelling mistakes. Then the participant rates their opinions about their own bodies.

Psych Central Associate News Editor Janice Woods summarizes:

According to the researchers, the 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. Participants who wrote positive thoughts had more positive attitudes toward their bodies a few minutes later than 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, the researchers noted.

“When they threw their thoughts away, they didn’t consider them anymore, whether they were positive or negative,” [co-author Richard] Petty said.

Two similar studies reared like results. The research suggests that however you categorize the thought – trash or treasure – is the way you use those thoughts. Moreover, if you hang on to a positive thought, you will think more positively than if you hang on to a negative thought. It’s not enough to imagine the actions. Physically throwing away the thought or protecting the thought influences how you use the thoughts. I’m on my way to the trashcan right now.

Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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