Well, not exactly.

According to social psychologist and “father” of thought suppression David Wagner, the more we try not to think of something, the more we think of it.

In his 1987 “white bear” experiment, he showed a picture of a polar bear to a group of participants and then had them track their thoughts but avoid thinking of the white bear for five minutes. He then told them to track their thoughts again and asked them to think of the white bear for five minutes. He found that this group thought of the bear more often than a group who had from the start been told to think of the white bear. The results showed that suppressing the thought for the first five minutes caused it to occur more frequently.

So it turns out when we try not to think of something, one part of our brain does avoid the thought, but another part checks up to see if we really are avoiding it, and that brings it to our awareness.

So, what do we do to help with those thoughts?

Like I mentioned in the last newsletter, postponing the worry/thought is a strategy.

Here are a few more ( options are always nice:) suggested by author Lea Winerman who wrote for the American Psychological Association:

1) Distraction – focus your attention on something else: a task, a chore, a fun activity

2) Limit multitasking – doing multiple things at once can tax our minds, and this can increase unwanted thoughts

3) Exposure – go ahead and think about the unwanted thought, but limit the time

4) Meditate – allows for thoughts to be gently suspended

Other tips I have found helpful:

5) Pray – formal and/or informal prayers, remembering to “Give it to God, ” “Let Go and Let God”

6) Move – tune into your body, focusing on sensations while you stretch, go for a walk/run, dance, take an exercise class, play tennis, bike ride, swim, or do yoga.

7) Grounding/Mindfulness exercises – help you tune into your environment using your senses, like noticing things around you that are yellow, counting the number of windows in a room, feelings the way your back is touching a chair, labeling a sound that you hear, etc.

8) Affirmations – saying aloud a few positive words of encouragement that resonate with you.

9) Guided Imagery – thinking of a beautiful, peaceful place in your mind and imagine all aspects of being in that setting, colors and images you would see, smells that you would smell, sounds that you would hear.

Speak Your Mind

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