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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
December 05, 2012

Get Rid of Your Negativity--Literally

Shoo negativity away with a simple but symbolic gesture that works. By Charlene J. Owen

Letting go of negative thoughts and emotions is easier said than done. A new study, however, offers an alternative way of getting rid of them.

Richard Petty of the Ohio State University as well researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain wanted to explore the effects of physically acting on your negative thoughts by writing or typing them down and throwing them in your trash or recycle bin.  

The study, which was featured on, involved analyzing data on different groups of students who were asked to throw out their negativity in one way or another. Based on the results, researchers found that the way you classify your thoughts shows how you either use or act on them. For example, a piece of paper with an important thought folded in your wallet makes you remember it, while a piece of paper with an unwanted thought thrown in a garbage can makes you forget it.

This goes to show that you can let go of a negative thought easier if you physically throw it away. But why can’t you just think about throwing the said thought away? It’s because the ritual matters.

"The more convinced the person is that the thoughts are really gone, the better. 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 explains.

So the next time you find yourself being tied down by negative issues, try to focus on them, write them down on a sheet of paper, and throw the said paper away afterward. The simple gesture may not only therapeutic, but it may also give you a new perspective on things that should really matter.     

(Photo by Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr Creative Commons)

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