When You Can’t Think Away Your Anxious Thoughts, Do This InsteadBy Lesley Lyle
If we can create feelings of anxiety through our thoughts, then surely all we need to do to feel less anxious is to change our thoughts to more positive ones. Right? This may sound logical, but as you may have already discovered, putting this theory into practice can seem all but impossible.
Anxiety-Provoking Thoughts Can Be Persistent and Resistant
You may have experienced the frustration of trying to stop thinking about something, only to find that the problem gets worse instead of better. Science backs this up: Trying not to think about certain things makes the likelihood of thinking about those things even stronger!
Harvard psychologist Dan Wegner demonstrated this in a study that showed that when people were asked not to think about white bears, they were far more likely to think about white bears. It seems that trying to suppress our thoughts leads to “thought rebound,” the paradox of producing the very thought that one is trying avoid.
The Thinking Problem
These two quotes are attributed to Albert Einstein: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” and, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Trying to think of ways to stop thinking about the things that make you feel anxious simply doesn’t work. Another approach is needed.
An Alternative Way
Instead of concentrating on what is causing the problem (thinking), it can be more effective to switch your attention and focus to your phy