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Write down what's bothering you and throw it in the trash – does it really work?

Write down what's bothering you and throw it in the trash – does it really work?

Source: Steve Johnson / Unsplash

May 3, 2024
Author: Zsolt Lendvay

A recent Japanese study showed that the physical nature of paper can really help you get rid of stuff.

An interesting study was published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, regarding letting go and overcoming bad experiences and painful things. According to Japanese researchers, writing down grievances on a piece of paper and then throwing them in the trash can help a lot in moving on.

But this time the devil is in the details: according to scientists, the key may not be the description, but the editing itself. If we crumple the paper or tear it, we might send it to the shredder, and then throw it away. In the trash, we can achieve a much better effect than just writing it, but then we will also keep it.

57 students from a Japanese university participated in the survey. They were asked to write their brief opinion about an important social issue such as smoking in public places. Then they received very bad, and often downright hurtful, feedback about their work. They then had to write down their thoughts about how hurt or upset they felt by the reaction. In the end, half the group could throw away or destroy the notes, but the others had to keep them and put them in a file cabinet or folder on their desks.

While the bad reactions they received to their work caused some degree of negative emotions in all of them, those who got rid of the papers returned to their basic state of nervousness and tension. But those who only wrote down their grievances felt less comfortable. According to scientists, the reason behind the results may be that we have physically gotten rid of something, in this case symbolically the problem, the bad feeling. Overall, this anger management method can be effective, convenient, and inexpensive for educational, business, or clinical settings.

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