Is suppressing negative thoughts actually bad for mental health?

  • The notion that confronting negative thoughts can assist a person to process them better and that avoiding them is not a good idea has been around since Sigmund Freud.
  • However, studies over the past two decades have shown that avoiding certain negative thoughts can help boost a person’s wellbeing.
  • A new study has proven that teaching individuals to stay clear of negative thoughts actually enhances their mental well-being as well as reduces depression for a period of up to three months following the training.

Can suffocating thoughts about negative thoughts be an advantage? Do humans really need to sort out every thought that comes from negative experiences they go through?

The latest research indicates contrary to popular opinion; it could be beneficial to stifle certain thoughts that are not needed, which could improve mental health.

Recent research found mental health can be improved for up to three months after online instruction to ward off thoughts that are not beneficial.

The results have been presented, and the findings are published in Science Advances.

The negative effects of blocking negative thoughts

Researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit invited 120 individuals from a variety of different countries to participate in their study, including some through social media platforms. They gathered data about their mental health, and the group comprised participants who had a medical history and those with no prior history of mental health problems.

The participants were required to write down the 20 worst “fears and worries” that could occur in 2 years and were of immediate concern to the participants, along with the 20 most positively oriented “hopes and dreams,” as well as 36 neutral events. Then, they were asked to identify each signal word that brought them back to the moment of the event and an important detail from the scenario that they had imagined.

They were subjected to 20 minutes of instruction in the art of thought suppression through videoconferencing. During the training, participants were prompted to say a word for four seconds. The 61 participants of them were in”suppress-negative” group “suppress-negative” group and asked to imagine the incident and then shut down any thoughts regarding the event. The 59 people in”the “suppress-neutral” group were asked to imagine the incident vividly. Participants were instructed to repeat this exercise twelve times daily for three days.

Researchers then assessed how well the thoughts were stored and also evaluated the mental health of the participants after the program. They followed up with the participants for up to three months after the training.

Following suppression training, those who were asked to silence unneeded thoughts were found to be able to recall the most important detail of the incident they had been worried about less frequently and less clearly. This was not the situation for everyone.

But, of the 61 people who were required to block unwanted thoughts, six participants reported an increase in intensity of the undesirable thought following the training.

In the follow-up period of three months, The researchers observed that those who were requested to keep their thoughts in check experienced a decrease in the intensity and retention of specific details when thinking about the incident they had been worried about.

Patients with more severe mental health problems at the time of the study were found to show an improvements in their health 3 months later, but only when they were asked to repress thoughts.

The scores of mental health indices of those with PTSD who were able to suppress these thoughts grew by more than 10%, as compared to a decline of 1% for those who didn’t. These indices of mental health contained both negative impacts (e.g. anxiety, depression, and worry) and positive ones (e.g. positive effects on wellbeing ).

Freud Psychoanalysis and HTML0.

The way that humans deal with stressful thoughts, the ways different approaches affect behavior and mood, and whether or not this is possible to change has been the subject of debate for nearly 100 years.

The most renowned psychoanalysis’s founders, Sigmund Freud, made popular the notion that our behavior and motives are influenced by our unconscious thoughts. Psychoanalysis was a method he believed could aid people become aware of their thoughts, and thus the idea that confronting negative thoughts was beneficial to mental health gained traction.

The question of whether or not you are able to effectively suppress thoughts was a topic that was studied more than 30 years ago in the late 1970s by professor Daniel Wegner, a Harvard social psychologist who was the first to conduct research into suppression of thought. In his famous experiments with white bears he observed that people who were asked to keep their thoughts from the white bear for five minutes were less likely to reflect on it afterwards in comparison to those who were instructed to consider this for the exact same amount of time.

He suggested that deliberately suppressing thoughts can trigger a process that leads to the thought happening more often. He suggested that those who wish to stay clear of negative thoughts should think about distraction therapy, exposure therapy that aims to provide the person with the feeling of control over their fears, as well as mindfulness therapies that help to increase the ability to take on negative thoughts in a neutral manner.

A researchers professor Michael Anderson, senior scientist and programme manager in Cambridge Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, U.K. has concentrated on completing research with Trusted Source research that has demonstrated that blocking the recall of unneeded memories could reduce the frequency of memory.

He released research which showed that suppressing memories may hinder the person’s perception of them and their ability to recall them, thereby challenging the notion that memories suppressed are not affected over time.

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