It is a commonly held belief that consciously suppressing negative thoughts can be detrimental to mental health.
Challenging Conventional Wisdom
A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK has found that suppressing negative thoughts may, in fact, be good for our mental health. This finding is contrary to conventional thinking, which has long held that suppressing negative thoughts is harmful and can lead to a rebound effect, making the thoughts come back even stronger.
A promising alternative approach to addressing mental health conditions.
Study suggests that similar to our actions, our thoughts, and emotions sometimes need to be controlled, particularly when we’re reminded of distressing experiences.
The Study: Exploring Thought Suppression
Researchers conducted a study involving 120 participants from 16 countries, including individuals with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study aimed to explore the possibility and benefits of suppressing negative thoughts.
Participants were asked to think about various scenarios, including negative fears, positive hopes, and neutral events. They provided cue words and key details for these scenarios. The study involved a 20-minute daily online training session for three days. In these sessions, participants practiced either suppressing or imagining the scenarios based on cue words.
Before, immediately after, and three months after the study, participants rated the scenarios for vividness, likelihood, emotional impact, and other factors. They also completed questionnaires related to mental health.
Positive Outcomes: Benefits of Suppressing Negative Thoughts
The study found that suppressing negative events reduced their vividness and anxiety immediately after training. These effects lasted for three months.
Participants reported thinking about these events less frequently. This suggests that controlled suppression of negative thoughts may offer a promising approach to improving mental well-being.