If negative thoughts are weighing you down, there’s an easy way to get rid of them: Write them out on a piece of paper and then toss it, just like you would last week’s grocery list.
When you discard the note, you symbolically discard the thoughts as well, according to new research published online in the journal Psychological Science. However, the opposite is also true — if you hold on to the paper, you’re more likely to use those words when making judgments.
In one experiment to test this theory, high school students in Spain were asked to write down positive or negative comments about their bodies. Half the students were instructed to linger over their papers, while the other half threw out their descriptions. Those who got rid of their notes didn’t change their minds, but the students who held onto their writings developed stronger responses — good or bad — about their bodies.