When You Can’t Think Away Your Anxious Thoughts, Do This Instead

By Lesley Lyle
July 19, 2022

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.