Scientifically Proven Mental Trick May Reduce Anxiety

If you are like many people in the world, you probably suffer from anxiety. Your job, family, and you love life all being fuel for the brain’s nefarious dungeon of repetitive, negative thoughts. For many of us, we’ve learned the hard lessons regarding SSRI prescriptions, which tend to dish out side-effects and cause many people to feel like a zombie.

Well, a professor of psychology at New York University says that she has a mental trick that can stop anxiety right in its tracks. Gabrielle Oettingen, Ph.D. says that her latest research findings, which were published in Frontiers in Psychology hold the key to successfully staving off the beast within. She says the method of “mental contrasting” can help people deal with symptoms of anxiety on the fly. She claims that mental contrasting can help people feel “more at ease” when the overwhelming symptoms of anxiety take hold of the mind.

“[W]hen you mentally contrast the thoughts and fantasies about a desired future with the main inner obstacle of reality standing in the way, people will find clarity about what they want and can achieve, and they invest the effort to fulfill their wishes and attain their goals,” Oettingen told PsyPost.

Dr. Oettingen’s research flies counter in the face of straight positive thinking. If one is to follow Dr. Oettingen’s method, they’d instead visualize the fear becoming a real-life scenario. So rather than visualizing a positive outcome (the power of positive thinking), you are doing the opposite. The contrasting part comes when you compare the negative resulting event to your positive state of being.

The idea is to imagine the fear-based result and then contrast that with your current positive circumstances. If you are afraid of an EMP attack, you can imagine the devastation caused by an EMP attack, but contrast it with the good things you have going on in your life right now.

According to

The research presented is part of a 20-year line of study about what motivates behavior change. In the first of two parts, participants were directed to imagine an impending E. coli outbreak. Those who thought of the outbreak in the context of the preventive measures in place today experienced lower anxiety than those who were told to envision the outbreak alone. In the second experiment, participants thought of a future personal event that was currently causing anxiety. Once again, those who thought about the feared outcome and also imagined the present moment’s positive aspects had less anxiety about the future than those who thought only about the feared outcome.

In some ways, this method could be called a “reality check.” All the same, struggling with anxiety is something we all have to battle on a frequent basis.


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Written by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, DO. Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.