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Negative thoughts?  Throw them away

March 2, 2013


Last week, I did what most of my friends and family members think is unacceptable for some reason. I drove myself to my chemotherapy session in Jackson. I had to stretch the truth a bit to be able to have five hours of “alone time” in my auto to reflect on the beauty of the budding Mississippi countryside.  Fortunately it was one of those rare winter days when the sun actually showed up for work.

The whole experience was invigorating and mind expanding. It gave me time to think about some of the mysteries of the universe — like why popcorn isn’t considered a vegetable. Why did Yankee Doodle Dandy name that feather in his cap “macaroni?” And what the initials OK stand for? You know, fascinating stuff like that.

After exhausting that line of thinking I tuned my satellite radio to the “Doctors” station. It is produced by the respected NYC Langone Medical Center. In no way does it reflect the hocus pocus solutions of someone like Dr. Oz who barfs out “miracle cures” for everything from gluttony to sleep apnea.

I’m embarrassed to admit I was suckered in and ordered his "waist whittling" Green Coffee Bean Extract to the tune of $32.50. I could have purchased a week’s worth of Lean Cuisines for the same amount. I took it for two days during which I climbed up and down every wall in my house, painted my guest room a shocking shade of pomegranate, and hallucinated that I was circling the globe with Amelia Earhart.

While thinking about that wasted $32.50, anger set in and I began to feel an attack of aggression coming on — not a good thing when you’re behind the wheel of a truck. Then, Dr. Richard Petty came to my rescue on satellite radio.

He has just completed a study that shows it is very effective to get rid of unwanted negative thoughts by just writing them down, ripping them up, and tossing them in the trash. His researchers found that when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw it in the trash, they mentally discarded the bad feelings and felt instant relief.

I’ve been practicing a similar activity for several years. I have an old teapot that sits beside my bed. I call it my “God Pot” and when I’m concerned about something specific, I write it down on a piece of paper and toss it in the teapot (after praying about it of course).

Later, sometimes months later, I dump the scraps out on my bed to find to my delight that every one of the issues has been resolved — not always the way I’d have preferred but who am I to tell God how to solve my problems. The point is, they got fixed and no longer cause me anxiety.

I know it sounds silly, but Petty found that the “trash” system really works. By physically throwing away negative thoughts and protecting your positive thoughts, you influence how you end up using those thoughts. Merely imagining dumping the thoughts has no effect, he said.

He also found that if you write down your positive thoughts on a piece of paper and place them in your pocket or desk drawer, you will mirror those good feelings in your daily tasks.

What the heck. It’s worth a try. I just dumped all my problems in the trash along with two bottles of Green Coffee Bean extract and life is already looking up.
Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a blog for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement.  She welcomes comments at

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