How Do You Detox?Posted on
When I created the original Thought Detox web app, it was meant to be a digital version of a traditionally-analogue concept: take a thought that’s upsetting to you, write about it on a piece of paper, and then throw away that piece of paper. And there’s evidence that this works, too:
As it happens, writing down your negative thoughts on a piece of paper and then physically throwing this piece of paper in the trash lessens the salience of these thoughts. Our neural circuitry doesn’t always make a clear distinction between the mental and physical. Physically discarding negative thoughts turns the volume down on them mentally too.
I always thought about the app as a way explore your thoughts through writing. What’s interesting to me is other ways that folks are using the app!
While I tend to use the app during quiet hours at the end of the day, Tony writes about using Thought Detox a little bit more in the heat of the moment, to release negative thoughts about work as they come up.
Expressive writing can also have interesting effects on performing better under stress. From an older study:
Other research has shown that expressive writing, in which people repeatedly write about a traumatic or emotional experience over several weeks or months, is an effective technique for decreasing worries in clinically depressed individuals.
By “downloading” worries from mind to paper, you break the rumination cycle — you get to express your concerns rather than letting your worries build in your mind. And that, in turn, gets your anxieties out of the way so that you can focus on performing.
One final use case for the app that I’ve seen is for redirecting replies to a “black hole” of sorts—in other words, rather than angrily replying to someone in the heat of the moment via text or email or whatever, write it in Thought Detox instead. Once you’ve gotten that out of your system, you can send a more composed message instead.
One More Thing
There’s always one more thing! May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to support that, Thought Detox is on sale on the App Store until the 31st.