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Focusing on Mental Imagery Helps Teens Break Free From Negativity

Summary: A new study reports that negative rumination can be improved by using mental imagery for teens. The researchers reported that mental imagery improves negative affect and helps regulate the nervous system.

While researchers were unable to answer why mental imagery was so effective, they hypothesized imagery is more immersive and requires greater effort, creating a greater emotional response and thus a larger distraction.

Source: Oregon State University

For adolescents who may get stuck in negative thought spirals, refocusing on mental imagery is a more effective distraction than verbal thoughts, a recent study from Oregon State University found.

A short-term distraction can break up the thought spiral, which makes room for that person to then seek help from a therapist, friend or parent, said study author Hannah Lawrence, an assistant professor of psychology in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts.

“When we get stuck thinking about negative things that happened in the past, that makes us feel even worse, and it leads to more difficulties regulating our emotions and regulating our bodies,” Lawrence said.

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