STYLE

Get Psychological Closure

02/11/2010 17:01 | Updated 22 May 2015

If something's troubling you, write it down, put it in an envelope and seal it. It'll help you let go of the problem and bring psychological closure.

Flickr: Crafty Dogma

Researchers at the National University of Singapore recently asked 80 students to write about a recent decision they regretted. Half of them were then told to seal what they'd written in an envelope.

Afterwards, the 'envelope' students felt less negative about the event than the participants who just handed in what they wrote without an envelope. The result was similar when 40 female students were asked to write about a strong personal desire that hadn't been satisfied.

The secret's in the sealing

Two further experiments tell us more about the power of this simple act. Sealing a disturbing news story in an envelope both reduced its negative emotional impact and the participants' memory of it.

Interestingly, sealing a 'neutral' unrelated piece of paper didn't have these effects, which goes to show that it's covering and putting away emotive material - things that you have an emotional reaction to, and not any old thing - that makes a difference.

Envelopes help heal best

Finally, sealing in an envelope a written recollection of an event they regret led participants to feel less negative about what had happened than when they simply paper-clipped their pages together.

So it's not just the act of doing something to a written down memory but specifically enclosing it that helps us get over it.

'We've shown that the symbolic act of enclosing and sealing influences the memory, in the sense that the recollection of the emotional details of an event becomes weaker" said the researchers.

More:

Unfiled
Suggest a correction