The same resources used for thinking are used for feeling. Distracting yourself with an intense mental task (like doing math problems, filling out questionnaires can help reduce bad feelings.
But how exactly can numbers replace feelings? Research suggests it is because both cognitive tasks and emotional responses make use of the same limited mental resources (Baddeley, 2007; Siemer, 2005; Van Dillen & Koole, 2007). Granted that this limitation has certain drawbacks (most people can’t call, drive, and eat simultaneously), it may have some benefits as well. That is, the resources that are used to perform a cognitive task are no longer available for emotional processes. Accordingly, people can rid themselves from unwanted feelings by engaging in a cognitive activity, such as doing math equations (Van Dillen & Koole, 2007), playing a game of Tetris ( Holmes, James, Coode-Bate, & Deeprose , 2008), visualizing scenes such as sitting in a double-decker bus driving down the street (Rusting & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998), sorting cards ( Morrow & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990), responding to colored lights ( Christenfeld, 1997), or filling out bogus questionnaires ( Glynn et al., 2002).
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