If you have ever felt conflicted about deleting an email or clearing up your desk or organizing your garage, this article may help explain why. Letting go can hurt! The article mentions a study of hoarding behavior, but the brain science may apply to something as mundane as clearing out an email inbox.
Why It’s Hard to Let Go of Clutter
A new brain imaging study finds that letting go is literally painful.
Published on August 7, 2012 by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. in The Science of Willpower
Have you ever been overwhelmed by a junk drawer, closet, packed garage, or pile of paperwork — but found it hard to just throw everything out?
A new study finds that for many, letting go is literally painful.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine recruited both non-hoarders and hoarders, and then asked them to sort through items like junk mail and old newspapers. Some of the items belonged to the experimenter, and some actually belonged to the participant. Participants had to decide what to keep and what to toss. While this was happening, researchers tracked their brain activity.
Unlike non-hoarders, hoarders showed increased activity in two regions of the brain when confronted with their own junk. Those two areas: the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula. And the more a hoarder reported feeling “not right” about throwing something out, the stronger this pattern of activation was.
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