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Dread can be a powerful motivational tool

https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/dread-motivational-tool

bigthink.com

Dread can be a powerful motivational tool
A study from the University of British Columbia weighed the effects of positive and negative anticipation. Immediate gratification tends to be a powerful motivator; we also want to get negative experiences over with sooner than later. The feeling of dread can be a powerful motivational tool to stop procrastination.

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Positive and negative anticipation

Positive and negative anticipation

A study from the University of British Columbia analyzed the effects of positive and negative anticipation.

The conclusions show that we tend to want a yummy snack immediately but prefer to delay paying our bills. This seems to make intuitive sense, but the researchers wanted to dig deeper into the role of anticipation.

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Anticipation asymmetry

Anticipation pushes against our natural tendency to want good things now and bad things later.

We'd rather get negative experiences over with to avoid the dread of waiting. Yet this desire is not as powerful as wanting positive experiences immediately.

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Subjective magnitude

We weigh negatives twice as heavily as positives. This is similar to loss aversion: We prefer avoiding losses than acquiring equivalent gains.

Loss aversion focuses narrowly on losses and gains, however, while subjective magnitude broadly considers positive and negative events.

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Using dread as a motivator

That idea was put forward at Fast Company: "Don't want to do something? Tell yourself that it will be horrible. The worst. A godforsaken burden."

Immediate gratification is more strongly woven into our DNA than dread. Yet dread can be a motivational tool as well. Cognitive reframing can stop procrastination in its tracks.

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Count your blessings

Spend 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each day writing in detail about three things that went well that day, large or small, and also describing why you think they happened.

Mental subtraction

You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone. 

Consider the many ways in which important, positive events in your life—such as a job opportunity or educational achievement—could have never taken place, and then reflecting on what your life would be like without them.

Savor

We have a tendency to adapt to pleasurable things—a phenomenon called “hedonic adaptation”—and appreciate them less and less over time. 

We can interrupt this process by trying the Give it Up practice, which requires temporarily giving up pleasurable activities and then coming back to them later, this time with greater anticipation and excitement.

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Limit your use of social media

Limit your use of social media

Commit to not checking social media during meals with family and friends, and when playing with children or talking with a partner. 

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Have “detox” periods

Even a five-day or weeklong break from Facebook can lead to lower stress and higher life satisfaction

Publicly declare you are on a break. And delete the apps for your favorite social media services.

You can also cut back without going cold turkey: limit your use of social media to 10 minutes a day for three weeks and you'll see improvements in your mental health. 

Pay attention to how you use social media

Experiment with using your favorite online platforms at different times of day and for varying lengths of time, to see how you feel during and after each session. 

You may find that a few short spurts help you feel better than spending 45 minutes exhaustively scrolling through a site’s feed. 

Unrealistic Optimism

Unrealistic Optimism

The tendency to over-expect the probability of good things happening while negating the likelihood of anything bad happening is a common human trait.

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The Advocates for Pessimism

Pessimism, or having a bias towards a negative outcome, has a fan base too, as it seems that pessimists are immune to disappointment.

Their view of life already considers the worst possible outcome as the default one, and anything better than that can only improve it.

Loss Aversion

Losing something we already have is twice as much pain than gaining the same. This skewed feelings towards loss is known as loss aversion.

Expectations always dampen the feelings of happiness, always setting us up in advance for a dose of disappointment.