According to new research in the European Journal of Personality, distracting yourself as a strategy for getting through adverse challenges actually seems to lead to less success.
"Perhaps because distraction makes us more inclined to give in and do something more pleasant," speculates cognitive neuroscientist and author Christian Jarrett in his review of the new research for the British Psychological Society Research Digest.
The research team, led by Marie Hennecke at the University of Zurich, conducted a pilot study that involved surveying hundreds of participants about the mental strategies they use to complete challenging and often unpleasant tasks like running on a treadmill. In a separate study, participants were asked to log the challenges they faced each day, the strategies they used to approach them, and how successful they were.
The results revealed that thinking about the positive effects of getting to the end of the challenge was the most popular strategy correlated with success. Thinking that the end is near was the second most popular helpful strategy, while monitoring progress towards the goal and trying to keep a positive emotional state were also associated with success.