How Physical Distance Helps Emotional Growth

How much distance does one need? Seriously. We live in a world where we are granted practically no ‘me’ time. Our business models, classrooms, and even playgrounds have become busy. There seems to be no space where one can relax and be alone. It seems to be no coincidence then that stress levels and anxiety levels are increasing, even in children.  Children are one end also more stressed, hassled and compelled to go to ‘play dates’ and volunteering and tennis and chess and  (there no indication of causality, of course) and on the other, they are being diagnosed with more mental health disorders. So now, the next concern become, do we need some personal space for introspection?

Scientists wondered if children could help manage anger or stress by simply removing themselves from the situation physically. That is, if children could better manage their emotional reactivity by merely stepping out of a room when they’re upset and so that’s what the went on to look.

In a study, researchers engaged 226, 11-20-year-old students and had them reflect on anger related personal experiences. The researchers had predicted that individuals who distance themselves from the situation physically, tend to be less reactive in the moment. And that’s exactly what they found! They also found that individuals who distanced themselves from the situations interpreted the situation more favorably and blamed others less. This relationship of physically distancing one’s self in a situation and being less emotionally reactive strengthened with age.

So the age-old saying of count till ten when you’re angry still holds. Hence, next time you get angry at your friend, partner, parent or child, take a step back and take a breather and then act. Don’t react to a situation. Act in it.