Thought stopping techniques
As alluded to in a previous blog post negative thinking can really get in the way of us and our ability to function: They really can make you feel anxious or depressed. As a therapist in Burbank and Rosemead California I have frequently come up against the question of how do you actually stop these negative thoughts? What are some specific thought stopping techniques?
What you think does affect how you feel. Thought stopping helps you change how you think so that you feel better. This process takes time. It’s like exercising a muscle. You need to practice thought-stopping every day. After a while, you’ll be able to dispatch unwanted thoughts pretty quickly. I wish there was silver bullet to do this but there isn’t. Different techniques work for different people at different times.
There is a common CBT technique where when one begins to experience a negative thought one sees in the mind a giant stop sign. Close your eyes and do the Four Fold breath. If you don’t know what that is I have a previous blog post here on it. In a quiet and relaxed state create a picture in your mind of a big, bright-red stop sign. STOP. Picture yourself in a car pulling up to it and it’s in the middle of the Road. This takes practice but does have usefulness.
Speaking aloud to oneself and saying “stop!” (I would not recommend using this in a crowded office space or on public transportation.) But if you are in a sufficiently private spot this thought stopping technique has been useful for some of my clients.
I often have recounted where I have gone into a panic after thinking that I lost my cell phone. Thoughts of the Russian Mafia blowing out my credit cards around the globe and ruining my life abound at these junctures. What I have learned to do is stop, and then I actually take a step back from where I was and speak to the area where I was at. ‘What are you doing to yourself? Take a deep breath and relax. If you lost your cell phone go down to AT&T and shut the thing off. It’s not the end of the world.” This method does work for me.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy has a number of interesting thought stopping techniques for visualizing the thought as wafting away. A key to getting into this mindset is mindfulness. Using Ram Dass’ technique of Cultivating the Witness is an excellent method for doing this. Additionally if one has a therapist, a guided meditation where any of the following techniques are used would be very helpful. One could see the thought as though it were a box on a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt could be headed for a furnace. Another method is to think of the thought as a dry leaf falling from a tree. Imagine it wafting away in an Autumn breeze. Additionally, imagine yourself on a small bridge with a rushing river underneath it. See the thought being written on a piece of paper and then crumpling up the paper and throwing it into a rushing river.
I sometimes doing a mass burning of fears in groups that I lead. I have everyone in the group write down their fear or possibly an addiction. Burning anxiety also works in this fashion. I then take my group outside to the building parking lot and with a frying pan and a lighter I have each person name the fear or unwanted thought and then we burn it right in front of them. The heat, the smell of the smoke and the sight of the fire burning the paper seem to speak to the unconscious mind. I then dowse the ash with water (another primal element) and tell the group “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” The responses are varied but frequently people feel that a burden has been lifted from them.
As I wrote at the beginning there isn’t a one size fits all method for stopping negative thoughts. But with practice we can become more adept at this as time goes on. This practice has great usefulness for our serenity and continued mental health. I specialize in treating stress, anxiety and depression. If you are struggling with these in the Burbank, San Fernando Valley or Greater Los Angeles areas do give me a ring or send me a message. Allow me to help you overcome these plagues on your life. i have shared a few techniques but I’ve got a bunch more to share depending on your unique situation and circumstances.