Vibrant Mind: Skill 2
Skill Two: Thought Stopping
A short training video on thought stopping:
Cognitive therapy and CBT offer lots of thinking tricks and tips to keep your mind and relationships healthy. An unhealthy mind loops around unhealthy thoughts, playing a narrative over and over that keeps you stuck. A healthy, disciplined mind promises you the chance of a more peaceful existence, despite the inevitable stress & turmoil (what I call ‘weather’). CBT is the most empirically tested of all therapies. There is strong evidence that it works.
Self-defeating or looping thoughts come in many forms, but the ones you struggle most with probably appear on the following list:
“I’m not good enough.”
“This is my fault.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I’m too fat/stupid/lazy.”
“This will never get better.”
“I wish I had_____.”
“Everything would be better if_____.”
“Why can’t I be like (this person or that person).”
“I would rather die.”
“It’s not worth it.”
Do these negative thoughts sound familiar?
You can reframe negative thoughts, but there are other skills to choose from. In this article, I introduce the concept of thought stopping, which means to note, stop and expel a negative thought once you are aware of its existence. Awareness comes from mindfulness, which means being in the present moment.
If you have not reviewed the article Skill One: Reframing, please do that before you move on to this more difficult skill. As a reminder, you’ll find short training videos on Vibrant Health Company’s YouTube Channel. You’ll need to learn all of my basic CBT skills and experiment to see which skill works best for any particular situation you are faced with. The skill articles are found here along with a wealth of information on mental health and wellness: https://vibranthealthcompany.com/featured-articles/
If you decide you want to try the technique of thought stopping, this is what to do:
- Wait for the next self-defeating or negative thought to come to your attention.
- Decide to stop it.
- Take a deep breath.
- Blink, gather conviction and tell yourself, “No! I will not feed into this thought. I reject it.”
- Deliberately shift your mind or behavior to another topic and action.
- Practice over and over.
Stopping a thought is not easy. Stopping a thought involves more than distracting yourself. You make a decision to cease and desist. Over time, your negative thoughts have gathered strength. Now you must build mind muscle, which refers to actual grey matter, around a new script. Make space for new scripts by refusing to entertain thoughts that hold you back.
Some clients find it helpful to imagine situations that represent what I am trying to teach. This is called a visualization or a metaphor. Push away unhelpful thoughts with my Grizzly Bear Method:
Grizzly Bear Method
Your self-defeating thought is a Grizzly Bear on the trail ahead.
You notice it from a distance.
You wouldn’t engage it and ask it how it got there.
You’d run like hell, right?
So do that.
Turn around and run from the grizzly. It will eat you up if you let it!
Run from negative thoughts as you would from a grizzly bear. This is the art of thought stopping. As you follow our series, you will learn how these intentional skills are very different from denying or repressing emotions. Your mental health depends on your absolute conviction to turn away from thoughts that do not serve you.
Read more about my CBT methods here: https://vibranthealthcompany.com/featured-articles/
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Traci Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC is the founder of Vibrant Health Company LLC
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