Labor Day has come and gone, Starbucks is already serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and school is officially in full swing for everyone. I am reminded of some of my favorite shows growing up, specifically “Saved by the Bell.” Being a teenager on the east coast, I fantasized about going to school right near the beach, having school dances where I could break out “the sprain, ” and hanging out at The Max. But one of the most memorable things about SBTB, was Zach’s “Time Out,” where he could freeze whatever conversation he was in (usually one where he was in trouble), talk out his problem with the audience, and then unfreeze and redirect the conversation in his favor. Little did I know at the time, but Zach Morris was exercising another powerful mental training tool, thought stopping.
Thought stopping is when we acknowledge the undesired, or negative, thought briefly and then choose to stop the thought and let it go. To go even further, you can then replace the thought with a positive statement, also known as positive replacement. For many of us, getting in the habit of just stopping the negative thought and fully letting it go will be challenging enough. Establishing this practice is the first step. In order to enhance your practice by redirecting your mind with positive replacements, try doing this exercise. Write out a list of negative thoughts you may have had or make some up and then next to each statement re-write the statement in a more positive way. For example:
Negative thought- “I am never going to loose this weight.”
Positive replacement- “I work out everyday and feel better each time."
Another helpful exercise is to keep a thought stopping log. In a notebook or on your phone, write down the negative thought, when it happened, what the situation was, and then a positive replacement. After doing this for a week, you can look back at the log and make observations of when your mind started to downward spiral and then figure out why. By adding the positive replacement thoughts, you begin to re-train your mind, helping to keep it on the upward spiral. Remember you are observing yourself, not judging yourself.
Next week, I will go further into enhancing our thought stopping practice with additional techniques.
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