Blog: How I stop negative thoughts

I hope you are all having a good week, but if you are not, I hope you are finding ways to cope through difficult times.

We all have negative thoughts. In the short term they can be overwhelming – in the long term they can cause more serious mental ill health conditions. How we deal with them varies.

There are many different techniques out there to deal with negative thoughts, some will work for you, some will not.  I frequently use my stop mechanisms to cope at difficult times.  A stop mechanism is something you can use to change your thought cycle by either focusing your attention on to something more positive or a distraction technique.

It is very likely you already have some stop mechanisms in place, but you might not recognise them specifically as that.  Its worth spending a little time identifying your stop mechanisms.

Here are a few examples:

  • Exercise
  • Doing something creative (and putting all your thoughts into it)
  • Lose yourself (in a book / tv show/ film / audiobook or videogame)
  • Communication – talking to someone else about positive or happy things.
  • Writing (creative or journaling)
  • Getting outdoors to focus on your surroundings.

These are just a few I have listed quickly.  This is something I cover in my Positivity Wellbeing Training. It’s a very powerful tool to have ready to deploy against negative thoughts.

This week I used the distraction coping technique.  For the last two years I’ve been waiting for a medical check-up, something that I have a great deal of anxiety around.  The appointment was delayed by over two years, so I’ve had plenty of time to stew about this.  I finally got an appointment date a few weeks ago, and I knew I would need to work hard to keep my anxiety in check.

Late last week, as the appointment was getting closer, I must admit I was really starting to struggle. That was when I knew it was time to deploy a stop mechanism: distraction.  This one was very simple, but effective.  I gave myself a problem to solve. It may sound a little ridiculous, but the “problem” was planning a holiday in the UK.  There were many issues to consider: where, how long and cost.  I could literally go anywhere. It was a positive problem to solve, but I through a large amount of my attention into it.  I love to travel, so I gave myself freedom to let my mind wander at possibilities.

I literally spent my time looking at my options to go away through the last weekend.  My positive problem to solve pushed away thoughts about my scary medical appointment. I stopped those thoughts in their tracks as I focused all my attentions away from it.

This distraction coping technique got my all the way through to Monday morning, the day of the appointment, without a spike in my anxiety.

I did have a spike of anxiety on the actual day, I didn’t expect to avoid that, but using a stop mechanism over the weekend really helped me.

There is so much power behind knowing what our stop mechanisms are.  This is just one of many that I practice.

Have you got any stop mechanisms? If you are not sure, spend a little time building your arsenal of stop mechanisms – they could be such a strong defence against those negative thoughts.

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