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Human minds swarm with thoughts every minute of every day. Experts say that an average mind has 60000-80000 thoughts in a day. Now, these thoughts can be helpful if they have a purpose, help solve problems or answer questions, but most of the time they lack direction and meaning and are just of no use to us. Such thoughts can be bothersome and distract us from our main purpose, disrupting our focus. Thought -stopping techniques come in handy in such situations. 

Some people advise here that you should not think or cut the thought process at all, which is rather absurd because in doing so you are cutting both useful and paltry thoughts. However, all we need here is to master the thought-stopping techniques. Once you will get to that, you can even begin a process of thinking. After applying thought-stopping techniques and blocking bothersome thoughts in doing so, one can finally begin to think at all. Having thoughts and thinking are two different things.

The main difference between thinking and having thoughts one might like to stop is the level of control. Thoughts are a stream of ‘verbal consciousness’ with a certain level of autonomy in itself. Thinking is the consciously steered process of verbal awareness in one’s mind. To formulate and ask certain questions, for example, requires thinking. The answers provoked by the question can be considered thoughts as a stream of ideas arising from the mind when putting to the attention of the questions consciously. Thoughts are, therefore, more ‘passive‘; they arise. Thinking is more ‘active’, it is what one does. 

Thought-stopping Techniques mastered in 7 days

Stopping thoughts is a method that originated in behavioral psychotherapy intended to eliminate obsessive or disturbing thoughts but can be used in many other contexts as well.

It is used for stress-reduction, to prevent procrastinating, increase focus, productivity, enhance ‘deep work’, clarity and peace in one’s mind bringing a better vision on what needs to be done, etc.

The method of “Stopping thoughts” is relatively quick and easy to learn. On average, it takes about 7 days to develop it, which allows it to be considered one of the fastest and most effective methods to control one’s mind.

Due to the strong connection between thoughts and how one feels (an important postulate of CBT), mastering this method will also bring a sense of control over one’s life, making it easier to steer it into the direction of the impact one aims to achieve. Indeed, with less stress and more fun!

Mastering the “thought-stopping technique” 

Mastering this thought-stopping technique is carried out gradually, taking oneself through 5 steps:

Step 1

You must make a list of persistent or disturbing thoughts that are difficult to get rid of. They could simply be mundane things that are on repeat in your mind or more unpleasant thoughts.

Then, for each thought, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

● Can this cause anxiety? If so, with what probability?

● Does the thought prevent you from acting and achieving results? Or this impede average concentration?

● Is there a chance that this will become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”?

● Or does This thought cause internal discomfort?

Do you think I become happier or calmer if I get rid of this thought?

If the answer to at least one of these questions turns out to be in the affirmative, then the application of the “Thought-stopping techniques” can bring significant benefits. It is recommended that you select a thought from the list and work with it for one week. 

Pay attention here: You should not work with several thoughts at the same time.

Step 2

Close your eyes and imagine a situation in which an obsessive or disturbing thought usually appears. Then you need to “stop” this thought by allowing yourself to think about what calms you or evokes positive emotions. Envision it as a game if it simplifies things for you. Imagine the thought is a solid tangible object, then imagine the positive thought as a bat or a sword and by doing so cut through the thought replacing it with positive emotions.

At this stage, the methodology begins with imagined situations, because thoughts are easier to stop if the thought-causing situation is not real.

At step 2 it is the stopping of the thought that is practiced in a rather artificial way, like practicing the swimming techniques without being in the waters. An important practice is.

Step 3

At this stage, an external signal is used to stop the thought: you need to set a stopwatch or timer for three minutes. Then you should close your eyes and focus on the thought to be stopped. As soon as the timer beeps, you shout: “Stop!”. 

You can also tie an elastic cord around your wrist. Instead of the Stop command, pull the cord and release it to cause light pain (there is no need to cause severe pain). However, it is important to remember if you are using the elastic technique to not over use it as it may become a toxic habit that’ll bring you anxiety instead of relief like nail picking for instance.

Using one of these external triggers, it should signal you allowing yourself to think through only neutral or positive thoughts.

If a thought returns, you need to give yourself the Stop command again. One can consider recording a repeated Stop command and playing it, to help switch your attention to neutral or positive thoughts.

This practice can be done a few times a day. Repetition is more important here.

Step 4

At this stage, you should learn to control your thoughts without “a reminder” from an external source (timer or tape recorder). To stop a thought, you can say the command “Stop!” or use an elastic cord (as described above). After the loud command “Stop!” became useful for stopping thought, you need to start using the same command, but pronounce it in a normal voice. It would help if you switched to a barely audible, increasingly whisper, then pronounce the command at the sub vocalization level and, finally, start using the mental command. 

For a mental command to be more productive, one can imagine that it is pronounced in a loud voice or even shouts out (for this purpose, one can strain the language and vocal cords). The transition to the mental command “Stop” is necessary in order.

Step 5

At this stage, one should begin to replace negative and disturbing thoughts with soothing and positive images and thoughts, since in the absence of such a replacement, unwanted thought returns immediately. If you find it hard to imagine a certain positive image. Words help too, you easily replace the persistent thought with one simple line.

For example, with aerophobia, you can say to yourself: “An airplane is the safest vehicle. I can comfortably sit in a chair and relax.” You can also imagine how a plane safely arrives at its destination. In this case, you should vary the words and images because they become less effective with prolonged use. This can be supplemented with thoughts about something pleasant or use relaxation techniques (autogenic training).

Some recommendations for Thought stopping techniques:

● Some individuals achieve better results if they complement the Stop command with appropriate visualization (that is, they create in their imagination an image of how an obsessive thought disappears).

● Failure to apply the method may mean that thought too difficult to eradicate has been chosen. In this case, you should choose a less intrusive or less disturbing thought. Only after the method is well mastered we can move on to more complex goals.

● It is good to combine Thought stopping techniques with breathing exercises.


How does Thought-stopping technique work?

Three hypotheses explain the mechanism of action of Thought stopping technique:

● Perhaps the “Stop” signal acts as a kind of punishment (aversive stimulus), leading to the elimination of unwanted behavior, which is the constant thinking of negative thoughts.

● It is also assumed that the Stop signal distracts attention from unwanted thoughts.

Finally, there is a hypothesis that this method is a form of affirmation; that is, a technique that helps to establish a positive attitude in the unconscious.

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