Sometimes our minds can get stuck on the same old thought patterns. It can be a past memory replaying in our head. The unhelpful things we say to ourselves. Or worries we have about the future.
Having Anxiety or Depression can also contribute to these thoughts, which in turn affects our mood and well-being, feeding into a vicious cycle. These thoughts are annoying because they often keep us awake at night or prevents us from being present and enjoying the moment.
Below is a super simple and effective way to help you interrupt the negative thoughts you have. Or reduce any ruminative thinking - these are repetitive thoughts that go around and around in our mind.
The first step is that you need to (notice) catch yourself when you are engaging in negative, repetitive thinking. Building self-awareness can be tricky, and you can use Clearhead's online platform to guide you to build that skillset in yourself.
Once you have developed the ability to spot when you are engaging in this type of thinking, you can implement the following S.T.O.P technique:
1) Bring to mind a symbol that to you means STOP. It could be a stop sign, a brick wall or the palm of a hand held extended. (S)
2) The next step is to Take a moment (T). Bring yourself into the very present moment by reorienting yourself to what is happening around you, rather than what is going on in your mind.
3) The third step - Observe your breath. (O). Focus your mind to solely observe your breath. You may choose to do a couple of long slow breaths while you are here. Deep breathing will help activate the part of your nervous system that will calm you down.
4) And then: Proceed (P). Proceed while staying in the Present moment. You can change the P to 'Proceed with Gratitude' if you like - taking the time to think of three things you are grateful for in that moment.
This technique helps you to change your thinking pathways and resets your thinking. The more you practice this, the easier it will be for you to recognise when your mind is 'stuck' in negative thinking and the quicker you will get at switching your mind to a more positive track.
Oh and the small s at the end of the STOPs is to remind yourself to smile. Forcing yourself to smile has been shown to help improve your mood, even if it's not exactly how you are truly feeling in the moment.
This is because smiling spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness while Serotonin is associated with reducing stress levels. Therefore, just smiling can trick your brain into believing you’re happy and turn your vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle instead! 😊
Did you try the S.T.O.P technique? If you find it helpful, be kind and share it with someone you know who might also benefit from learning about the S.T.O.P technique.
Helen Duyvestyn, Mental Health Nurse, (RcN, MHSc)