If you've ever tried to stop thinking about something, then you know how hard it can be. The more you tell yourself not to do something, the more your mind and body just seems to go in that direction.
In order to tell yourself not to do it, you're actually thinking about it.
“Don't eat sugar.”
What happens is that your brain picks up on the words sugar, yell, and worry. So instead of not doing it, you crave sugar, you yell at the first opportunity, and those worries just go into warp speed.
How Do You Work Against That?
Step 1: Do the Opposite
Good question. If I said, “Do the opposite,” would you think I'm a smart alack? LOL.
Well, truthfully, that's what we're going to do. Reframe those thoughts into positive action steps. So it would go something like this:
“Don't eat sugar.” = “Eat a piece of fruit when you want a snack.”
Don't yell.” = “Breathe in and out like the Incredible Hulk for 30 seconds until you can speak in your normal tone.” “Don't worry.” = “Be happy.” (OK, you knew that one was coming!) But in sincerity, “Remember the time
when you laughed so hard you almost peed your pants?” (You can
always go pop in your favorite funny movie to make you laugh instead.)
This happens all of the time with children. If you walk in the room and they are jumping on the couch, the first thing you say is, “Don't jump on the couch!”
Guess what? They either keep jumping or they start running around the room. Why? Their brain picked up on “jump.” Plus, you didn't tell them what to do instead.
So with children, when you want them to stop jumping on the couch, you'd walk in and say, “Put your feet on the floor now.”
Or, “Go outside.”
See what we're doing? We're telling the brain what to think about and what to do instead. Often, it is the opposite of what you're thinking.
Step 2: The More Specific, the Better
Details can often confuse people. But in this situation, the more details, the better. Notice in the earlier examples, instead of saying, “Eat something healthy” the reframe was to eat a piece of fruit.
Due to the power of worry and how it can be wired deeply into your thoughts, having specific actions built in to the opposite thought will actually increase your chances of stopping the worry wagon.
Step 3: Make a List NOW
Before you find yourself in a battle of wits with your worries, go on now and make a list of some specific things you can do or think about instead. Losing yourself into weeding the garden, folding laundry, organizing your bathroom cabinet, or cleaning out the junk drawer can take your mind off of things. So make a list of about 10-20 things and put it in your phone so you can reference it wherever you are. Worry knows no bounds.
For The Gold Star (or If Things Aren't Going as Smoothly as You Had Thought)
Pairing a few of your senses together can make it even more powerful and effective. Listen to a podcast while you fold the clothes. Sing along to the radio while you organize the bathroom cabinet. Light a candle while you soak in the tub and listen to a podcast from Women Managing Stress. 🙂 It helps!