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Stop Negative Thoughts: Getting Started


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   Stop Negative Thoughts: Getting Started

Unwanted thoughts can make you feel anxious or depressed. They may keep you from enjoying your life.

A technique called thought-stopping can help you stop unwanted thoughts.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What is thought-stopping?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why should you learn thought-stopping?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How can you stop thoughts?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where to go from here

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What is thought-stopping?

Thought-stopping is a way to get rid of unwanted thoughts. You may dwell or obsess on thoughts that make you worry, feel sad, or feel bad about yourself. Research shows that thought-stopping works. It can change the way you think. In thought-stopping, you focus on the unwanted thought and then use a technique to stop it.

When you practice thought-stopping, the unwanted thought occurs less often. Over time, the thought will be easier to ignore or may not occur at all. In some cases, the thoughts may be worries. For example, you may worry a lot about your health or the health of a family member. Or you may think over and over about a bad grade in school or a comment by a supervisor at work. Thought-stopping can help you deal with these thoughts.

You can work on thought-stopping on your own or with a counselor or therapist.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Thought-stopping can help you to not worry so much.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Thought-stopping can help you to not worry so much. You learn how to stop a thought that bothers you and then think about something else.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Thought-stopping can help you to not worry so much. You learn how to stop a thought that bothers you and then think about something else.


  2. You need to see a counselor or a therapist to practice thought-stopping.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      You don't need to see a counselor or a therapist to practice thought-stopping. You can try it on your own or as part of therapy.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      You don't need to see a counselor or therapist to practice thought-stopping. You can try it on your own or as part of therapy.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why should you learn thought-stopping?

Studies show that when you change what you think, you can change your mood. Thought-stopping is easy to learn, and it can help you feel better. Negative, unwanted thoughts can lead to anxiety or depression. They can keep you from sleeping well. And they can make it hard for you to work and enjoy your life.

Thought-stopping also can help if you already have anxiety or depression. It's one way to take an active role in your treatment. You can prevent some of the thoughts that make you anxious or depressed.

You can learn to do thought-stopping anywhere, so it can help you at work or at home. It's also easy to learn. But it does take some practice.

In some cases, you may need more help to stop thoughts that worry you or make you feel bad. Some thoughts or behaviors can't be handled by thought-stopping alone. Seek the help of your doctor or a licensed therapist or counselor if you can't stop unwanted thoughts on your own.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Thought-stopping is an easy way to change how you think.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      The technique to stop unwanted thoughts is easy to learn. But it will take practice to make it work.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      The technique to stop unwanted thoughts is easy to learn. But it will take practice to make it work.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  How can you stop thoughts?

To stop unwanted thoughts, you focus on the thought and then learn to say "Stop" to end the thought. At first, you will shout "Stop!" out loud. Then you will learn to say it in your mind so that you can use this technique anywhere. Here's how to get started:

  1. List your most stressful thoughts. These are the thoughts that distract you from your daily activities and make you worry more. You wish you could stop having these thoughts, but they keep occurring. Write down your upsetting thoughts in order of the most stressful to the least stressful. Start practicing thought-stopping with the thought that is the least stressful. Here's an example of a list, starting with the most stressful:
  2. Imagine the thought. Sit or lie down in a private place (so you can say "Stop!" out loud and not feel self-conscious). Close your eyes. Imagine a situation in which you might have this stressful thought. Then allow yourself to focus on the thought.
  3. Stop the thought. Startling yourself is a good way to interrupt the thought. Try one of these two techniques:
  4. Practice steps 1 through 3 until the thought goes away on command. Then try the process again. This time, interrupt the thought by saying the word "Stop!" in a normal voice.
  5. After your normal voice is able to stop the thought, try whispering "Stop." Over time, you can just imagine hearing "Stop" inside your mind. At this point, you can stop the thought whenever and wherever it occurs.
  6. Pick another thought that bothers you more than the last one, and continue thought-stopping.

Other ways to stop thoughts

You can change how you do thought-stopping:

This new image or idea is not the same thing as replacing a negative thought with a helpful thought that is related to it. For more information on that method, see the topic Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking.

An example of thought-stopping

Here's an example of how thought-stopping might work:

You're worried about a presentation you are giving at work later in the day. You're prepared. You know you're ready. But you can't stop worrying about it. You imagine making a mistake.

When you start to think of yourself stumbling over words, you say "Stop" quietly in your mind. You get up and move around, or you snap your rubber band as you say "Stop." Then you think of something pleasant to take your mind off the thought—such as a trip you are planning to take or a movie you saw recently that made you laugh.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. To stop unwanted thoughts, you need to concentrate on them.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      To stop unwanted thoughts, you DO have to concentrate on them. You practice focusing on the thought you want to stop, and then you use cues such as saying "Stop" and snapping a rubber band on your wrist to stop yourself from thinking about it.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      To stop unwanted thoughts, you DO have to concentrate on them. You practice focusing on the thought you want to stop, and then you use cues such as saying "Stop" and snapping a rubber band on your wrist to stop yourself from thinking about it.


  2. At first, it's best to practice stopping the thought that bothers you the most.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      At first, it's best to practice stopping the thought that bothers you the LEAST. This will help you learn how to do thought-stopping. When you can stop the smaller worries, you will be more likely to stop the thoughts that bother you the most.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      At first, it's best to practice stopping the thought that bothers you the LEAST. This will help you learn how to do thought-stopping. When you can stop the smaller worries, you will be more likely to stop the thoughts that bother you the most.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where to go from here

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to practice stopping unwanted thoughts.

Thought-stopping can be used with other cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. You can learn to notice negative thoughts and then replace them with helpful thoughts.

For more information, see:

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Anxiety: Stop Negative Thoughts.
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Depression: Stop Negative Thoughts.
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Weight Management: Stop Negative Thoughts.

References

Other Works Consulted

Credits for Stop Negative Thoughts: Getting Started

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
Specialist Medical Reviewer Sue Barton, PhD, PsyD - Behavioral Health
Last Revised August 3, 2012

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