3 Ways To Get Unhooked From Bad Thoughts or Feelings in 5 minutes or Less

S_i-cant-stop-bad-thoughtsHave you ever tried to get rid of bad thoughts or feelings? Have you ever been hooked into the idea that WHEN the bad thoughts or feelings are gone THEN you can live your values? If you have – join the club!

At its best, this When / Then thinking might force us to “get rid” of those bad thoughts through force of will [that voice in your head that says: “Just drop it already! Don’t be foolish!”]. So, you can set aside those negative thoughts and feelings to get the job done. This is usually only a temporary fix though – the unwanted thoughts and feelings will keep coming back. At its worst, this When / Then kind of thinking can keep us stuck in a place where we are not living our values…

What if instead of believing that we have to banish these negative thoughts and feelings we could chose a different way. What if, instead of putting all our energy into getting rid of those thoughts and feelings we could learn how toCHANGE OUR RELATIONSHIP to them. That way they don’t get to influence our life as much when they do show up. 

HERE ARE 3 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH UNWANTED THOUGHTS OR FEELINGS IN 5 MINUTES OR LESS!

We will do all sorts of things to distract ourselves from thoughts or feelings we don’t want to have- like over-scheduling ourselves so we never have  a quiet moment when they could come up, drink, sex, work, hanging out in “what if” world, thinking about the past, worrying about the future, getting stuck in our heads analyzing or in other people’s heads making assumptions about what they are thinking or feeling about us- In short, we will often invest our time and energy ANYWHERE but in the present because that is where those pesky feelings are!

The problem is that we can’t actually control what thoughts and feelings we have any more than we can control what we see at the mall…BUT, we can CHOOSE what we buy at the mall, and there are ways we can learn to CHANGE OUR RELATIONSHIP to those harmful thoughts or feelings, so they don’t influence our life as much, so they don’t get to dictate if we are happy, sad or scared or if we will have a bad day. Essentially, even though we can’t choose what we see at the mall, we CAN choose what we buy there, and similarly, although we can’t control what thoughts or feelings pop up for us, we CAN learn to get unhooked from harmful ones enough to CHOOSE if we are going to invest in them or not – and here are 3 ways to do just that!

anchor1. ANCHORING– Think of a time you felt happy, proud, strong and confident, even if it was just for a few moments. If no such example comes to mind then imagine a situation where that would be the case. Take a few minutes to really pay attention and connect to what it felt like in that moment- you are taking the time to connect to your Strong and Healthy Self. Notice how it felt physically to stand up for yourself, what kinds of thoughts you had and what your body posture was like. Let yourself stay connected to this physical experience and when you really feel connected, do some small and subtle gesture that you could do even if you were in a crowd and make your connection to that proud, strong feeling even stronger. You will use this gesture to call on this state of feeling strong when you need it. If you really want this to be a good go-to, REHEARSE. Think about a time that was difficult for you, notice your body deflate and then use this gesture (ie. rubbing a ring, touching your wrist or leg, straightening your shoulders- whatever works for you) and then re-connect to that strong, confident feeling. The more you REHEARSE doing this, the more easily you will be able to re-connect with your strong and healthy self ON-DEMAND. And all of this can be done in seconds to minutes depending on how often you have rehearsed. If you want to do a guided meditation to do this, there are several on the meditation page under Anchoring and Rehearsing Meditations.

2. GROUNDING- Earlier we mentioned that we mind.full.mindful do all sorts of things to avoid being present with our feelings when we don’t want to feel them, and the truth is, we know when we are doing these things because they make us feel weaker. The reason for this is that we are using these strategies to try to convince ourselves and others that things are ok when they are not, to DENY our own experience or reality…that takes resources and effort, so the bad news is that these strategies makes us feel weaker. The good news is that the antidote takes a couple of minutes and is to use all 5 of our senses to come back to the present. So when you feel stuck, choose any object around you, a rock, dirt, a table, a plant, a chair etc and bring ALL OF YOUR ATTENTION to noticing everything about it for a few minutes. Notice how it looks, how it smells, what it feels like (ideally include something you can physically touch because when we are distressed, concrete is better), what it sounds like, and possibly even how it tastes depending on what you choose.

One person shared with me that they would glass.water do this with mindfully drinking a glass of water when they felt small or distressed, another would smell dirt and someone else would pay attention to all of the objects in the room of a certain colour. Find a version of this that works for you and you will discover it can work in minutes!

Donald_Duck3. SILLY VOICE– This one is one of my all time favourites and often one the most effective ones! Take whatever it is that you are saying to yourself (i.e. they will leave me, I’m a loser, I did it wrong etc) or whatever it is that someone else has said that is hooking you (i.e., a boss criticizing you, a parent’s dismissive comment, someone blaming you etc) and hear it in your head using a silly voice-it becomes very difficult to keep taking it seriously. The idea with this strategy is that it helps us unhook from the thought by experiencing it in a completely different context, which gives us just enough distance to get unhooked from it to see it for what it is, and not as a fact.

Some silly voices people like to use include: A British Accent james.bond(or James Bond), a pirate voice, Donald Duck, Sweet Valley High (the “Oh My Gosh! Did you see what she was wearing type voice portrayed on TV), Seinfeld voice or even Newman’s belly voice, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) or                         Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Check out the impact this can have, on this You Tube video …

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