And Now…For Something To Tackle Overthinking & Negative Thoughts
It’s been another busy weekend in the Regan household and once again we headed through the streets of Ely on a rock hunt (I’ve written about the benefits of rock hunting in another blog). This time we were out in the snow which fell consistently for a few hours yet didn’t stop us finding over a dozen of the painted rocks hidden around the city.
Of course, whilst we might find a few in close proximity, and there’s always a bit of a family buzz about checking out the design painted on the rock and any writing about who created it, there can also be long periods where no matter how closely we are looking, we just don’t spot any (and being a slightly competitive person, that just makes me more determined to keep searching for longer!).
During these quieter periods, it’s only natural that the kids and I start to become a little disheartened. We start to notice that, in the snow, we feel a bit cold and want to get indoors in the warm and dry, and the kids start to get a bit disinterested and start complaining of being tired or hungry.
And, just as with anxiety and stress and overthinking, it could be quite easy to fall into an ever increasing cycle of negative thoughts. That is, a negative thought starts to go around and around our minds, we feel anxious, stressed or low, and that leads to even more overthinking and negative thoughts.
One of the key things in taking control over thinking and negative thoughts is to start to break that cycle. It’s that loop where you get more and more stuck in your thinking and it all just seems to go around and around your mind with little or no let up or peace from it.
So here I have one quick technique that I teach to my clients, that I use with my kids (to shift them from feeling negative) and that I use myself.
Although I would add at the outset, it requires being consistent and actually putting it into practice with some conviction (after all, this is about having a way for you to take control over your thoughts).
So when you find yourself overthinking or stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, I want you to add the words ‘and now’ or ‘but now’ to that thought and shift your focus to something more positive or to things that are going on around you right now (like mindfulness, where you attention is brought to the here and now.
I’ve recorded this short video where I talk a bit more about this and how to benefit from it:
So, rather than trying to fight the negative thoughts or to not think them (which tends to increase anxiety, stress and dread and lead to more of those types of thoughts), we want to move those things straight along to something else. It’s like creating a thinking circuit in your mind that strengthens every time you do it.
You could move from the overthinking or negative thoughts, add the thoughts ‘and now’ and then remember a happy time, or think of someone you love who makes you feel safe and secure when you think of them, or to something positive you are looking forward to.
Or you may choose to take a more mindfulness based approach. Often when we overthink, we are either stuck going over stuff that happened in the past, or imagining things going wrong in the future. Yet neither the past nor the future is happening right now so you can bring your attention to the present. So you think ‘and now’ and then you could describe five specific things you can see around you right now, or my favourite, notice and describe to yourself five specific sounds you can hear right now (for me right now that would include the sound of my desk clock ticking, the subtle sound of my out breath, the tapping of my fingers on my keyboard and so on).
In some ways, it’s a bit like the thing that they used to do in the Monty Python TV show (if you remember it – comedy gold!). In that show they would sometimes end one sketch by switching to a man sat at a desk like a newsreader who would say ‘and now for something completely different…’ before everything moved onto a new, separate sketch (here’s a You Tube clip of such a moment).
So you can use the phrase ‘and now’ or ‘but now’ to deliberately interrupt unwanted negative thinking and move it right along to something different.
As already mentioned, this isn’t about completely sorting overthinking by doing one thing just once. You’ll always be thinking about something whether you are paying much attention to your thoughts or just letting them float around your mind. This is about starting to direct thoughts more and more in the direction you want them to go, whether that’s something more positive or something more mindful.
Just as when I tell me kids who are moaning because they want some sweets to notice that rock hidden over there (and so they forget about the sweets…at least for a while), so we can learn to redirect the focus in our minds.
I’d love to know how you get on with this one so do please message me and let me know!
To your happiness,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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And here we all are mindfully rock hunting in the snow, in the shadow of Ely Cathedral…