Interrupt Negative Thoughts in 3...2..1.. - Anxiety Help:

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get lost in your negative thoughts? Sometimes they just sort of creep up in your mind and before you know it, those anxious, negative thoughts and intrusive thoughts have taken hold and the spiral of anxiety can soon take over. And of course, once you feel anxious, your mind will always find something to attach it to in your imagination so it flows like a river, soaking everything you think.

Further down this article I've described a simple way to switch your negative thoughts so that your thinking and attention comes back to the here and now, rather than getting lost in future anxious thoughts. Anxiety is often described as like having an overactive mind that never switches off and starts to consider everything as a potential threat, and so you get all those what if this bad thing happens type negative thoughts, along with the worst case scenarios. And as anyone who has ever suffered with anxiety knows, most of those things never actually come to happen (but that doesn't stop the anxiety finding something else to worry about).

Yet when we bring our attention and thinking back to the here and now, there is no room for those types of negative thoughts and we can give our brains a bit of time off from all the anxiety.

Of course, one reason I love this 3-2-1 technique is because it reminds me of my younger days spent watching the TV show called '321' on prime time TV (back in the days when we only had three channels to choose from!). If you remember the show, you'll remember how the host, Ted Rogers, did this (seemingly amazing) quick thing with his fingers as he said the words three, two, one. We used to try and copy that on the primary school playground. And who can forget Dusty Bin!  (If you can't remember the quiz show, or are too young to have seen it, then have a look at this video which will help you understand the primitive world of TV in 1982! We thought this was great back then!! And be sure to catch the fastest fingers on TV!).

Anyway, enough of my childhood reminiscing, now back to interrupting negative thoughts in 3-2-1...

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Interrupting Negative Thoughts & Anxiety 

This past weekend my daughters and I went out on our (now familiar) rock hunting around Ely, where we look for rocks that have been painted and hidden and then re-hide them for others to find. I've wrriten about it before because as a fun mindfulness exercise it's got a lot going for it, from the creativity of painting the rocks to the focus and excitement of finding them (although I am starting to wonder whether I get a bit more excited about it than the girls do now....). 

We had barely got ten minutes into our walk when my youngest started complaining that her legs were hurting. First it was one leg, then the other, then both and then back to the first one. At one point she told me how she would have to walk on tip toe for the rest of the day! Yet as soon as we found a rock suddenly she was off running again without another 'I can't walk; you'll have to carry me' for the rest of the day.

One thing that came up a lot while we were out was my eldest daughter being super excited about the prospect of getting her own rabbit to care for. At least once an hour she mentions it! She's got it into her head that next weekend is the day that we extend our family with a couple of the things. Yet my wife and I know it may not be next weekend that it happens and so we have to draw her attention away from fixating upon that thought so that it (hopefully) doesn't lead to tears and tantrums if it happens to be two weeks from now that we get them, rather than this coming weekend.

My point here is that often we have to interrupt and redirect the thought patterns of the girls and we do this by shifting their focus from that train of thinking to something else entirely, such that the new thing now fills all their attention.

anxiety help interrupt negative thoughts dan regan hypnotherapy

And this is something we can learn to do for ourselves, isn't it? Rather than getting lost in time and space in negative thoughts, we can shift that focus to something else that fills our awareness. This isn't just about trying to not think the negative thoughts that create anxiety, this is about switching mental track along a different pathway.

So today the technique I'm offering up for you is all about doing just that: interrupting the flow of negative thoughts and redirecting your focus of attention. You can use it to bring your attention back to the here and now (where those anxious thoughts don't exist) or even to move on to thinking about things that make you feel better when you think about them. 

I've seen it referred to as a self-hypnosis tool, a mindfulness technique and under many other guises, the key being that it works if you put it into practice with a bit of commitment and consistency. I've known people to have great success with it to manage anxiety and stress, to deal with negative thoughts and even to get to sleep easier.

Interrupt Negative Thoughts with 3-2-1 Sights, Sounds, Sensations

To shift your focus and get your brain active in a different way, as soon as you catch yourself thinking unhelpful or negative thoughts do this:

Firstly, describe to yourself three specific things you can see. And do make them specific (e.g. rather than I can see that picture on the wall, you can be more specific and describe to yourself how you can see the little white flower in amongst the green grass on the picture on the wall).

Having done that, then notice three specific sounds you can hear around you (e.g. maybe you can hear the sound of your own breathing, the ticking of the clock, the car driving past and so on).

Then move your focus on to noticing three specific external sensations you can feel right now. For example, right now I can feel my fingertips of the keyboard keys, my toes in my sock touching my shoe and my shirt on my back as I lean back on my chair). 

Having done three things you can see, hear and feel, repeat the process doing two different sights, sounds and sensations and then repeat focusing on one different of each. 

And of course, if it's beneficial, you can keep recycling through this, using different examples, as many times as you want to. One thing I love about this technique is that you can do it pretty much anywhere, whether you are out walking, lying in bed before sleep or even in a crowded room. 

It will shift your focus from internally getting lost in the thoughts in your mind (that can lead to increasing anxiety levels), to focusing on the here and now outside of you.

If you want a quicker version, many people find that just doing the sounds part can work well because you have to focus more and more on what is going on around you (and there are usually far fewer sounds than sights so you have to mentally work a bit harder). Doing just the sounds can work well when driving, for example.

You can also tweak it to just notice things that are a certain colour so you only look for things that are, for example, red or whatever your favourite colour is. 

It's so easy when we feel anxious or worried to lose perspective on how likely things are to happen and to find our mind going deeper and deeper into the dreaded what-if thoughts and worst case scenarios. The more we go down that path, the easier it seems to happen. And so using this 3-2-1 technique can really help you to bring your focus back to now and what is actually happening right here and now (rather than what might happen sometime).

I'd love to know how you benefit from applying this technique (or just how well you can do that 3-2-1 fingers thing from the old quiz show!) so do get in touch and let me know.

To your happiness,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy Ely, Newmarket, Skype

If negative thoughts and anxiety are blighting your life then get in touch today to request your complimentary strategy session. And if you want to know what previous clients have said then you can find their testimonials here.