A man deep in thoughtWe have all experienced times when our minds race and are filled with negative recurring thoughts which can drive us to distraction. Thoughts we know are unhelpful but just don’t seem to shift no matter how hard we try.

Counsellors, therapists and psychologists have for a long time recommended the strategy of Thought Suppression in which we try to consciously push away the unwanted or unhelpful thought and replace it with a more positive thought, sometimes this is called re-framing.

Re-framing is effective for some people and with some unwanted thoughts, but there are people and some particularly resilient thoughts which just aren’t helped by this model of therapy.

I would like to explore some of the strategies which are currently being researched, all are interesting to consider and may well offer effective mind refocusing tools.

Focused Attention

Often when our mind is bombarded with unhelpful thoughts we use the Thought Suppression technique to think of something else, or to clear our mind. However, when we try to think of nothing in particular our mind often returns to the same unhelpful thoughts again and again. Focusing on something in particular helps, you may choose to watch a movie or listen to some music, this can focus your mind more effectively than simply trying to clear your mind.

Reduce Stress

Research suggests that stressful times create more unwanted thoughts, so it is a good idea to relax or take some time out if you feel stressed. Doing something you enjoy or taking a long shower or a soak in a bath, maybe some calming music or some time out from your everyday tasks.

Thought Break

Thought suppression, as discussed above has its limitations however if we alter the model slightly and instruct the mind to postpone the unhelpful thoughts until a designated time, maybe later that day, then this model may work for some people. By instructing the mind that you will set aside time to deal with the thoughts or worries at a designated time, we can often delay the distraction. This may be of huge benefit when we have things we need to be focusing on or doing.

Attack The Thought

There is mounting research that suggests actually focusing on the unhelpful thought works for some people in some circumstances. So if you are in the right environment and have time to deal with the thoughts, then maybe working through them could help. If you find yourself getting stuck with it, then maybe you need some help with it too. This model is used successfully with people with a phobia, the model is similar to Exposure Therapy, where we face the fear or thought until it begins to fade.

Self Praise

Self praise or affirmation has long been considered effective at improving self worth and self esteem, it is a very easy technique and with a daily commitment to it, you can dramatically improve your levels of self worth. So thinking about your positives, personality and other positive thoughts will help you to feel better, and feeling better will reduce unwanted thoughts.

If you have long term, ongoing unwanted negative thoughts, then maybe working with a counsellor, therapist or life coach would help you to break free from unwanted thoughts.

I hope you have found this useful, if you have any comments please feel free to share them.

Written by – Paul Parkin – Online counsellor, therapist and life coach. 

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’

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Author Bio

Online counselling with UK qualified counsellor Paul ParkinPaul Parkin Dip. Coun. I am a counsellor, therapist and life coach. I am passionate about helping people who are hurting or in crisis. My goal is to help people reach their full potential by providing affordable counselling online to people everywhere via my counselling website – Counsellors Online.

I have worked as a counsellor for the past 11 years, I have worked in several counselling settings, including – The National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) the NHS. North East Council on Addictions (NECA) and Several telephone helplines including The Samaritans.

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