How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts – 5 Effective Scientific Exercises to Help You Stop Believing Your Unwanted Automatic Thoughts October 22, 2019 / Steven C. Hayes, PhD

Most of us live with a constant stream of internal statements, criticisms, and commands in our heads. But we have a choice: We don’t have to let them define us, or our days, says psychologist Steven Hayes. This is how we can differentiate ourselves.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

When we are anxious or dissatisfied, most of us will do anything to avoid these feelings. Instead, we avoid ourselves, look for something to distract or comfort us, or try to solve the problem, to get out of it.

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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) takes a different approach: it is about cultivating the flexibility to live with what is unpleasant and not let it rule our lives. “Changing our relationship with our thoughts and emotions, rather than trying to change their content, is the key to healing and understanding our true potential,” said Steven C. Hayes, professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and founder and pioneering ACT researcher.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

Hayes and his colleagues discovered that cognitive flexibility is made up of six basic skills, including one they call “defusion.” Below, Hayes explains what it is and how we can learn to build it.

Most of the time, most of us live in a state of mental confusion: we accept what our thoughts tell us and allow them to overdirect our actions and decisions. This happens because we are programmed to see the world as it is organized by our thoughts, but we miss the fact that

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

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The other side of fusion is when we see our thoughts for what they really are, that is, continuous attempts to make sense of the world, and we give them power only to the extent that we sincerely work for them. We are able to see the act of thinking, without entering or becoming involved in our thoughts. Our coined name for this act of consciousness is “defusion.”

Helpful in learning about depression is understanding the cravings that cause us to talk excessively and problem solve. It is a desire to create coherence and understanding in our mental cacophony, and it is a completely understandable desire. We feel vulnerable when our thoughts are not aligned, especially when they contradict each other.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

The first step in moving away from believing our automatic thoughts is to realize just how complex our thought processes are. Another way to start is to give your mind power to think for a few minutes and jot down a series of thoughts that occur to you.

Automatic Negative Thoughts

I did this work as soon as I woke up one morning while writing this letter, and here are my thoughts:

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

Time to wake up. No, it is not; It’s only 6:00. That’s seven hours of sleep. I need eight, that’s the goal. I feel fat. Well, birthday cake, duh. I have to eat cake for my son’s birthday. Maybe, but not such a big piece. I bet I make it to 196 pounds. Shoot… by the time I run the Halloween/Turkey Day candy challenge, I’ll be back with over 200. But maybe not. Maybe it’s like 193. Maybe too much exercise. Anything can be “more”. I have to concentrate. I have a chapter to write. I’m falling behind… and I’m gaining weight again. Noticing the words and letting them run can be a good start to the chapter. I better go back to sleep. But maybe it would work. It was kind of Jacque to raise him. He woke up in the morning. Maybe it’s his cold. Maybe I should get out of bed and see if he’s okay. Only at 6:15. I need my eight hours. Now it’s almost seven and a half hours. Still eight.

These thoughts are not only remarkably circular, but many of them deal with laws and punishments. Many of them are also contradictions of previous thoughts. This kind of back and forth is probably familiar to you.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

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Contradicting ourselves is natural for most of us. In fact, the old cartoon device of the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other is understood even by young children. When we are deeply engaged in mental activity, our minds enter a state of flow, where our thoughts, feelings, and actions are momentarily in harmony. But our most common condition is mental wandering, often characterized by mental dissonance and incoherence.

To see how automatic and circular your thinking is, take a minute to direct your thoughts in any direction you choose. Then follow them as they run. Write down everything you see.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

After completing this exercise, repeat it two more times, letting your thoughts flow for one minute each time. In the second round, consider your task to determine if each thought is true or valid. In the third round, imagine that your thoughts are like the words of first graders arguing. Adopt an attitude of curiosity and fun, but do not do anything without awareness.

Challenging Negative Thoughts

In the second round, you may feel the sensation of being pulled right into your thoughts. Your voice can grow; It will likely increase their focus on your content. You may have had a conflict with your mind. By the third round, you are probably aware of the general flow of your thoughts. Probably, some content seemed less important to you and you felt that you were out of any discussion.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

That difference explains how exercise weakens the connection between automatic thoughts and behavior. Our ability to step away from our thoughts gets stronger as we practice. When we learn the skills of letting go, we can take the power of our negative longing and focus it on learning to be gently guided in our experience.

Here is a first set of commonly used de-energizing methods. The first two are general exercises to build a breakdown, while the others are designed to jump over specific problematic concepts. Think of this as the backbone of your elimination routine. For the first few weeks, repeat each one at least once a day. Additionally, if during the day you notice that you are trapped in a thought, take advantage of a pair at that moment to relax.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

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Although it is common and even more helpful for you to feel a sense of freedom and distance within a few minutes of doing these exercises, be careful. Your mind may try to convince you that you have solved your problems. Believe it or not, your inner tyrant has given you a dangerous new thought to reject.

No matter how good you are at breaking down, your mind will continue to generate new thoughts that you will find naturally. An example is the thought: “I am the world’s expert on collapse!”. It is important that you stay informed about this practice. I have been dealing with depression for over 30 years, and I still have to deal with it every day because I am overwhelmed by my thoughts. For me, sometimes just holding my thoughts in is enough to break control, but if not, I quickly fall into one of these habits. However, fusion sometimes bypasses me for a while. Your goal is progress, not perfection.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

One final caveat: some of these exercises may seem strange and silly. Humans are funny creatures! Just work through them with a sense of self.

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Let me start with one that I’m sure will look weird. Just trust me. Stand up and hold a phone, book, or other object as you slowly walk around the room, reading the following sentence aloud several times. Yes, read this sentence as you go.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

Keep walking! Slowly repeat that phrase as you go at least five or six times. “I can’t get out of this room.” Now you can sit down again.

It’s such a small thing, isn’t it? It’s a bit in the eye of the inner tyrant, which is what I call the dominant part of our mind that solves problems and constantly suggests “solutions” to our mental pain, and a bit of a tug on your superhero cap.

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

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This action was one of our first discoveries. Although it’s a pointless exercise, an Irish team recently demonstrated in a laboratory study that it rapidly increased tolerance to pain caused by the test by nearly 40 percent. In one study, people were willing to hold their hand on a very hot plate (not hot enough to injure themselves, but hot enough to cause actual pain) 40% longer, just after a few seconds of saying something while doing the opposite.

Even the slightest hint that the mind’s power over you is an illusion can give you more freedom to do difficult things. You can easily incorporate this into your life as a regular habit (right now I’m thinking, “I can’t write this sentence!” as I type).

How To Stop Automatic Thoughts

When we listen to another person, we choose whether to agree with what he says (or not).

Challenging Negative Thoughts (worksheet)

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