The following skill, called Change the Channel, is extremely effective for helping you quickly interrupt the thinking habits that are causing your anxiety and stress and get the smart part of your brain back in control.
The skill combines two process that already exist in our brains. We can all change our minds instantly when we think we need to, and there is a space that exists between our thoughts. So, the learning curve is only as long as it takes to learn the skill and practice doing it a few times.
Change the Channel uses the same pathways in your brain as meditation, mindfulness, and hypnosis, but Change The Channel is effective in FIVE SECONDS or less after a little practice.
So, when you are confronted by a potentially negative situation or negative thoughts, instead of becoming emotionally involved in a distressing story full of negative emotions, here is a reliable, quick, and easy skill that will stop those kinds of thoughts in their tracks.
Change the Channel
Telling and re-telling yourself negative stories is like watching a movie you know will make you miserable. You wouldn’t watch that kind of movie, would you? You would either Change the Channel or turn off the TV.
The story, the movie, is being generated in your own brain. It is your own story, and you are in absolute control of your own programming, you can Change the Channel by choosing to think about something else.
As soon as you realize you are becoming anxious or distressed by a negative story you are telling yourself,
STOP, and physically look around to see if there is danger. If there is something dangerous, run. If there is no danger, you can be certain the feelings are coming from the story going on in your brain.
The physical act of looking for danger physically interrupts the automatic thinking habit that is creating your anxiety.
In the beginning, Looking around is especially important.
Looking around also accesses the space between your thoughts and creates the opportunity to change what you are thinking about.
Use the space to choose something else to think about, choose a different story. Choose a neutral topic, or a pleasant memory.
Don’t try to change to positive thinking because in the moment you are changing from the negativity of distress to neutral your brain will reject the possibility that something positive can happen.
After practicing this for a while, when negative feelings begin to creep in, a simple reminder to Change the Channel is often all you need to stop the process. Some people use statements such as: I don’t need to go there. I can choose where I want to go. Remember this.
Every time you Change the Channel you are establishing an incredibly important, and powerful, new habit.
Your new habit will keep you much more in control of your thoughts.
If you have some memories that are really bothersome, there is a process you can use to remove much of the negative energy in the memory. Use Change-The Channel and focus on the neutral Channel for a while then switch to another neutral Channel. Do this for a total of ten minutes to significantly decrease the negative energy stored in the old story. This part of the process is called reconsolidation.
To read about this technique and why it is so effective, here is a link to an excellent article by Bruce Ecker that dives even deeper into the reconsolidation technique.