The following procedure, call it a tool if you like, is extremely effective for helping you quickly take control and change what is going on in your brain. It uses the process for change, the space, that is built into your brain.
If you practice the procedure, you will quickly learn how to interrupt the negative thinking habits that are so upsetting and waste so much time. The entire time required to complete the process is about FIVE SECONDS.
When confronted by a potentially negative situation or negative thoughts, instead of becoming emotionally involved and creating a new one or calling up a rerun of a distressing story full of negative emotions, here is a reliable, quick, and easy tool that will stop your distress in its 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 the 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. Since it is your story and you are in absolute control of your own programming, you can Change the Channel by thinking about something else.
Here is the Change the Channel tool in the form that, if you practice regularly for at least two weeks, and preferably a month, will yield the best results.
As soon as you realize you are becoming anxious or distressed by a negative story you are telling yourself, STOP
Physically look around to see if there is danger present. If there is, run. If there is no danger you know the feelings are being generated in your brain by your story.
The physical act of looking for danger physically interrupts your automatic thinking habit. Looking around is extremely important, especially in the beginning.
Looking around also creates a space between your thoughts and allows you the opportunity to change what you are thinking about.
Access the space so you can choose something else to think about, to choose a different story.
Pick something neutral 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 you are very unlikely to believe anything 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 that is needed 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.
Change the Channel also works well when you don’t feel distressed but find your focus is drifting off a task you need to get done. Looking around is just as necessary even when you know there is no danger because it breaks the wandering mind habit and again creates that space in which you can consciously decide where your focus will be.
Remember this. Every time you successfully Change the Channel you are establishing an incredibly important, and powerful, new habit. Your new habit will keep you 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.