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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Stop Negative Thoughts: Getting Started
Unwanted thoughts can make you feel anxious or depressed. They may keep you from enjoying your life.
A technique called thought-stopping can help you stop unwanted thoughts.
To stop unwanted thoughts, you focus on the thought and then learn to say "Stop" to end the thought. At first, you will shout "Stop!" out loud. Then you will learn to say it in your mind so that you can use this technique anywhere. Here's how to get started:
You can change how you do thought-stopping:
This new image or idea is not the same thing as replacing a negative thought with a helpful thought that is related to it. For more information on that method, see the topic Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking.
Here's an example of how thought-stopping might work:
You're worried about a presentation you are giving at work later in the day. You're prepared. You know you're ready. But you can't stop worrying about it. You imagine making a mistake.
When you start to think of yourself stumbling over words, you say "Stop" quietly in your mind. You get up and move around, or you snap your rubber band as you say "Stop." Then you think of something pleasant to take your mind off the thought—such as a trip you are planning to take or a movie you saw recently that made you laugh.
Other Works Consulted
Hart SL, Hart TA (2010). The future of cognitive behavioral interventions within behavioral medicine. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 24(4): 344–353.
Layous K et al. (2011). Delivering happiness: Translating positive psychology intervention research for treating major and minor depressive disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(8): 675–683.
Lightsey OR, et al. (2012). Can positive thinking reduce negative affect? A test of potential mediating mechanisms. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26(1): 71–88.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Changing patterns of limited thinking. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 27–45. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Coping with panic. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 85–104. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Uncovering automatic thoughts. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 15–25. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Newman CF, Beck AT (2009). Cognitive therapy. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol 2., pp. 2857–2873. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Current as of:
January 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Catherine D. Serio PhD - Behavioral HealthKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineChristine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health
Current as of: January 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Catherine D. Serio PhD - Behavioral Health & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health
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