Break Bad Habits Using Interruption Exercises
In part one we spoke about how we can get stuck in a rut with our negative thoughts and how the use of affirmations can help us to replace negative thoughts with positive self-talk. What I now want to cover with you is the use of interruption exercises so that you distract your mind the moment you notice yourself getting into negative thinking.
The fact is that many people will tell themselves that they “just can’t stop thinking negatively” about certain things (more negative self-talk) and so they want that extra help in switching from negative self-talk to positive self-talk. To give yourself that extra support when you need it, what you need to do is decide on an exercise, or two, that you can utilise to interrupt your negative thought patterns as and when they occur.
Anything that alters the way you use your mind and body will alter your thoughts and thus your feelings. Some great techniques that some of my clients utilise are as follows:
- A song or a few songs (stored on your phone, laptop, MP3 player or a CD) that you can listen and dance to, and immediately uplift your spirits.
- A brisk walk around your local area.
- Doing some painting or drawing.
- Doing some housework.
- Simultaneously smiling and skipping around your garden.
- Having a soak in the bath or just a hot shower.
Use one or two of these or come up with your own. By knowing in advance, which one or two you will use, you will much more likely apply the interruption exercise when needed, because you will not need to give it much thought. This is very important because when you’re feeling negative, you need to keep decision making to a minimum and by having a pre-determined exercise or two, you are doing just that.
How Body Language Affects Our Thoughts
You’ll also notice a seemingly silly exercise above. The reason I mention smiling whilst skipping is because it gives you something completely different to do with your body which will create different thoughts than the negative ones.
What we have to remember is that our brains make associations between the thoughts we have and the body postures we assume at roughly the same time, if we repeatedly couple those together. When you think about the postures and facial expressions you assume when you feel miserable, you’ll notice that there will be a handful that you always use. For example, it might be you being hunched over, head in hand, lips curling down, with a frown on the forehead. Therefore, think of the physical posture and facial expressions you use when you feel good, and then, just by mimicking them, you help your brain to recall the positive, feel-good associations it has created with them instead, thus changing how you think and feel right now in the present!
If you don’t believe this, just try something right now. Stand up straight, shoulders back and smile ear to ear for 10 seconds. You’ll notice it makes you feel better, happier, more energised. Now sit down for 10 seconds, slumped over, back bent, head in one hand with a frown on your head and lips curled down at the edges. If you’ve also done this exercise properly, you’ll notice that you now feel less energised and less happy. That’s the power of our brain; it quickly recalls the feelings it has learned to associate with certain body postures and facial expressions. It remembers that feeling ‘x’ tends to occur when body posture ‘y’ is used, and so each time you use body posture ‘y’, feeling ‘x’ is likely to occur, whether or not you intended it.
So, decide on something simple and accessible that you can use as your go-to exercise for interrupting negative thoughts which will lift your mood almost instantly. Then, every time you feel down-hearted, use it!
You can change the outcome of an entire day by just interrupting negative thoughts. Consistently interrupt them for an extended period of weeks/months and you will eventually become less negative in your general thinking patterns, simply because you will eventually break the negative thinking habit if you are consistent and persistent in this approach.
Change your body posture and movements and you’ll change your thoughts; change your thoughts and you’ll change your life.