We’ve all come across times where we’re plagued with negative thoughts. Many of us in recovery may have wondered how we can stop these negative thoughts. Thought stopping is a tool used to block out unwanted or negative thoughts and redirect them to a more positive and realistic thought. You’ll find that thought stopping is often a useful skill discussed and explored in individual counseling. Thought-stopping can be an effective coping skill for combating those uninvited, negative or intrusive thoughts that can be overwhelming during addiction recovery, such as thoughts of using, anxious thoughts, depressive thoughts, memories of using or memories of past trauma.

Rather than ruminating about the unwanted thoughts, practicing some of the negative thought stopping techniques below can assist you to develop mental discipline and an overall healthier and happier life.

1. Acknowledging the thoughts – Noticing your thoughts and recognizing negative thought patterns provides you the opportunity to change them or how you handle them. Notice your environment. What are you doing at the very moment? Who are you surrounded by? Are these contributing factors to your negative thoughts? Take into account your own core beliefs to help you understand why you may be experiencing these thoughts.

2. Talk to the thought – Tell the thoughts to “STOP” aloud. Try telling yourself, “I hear this thought, it’s ok to have this thought, but I’m not going to listen to it.” This serves as a reminder that you are in control, not the thought.

3. Talk to someone you trust – Maybe it’s a therapist, a parent, a friend, a family member or any loved one. Sharing your unwanted thoughts with someone else allows you to hear yourself say the thought aloud and give yourself the opportunity to receive feedback and validation of what you’re experiencing.

4. Mindfulness – Catch yourself having these thoughts and force your mind into a positive memory; maybe it’s a memory of a relaxing vacation or a happy memory with your loved ones. Use all five senses to tell yourself the whole story. What did this memory sound like, feel like, smell like, taste like and look like?

5. Journaling – Writing down the unwanted thoughts provides you the opportunity to also write down any evidence that supports the thought, evidence that contradicts the thought and the ability to identify a more balanced thought.

If you find yourself thinking, how do I stop these negative thoughts? Remind yourself, thoughts are not reality. Negativity can dominate our minds but that is only if we allow it to. Take back your power and remember who is in control.

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