Thought Stopping

Thought stopping is a skill that can be used to interrupt negative and anxious thoughts. The idea behind thought stopping is that we can replace our negative thoughts or worry thoughts with thoughts that are more neutral, or maybe even positive.

To use thought stopping, you first need to identify negative thoughts. Maybe you are worrying about your grade on an exam you took this morning. Maybe you are ruminating about a disagreement with a friend. Maybe you are wrapped up in negative thoughts about yourself or your appearance. Once you recognize these thoughts, use some kind of cue to stop them. Some examples of cues you can use are saying “stop,” snapping a rubber band on your wrist, or getting up and walking around. Once you have interrupted your negative thought, you can try replacing it with an alternative thought that is more neutral or positive. Some ways to do this are by reframing the thought (i.e., reframing “I can’t do this” to “this task is really difficult, but I have done hard things before”) or replacing the thought with positive self-talk (i.e., “I am proud of myself for working hard and trying my best”).

Thought stopping is not only a good way to interrupt negative thoughts, but it can also help you feel more in control of your thoughts and feelings.

While thought stopping can be helpful for many people, it does not work for everyone. For some people, actively trying to stop thoughts might cause your negative thoughts to rebound and come back even stronger than before. For others, it can create a sense of shame surrounding your negative thoughts. For people with severe intrusive thoughts, simply trying to stop the thoughts may not work at all. All of this is to say that coping skills are not one-size-fits-all, and that something that works for one person may not work for another. Try to keep this in mind if you choose to give thought stopping a try!

Do you use thought stopping? Will you give it a try? What are some other ways that you shut down negative thinking? Comment down below!

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Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

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