Thought stopping  

There are times when your mind races, and you're head just buzzes with loads of irrelevant things. And there are times when that one terminally embarrassing or utterly disastrous memory just stuffs itself into your consciousness, and drags you along with it to the bitter end. Or maybe your mind starts that 'what if I goof up?' game, and just doesn't want to let go.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could just turn off the thought?

Two tips for doing just that below:

The Stop sign: A simple visual trick
Creative distraction: Fight fire with fire..!
The Stop Sign Top of page
This trick is easy; whenever you have a thought you can do without, visualise a big, red STOP sign. Let that fade away with the unwelcome thought, and move on with what you were doing.
Try it:Put your mouse on the lights, and whenever some thought occurs to you (like "what am I waiting for?"), click.

The example is quite complex, with an abrupt, vivid STOP, and a transition back to an 'OK' state. For a simpler, and often equally effective, variant, just use the STOP to halt a disruptive train of thought (often coupled with a sharp focussing action), and then focus on something more relevant.
Creative distraction Top of page

A term used slightly less generally by Syer and Connolly in sporting bodymind, the principle is relatively simple. Ever play that game that goes "DON'T think about Pink Elephants!"?
The way to win this game is to think about GREEN elephants. Or blue elephants. Or best of all, elephants you know and love and cherish...

In other words, just let yourself get interested in something else. "Something else" is typically:

A different thought For example, deliberately turn your mind to a time when you did well, and dwell on it.
Something task-related Very effective, as it combines thought with action. Just focus on what you're doing; check the feel of the bow, carefully examine your arrows for problems; on the line, focus on the feel, rhythm or balance in your shooting...

These quite simple tricks make a big difference; mostly, I think, because they all give you a positive way of controlling your thoughts.

Top of page
Psych Home
When it works

Thought stopping works pretty well any time. It's most effective when the thought you turn to is vivid and reassuring. It helps (as ever) if you have already found practised and found an image or topic to turn to .

Thought stopping is a good short-term response to immediate distraction, so is effective during an event.

When it doesn't

Weak or irelevant replacement thoughts and images won't help much. Thinking about chocolate, for example, may well stop the original distraction, but it's harder to shoot when you're dribbling...