Thought Stopping & Exciting News


It says 5:09 on my clock. I was going to go to the gym for a little LiveFit Day 31 legs action, but I’ve decided that today will be my rest/play drums/catch-up on schoolwork day. Also, I’m sore. The thought of doing any motions which engage my shoulders is stressful. Just pecking at these keys is an effort. I have two pillows under my armpits for support. These workouts are NO JOKE. Monday and Tuesday annihilated me (in a good way)!

So, first things first. Something very exciting happened for me professionally this week.

I was published in the American Counseling Association’s blog! I’ll be blogging about my internship experience working in a men’s residential drug treatment center. I’m loving it so far. I might talk about it on the blog, but if you want to read about my experiences more in-depth, please read my adventures over there! I’ll be publishing one post a week. I’m super excited because it combines my two favorite things: writing + counseling.

You can read my first post here.

Speaking of my internship, today we talked about thought stopping. What is thought stopping, you ask?

It’s kind of what it sounds like, except not quite. Simply because I don’t know what success you’ve ever had just stopping a thought, but I am not a Jedi. Thoughts can be quite intrusive. They’re like that friend you had in college that showed up at group hangouts where no one invited them. You don’t know how to tell them to leave without making everything worse.

I sort of talked about thought stopping when I wrote about self-compassion and not judging thoughts. One method of thought stopping is to replace a crappy thought with a good thought.

Sometimes it’s not that easy. You ruminate and obsess over a thought. It gets all up in your biz-nass and just ruins your whole freaking day.

This is when we employ our go-to move. I used this for a while and I found it was really effective.

My counselor instructed me to think of a small move I could do easily that would not be obvious to others. I chose tapping my middle finger with my thumb, like I was going to crack my knuckle.

She instructed me to do this motion every time I felt a certain haggling thought hanging out in my brain. Whenever I had this unwanted thought, I would tap my knuckle. I would keep doing it until my thought was no longer a concern.

At first, I was like, “Ummm, this is weird?” but I consider myself a relatively open-minded individual, so I rolled with it.

I did it for one week before I processed it with my counselor. I won’t say that everything was kittens and pudding after a week, but I did notice a difference. I had two things happen:

1. When I consumed myself with my knuckle-tap (as I affectionately call it), I left little room for the yucky thought. The more I tapped, the further away it became until I found something else to mentally occupy myself with.

2. Each time I knuckle tapped, I sent the message to myself that this thought was both unwanted and false. I subliminally programmed myself to acknowledge this thought as unwelcome. With that acknowledgement came the awareness that I could choose how I wanted to think about this thing. I had a choice.

Kinda cool, huh?

Well, I think it is. I employed it for a while until I felt the thoughts had exited my brain for good. If you’re having some nasty thought you want to challenge, try a knuckle tap, a knee slap, a fist pump, or an ear tug. Whatever works for you. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. It’s something worth trying and likely, no one will ever know a thing. Although, I think I’ll never be able to crack my middle knuckle in public again. Le sigh.

Ever try thought stopping? What do you think about this method?

Anyone else taking a rest day? Lie to me so I don’t feel lazy.

Author: Jennifer Bingaman Mazur

I like writing about what I think about what I think. I also like writing about what other people think and what I think about that. Yes? Yes.

6 thoughts on “Thought Stopping & Exciting News”

  1. You’ve come across a very interesting subject. Have you ever noticed your happiest moments are when you’re not thinking at all…? You’re just completely in the moment. Your “inner dialog” has taken a back seat. Trying to stop it is what I think a lot of people that are trying to fill a hole with drugs, alcohol, starting a fight club etc…..are actually trying to do in a roundabout way. It’s also at the heart of what most forms of meditation / spiritual things are trying to do.. but sometimes they don’t explicitly say it. “Clearing the Mind” is really just stopping your inner dialog. There’s an episode of king of the hill where Hank has his “thing” that clears his mind… and it’s taking care of his lawn. Luane tries to find hers and it ends up being cleaning the pool.

    Here are a few ways to stop your inner dialogue in addition to the one you have already mentioned that you might find useful.

    – focus on breathing (classic)

    – focus on the details: take your thoughts off of yourself and try to notice all the details in the room… the sounds, the objects, temperature, (nature is better since there is more going on) “just observe don’t try to change” etc

    – do something repetitive (like play a musical part over and over you are trying to learn)

    – replacing thoughts with something else: like counting (i think this where counting sheep came from) or poems (i think this is why people recite hail mary’s and other prayers), humming, chants (OHMMM) or something you are trying memorize like school work etc.

    – engage / overload your improvisatory part of your mind: when you have to think fast and improvise it kind of forces you not to use your rational mind to keep up. examples: sparring, music improvisation, certain videogames, writing / or speaking in a stream of thought fashion.

    – use the eyes: stare at something with a lot of details, like a carpet or a pile of leaves etc. And every time you have a thought start to emerge shift your eyes to a different spot.

    1. Yes, Jimmy! All of those are also wonderful ways to kind of put the mind on pause. A lot of those things have technical names. For example, the “focus on the details” is called grounding. If you are completely present, you have a hard time becoming too wrapped in your thoughts. I thought your King of the Hill reference was a PERFECT way to explain what you’re talking about. I like to use painting as a way to do this. You can focus on something, but you’re not overly invested in it. Much like cleaning a pool. Haha.

  2. Great post and great topic! And what a great comment from Jimmy! I haven’t tried a repetitive motion yet, but I want to now! I’ve gotten better with replacing thoughts with positive or just anything else – I’ve even thought about kittens, lol. I’ve tried some of the methods Jimmy mentions: repeating mantras, counting meditation beads (hmm, maybe this is a motion one?) if I’m home, and staring at a candle flame seems to work wonders for me. I’m enamored by fire.

    I took a little rest day because my neck was tense. I stretched it and did no other workout and it felt perfect. Mmmm lazy feels good!

    1. Ah, Michelle. I can always count on you to be open-minded about this stuff. It’s so lovely! I’m like you with fire (in a non pyromaniac way). I just love a good wood-burning fireplace. I’m so looking forward to the Northwest just so I can curl up next to one and zen out.

      I feel kindred knowing you took a rest day as well. My neck was super tweaky last night, too!

    2. I forgot about the candle one, good call on that one Michelle! That’s the one my martial arts class recommends to use. When trying the repetition one… I find it works best if you are trying to learn or memorize something. Doing something physical (like playing a drum part over and over trying to get it down) works better than just doing something mental although I’ve had success with that too. If you were trying to memorize some text or even better a speech… repeat the first sentence over and over until you can clearly envision the next sentence in your mind while still repeating the first sentence. Then move to the 2nd line, repeat. Really powerful.

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