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Recently, I wrote an article for Elephant Journal about how I came about finding mindfulness on my own accord.
In that article, I mentioned thought-stopping and when reflecting on a question I received about whether it was healthy, I thought I owed our readers some clarification. When I refer to thought-stopping, I’m talking about literally stopping thoughts.
To put it shortly, I believe thought-stopping can lead to healthy consequences and is sometimes necessary—but it should be delivered with caution. Upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that there is a time and a place for it.
I believe thought-stopping can be therapeutic for rebounding from disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—like in my case when rebounding from mental illness and having developed an unhealthy thinking pattern as a result.
It can also be used for rewiring the brain, which was my main concern, but it is important to note that it can backfire when you begin to block thoughts that may actually be good for you, or when the intensity gets to be too much for your mind and body to handle.
Sometimes, when you are blocking thoughts, you block to the point of not allowing entry to much of anything, which can lead to you repressing natural instincts, which have a desire to be expressed.
What I mean to say is that some of our thoughts have a tendency to pop up as a result of context and feelings, and even random thoughts deserve their time for expression. We are only human, and part of that experience comes with unpredictable occurrences, which we should make room for. I predict that it can only help shape us into the person we are meant to be.
With thought-stopping, it is possible that sometimes you are stopping thoughts that are inherent to your personality and/or to your experience, which, in the long run, can do harm, specifically if you are putting strain on yourself to do so.
What I learned is that I may have been too restrictive with thought-stopping, not allowing any wiggle room for mistakes, and that was my big mistake. I think when handled with an approach that provides leniency and adaptability, instead of full-on full throttle, you can have a much healthier predicament with fewer side effects, if any.
The mind is adaptable but it takes time. It surely doesn’t happen overnight, and putting it through intense sessions, such as heavy study sessions is usually not advised—the brain needs rest, just like any other part of the body.
If you don’t know where to start with thought-stopping, I suggest seeking a medical professional for guidance, so that you can ensure you are avoiding mistakes.
I want to talk about the differences in thought-stopping pertaining to different experiences. First, there is the time that you block thoughts that have become habitual, but not helpful, much like intrusive thoughts. Second, there is the time when you use your resilience to remain still and avoid thinking so that you can build mental strength and avoid unhelpful thoughts altogether.
Again, the brain is malleable, and using any of these two techniques is sure to work. They both have their benefits and both can be used as good reasons to practice thought-stopping. However, perhaps you can supplement your practice with other medicinal routines that can help relieve you of some of that tension, such as singing, dancing, essential oils. Exercise is a sure way to help your mind relax and let your impulses take over.
In the case of the former, you might have to practice thought-stopping to extreme points because it is hard to break habits that are wired into your conditioning. That was my experience, and I overcame being able to not think those thoughts that were running my life, and more importantly, thoughts I did not like to think.
However, my opinion is to practice in strides, leaving room for rest, using caution, and perhaps looking into things like guided meditation to help take some of the load off you.
These are some of the mistakes you make along the way, but never believe what you hear. Thought-stopping may get a bad rap, with people claiming that it will backfire, but there are instances where it might help your situation. There is a time and a place for everything.
If I can leave you with anything, it is to tread with caution.