Anxiety-Depression: Strategies For Letting Go

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This exercise adds a moment of mindfulness to the traditional cognitive behavioral thought-stopping & redirecting exercises.  Mindfulness is about being in the moment, sensing whats going on as it happens, staying in the present, avoiding anxiety.

The exercise is meant to help people break cycles of negative thought, which lead to anxiety and depression, and shift away from types of thinking we’ve learned over the years that don’t serve us and keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, and even addictive behaviors.

Mind traps are styles of thinking, which are basically wasted time, like obsessing on negative thoughts, worrying, catastrophizing, (over-reacting) self-blaming, blaming others, and exaggerating the negative and discounting the positive.

The Mindful Letting Go Exercise

Pay attention to your thoughts during the day. When you notice a Mind Trap, or common negative thought, obsessive thought, blaming, or self-critical thinking, first stop;

Now — stay in the moment (don’t go to What if, in the future, or Only if in the past. Then take a deep breath and from this more mindful space, move through these next four steps (Name, Feel, Release, Redirect):

1. Name it

Actually name the style of negative thinking or behaving that isn’t serving you in your mind or say it (maybe even out loud) e.g., worrying, obsessing, over-reacting, creating negative scenarios, etc.).

This is the moment you use “thought-stopping.” As you name it, stop thinking it.

Naming the thought creates more awareness of your patterns, but also stimulates the part of your brain that has to do with emotional self-regulation.

2. Feel it

Recognize how this moment feels in the body. This will ground you to the reality of the moment and give you an access point—a point in time where you can choose your next move.

This is part of “processing” the emotion that comes up when you think these negative thoughts.

3. Release it

Practice this phrase while breathing deeply, “Breathing in, I acknowledge the feeling that’s here; breathing out, I release it.”

This is the part where you let go of the thought/feeling. Let it fade away.

4. Redirect it

Shift your attention to something that is healthier and/or more important to pay attention to; make some tea, watch a tv show, listen to loud rock music, play a video game, run, lift weights, call a friend, get a hamburger, something different, and positive.

Remember, most importantly, this is a learning process. That means don’t measure success by whether “it works” every time or not, instead you’re training your brain to name, recognize, release, and redirect. 

Mastery is only created with a learning mindset. Like learning how to ride a bike, as you practice and repeat this over time, your brain will start making this more automatic.

Eventually, the way you think about memories, or thoughts that float through your brain, called “automatic thoughts” will change, and the neural pathways in your brain will change too.

Remember most worry and depression comes from OVER-THINKING. Keep it simple. Live outside your head. Be social, focus on real things out in the world. Make stuff. Be productive. Write to friends on social media. Get ideas from the inside to the outside.

You’ve been giving thoughts that run through your head automatically, and memories of bad situations TOO MUCH POWER over you. You’re allowing these thoughts and memories to bother you.

It’s designed to help you take back your power. Everyone can CHOOSE what they think about and do. Choose wisely. Chose to challenge negative thought. Chose to do positive things. Good luck. Don’t give up. Give it time.

(Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which was developed by psychologists John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Segal.  Check out their workbook, “The Way of Mindfulness.”)

For a FREE first session with Stanford Psychologist David Silverman, or for more help with anxiety and depression,  CLICK HERE.

David Silverman, LMFT,  53354, Phone: 310-850-4707. 2001 Barrington Ave, West Los Angeles, CA  90025.  Northstar Mall, Marina del Rey, CA 90292