Today I’d like to share with you one of my favorite techniques for battling stress and negativity. I learned this technique many years ago from one of my mentors, Mark Cunningham, and have found it to be an invaluable tool for changing negative thinking patterns. You can use this simple exercise to train yourself to become a more positive (and happy) person.
Before I teach it to you, let me say this… if you just use it once or twice, it won’t have much of an effect. If you want to see powerful, permanent changes in the way that you think and feel then you must use it as much as possible. Consider it part of your long-term strategy for mental well-being.
One more thing… it’s definitely a bit weird. I’m going to be asking you to make images your mind while physically reaching out in front of you to do silly things with your hands. Strange, I know, but just go with it. This weird little technique can change your life.
So here are the steps of The Stop Sign Technique:
- Anytime you find yourself dwelling over a perceived negative experience, begin to pay attention to the scene in your mind’s eye. Imagine that you are watching a movie that you can freeze by hitting the “pause” button on your remote control. After you’ve frozen the picture, visualize in your mind’s eye a stop sign popping up in front of it.
- Now reach out with your physical hands and turn up the brightness on the picture (imagine there is a knob underneath the mental screen that you can manipulate with your hand) until it whites out completely and there is nothing left of the original image.
- Place a golden frame around the picture (just imagine that is is appearing around the blank, white screen).
- Write in golden marker the lesson you learned from the incident (you may have to stretch yourself to come up with a positive lesson but there is always something positive to be learned from every experience i.e. Burning your hand on the stove has taught you to be more careful when using the oven).
- Physically reach out with both hands, grab the picture frame and place it (along with its contents) behind your head. Imagine that you can hear it being nailed into place behind you.
- Place a new scene in the original spot (in front of you) that makes you feel good when you think about it (relaxing on the beach, etc). Watch the scene for about 10 seconds and be sure to feel the good feelings that result.
This simple exercise is designed the train your brain over time to always look for the silver lining in every situation and to easily let go of negative feelings and defeatist thinking. Yes, it’s incredibly silly but it works if you consistently apply it to your negative thought patterns. Go play around with it and let me know what you think.
Wishing you a happy and stress-free weekend. 🙂