Posts tagged ‘thought-stopping’

February 13, 2013

New Improved Closed Eye Oscillation Thought Stopping Technique

by Dave P.

Closed Eye Oscillation Thought Stopping (CEOTS) has shown to be effective for many people, but it’s not that easy to use for some. A few people who participated in the study said it made them dizzy.

This morning, I woke up early and was unable to fall back to sleep. With my eyes closed, I moved them back and forth, but to no avail. The worries kept coming back into my my consciousness and I was unable to fall back to sleep.

So I decided to try some new techniques. First I imagined an eraser clearing my thoughts. Then a squeegee. The squeegee seemed to work better than the eraser, but it wasn’t working well enough to help me sleep. Then I imagined windshield wipers oscillating back and forth while I followed them with my eyes, and voilà! I was asleep in just a few seconds!

WindshieldWiperStart of by observing the sound of your breathing, and observe the sensation of cool air flowing in through your nostrils and warm air flowing back out. Any time a thought enters your consciousness, imagine windshield wipers slowly flapping back and forth, and follow them with your eyes. For thoughts high in emotion, imagine the windshield wipers oscillating at a faster rate. When the thought is completely gone and you experience calm, return your focus to your breath. Repeat whenever a thought enters your consciousness.

You can try various techniques to see what works for you. Try the windshield wiper visualization technique and see how that works. There are few things more frustrating than not being able to sleep. I hope this helps some of you out there.

February 7, 2013

Sleep for dummies

by Dave P.

I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder, should I get up and fix myself a drink?
No no no
~ The Beatles (lyrics by John Lennon)

“I’m so stupid, I can’t even sleep! What’s wrong with me?!!” Those are some thoughts that used to go through my head when I’d lay awake at night, unable to sleep. I’d sometimes get so mad at myself, I’d punch myself in the head. I often wished I could cry myself to sleep, but wasn’t able to. It was pure hell.

Insomnia is a horrible condition. It leads people to drink, do drugs, and give up on life. Michael Jackson suffered from severe insomnia and required medically induced sleep. It eventually killed him. The great American blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield had the same problem. It destroyed his career. He turned to heroin for relief, which eventually killed him.

Unhappiness and discontentment often cause insomnia. When you don’t have something worthwhile in your life to look forward to, it affects your sleep. When you have strong meaning in life, you tend to sleep like a baby.

Everyone suffers from an occasional sleepless night, but when the problem becomes chronic, you begin spiraling downward — out of control. Every task becomes arduous. You can’t think clearly. You feel lousy. Your speech becomes slurred. You can’t remember anything. You don’t feel like talking to anyone. You become irritable. You can’t pay attention. All you can think about is going home and going to bed, but then when you’re in bed, you can’t sleep, and you think about all the things that are going wrong in your life. You dread the coming day.

People who suffer from insomnia often spend a lot of time reading books about insomnia. While proper sleep hygiene is important, spending an inordinate amount of time reading about insomnia isn’t going to help and can actually make your problem worse.

When people are unhappy, they often do things that reinforce their unhappiness, like reading about depression, insomnia, or other problems. They do so because they can relate to the material. We experience temporary pleasure when we connect with something. Even a good cry provides us with pleasure by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain.

The problem with spending too much time learning about your problems is it strengthens the negative thinking part of the brain. What is needed is the opposite — the exercise of the positive thinking part of the brain! But that’s a bit difficult when you feel crappy due to lack of sleep. But there is hope.

First of all, take a step back at your life and ask yourself where you want to be in five or ten years. What are your goals and aspirations? Don’t factor in your insomnia because we’re going to solve that problem. What do you want out of life? Friends? Family? A career? A nice home? Hobbies? Don’t say, “a lot of money.” While it takes money to acquire some of the things we want in life, it in itself will not make you happy. And be realistic. Setting a goal to learn how to fly will only lead to disappointment or worse if you actually try to fly!

Goals provide us with meaning in life. Now, what would it take to achieve those goals? Set a course. Again, ignore your insomnia for now. What will it take? Training? Additional education? Just hard work? Map out your path. Remember to keep it positive. At this point, it may seem futile because it’s hard to do anything when you can’t sleep, but that is simply an obstacle that can be overcome.

Next, we’ll address sleep hygiene.

Wind down before going to bed. Write down anything that’s bothering you or problems that you need to address the next day. That will cut down on the ruminations and worry.

Meditate before going into your bedroom. Meditation actually gets you into a pre-sleep state with increased alpha brain waves.

Keep your bedroom cool. Your body releases tryptophan and increases serotonin levels as it cools, which cause drowsiness. A hot shower before bed will raise your body temperature, and you’ll feel tired when it cools down. Exercise also raises your body temperature, so don’t engage in any strenuous activities before bed. Sex may be the exception.

You can meditate while in bed to help you fall asleep. Simply observe the sensation of air flowing through your nostrils — the cool air entering and warm air exiting. Listen to the sounds of the night. Feel the comfort of your bed. Just observe.

If you live in a noisy area, some earplugs can help. A sleep mask can provide you with a dark environment — even during the day.

But what do you do when your brain won’t shut down when you’re trying to fall asleep? After all… it’s dark and quiet — the perfect time to think about things without any disruption! We seem to get some kind of satisfaction from rehashing our problems, but it also generates anxiety. There is also the worry about not being able to sleep, which, of course, prevents you from sleeping.

Many people resort to sleeping pills or alcohol to help them fall asleep, which often do help you sleep, but they affect the quality of sleep. You’ll spend less time in deep sleep and not feel refreshed when you awaken. Personally, sleeping pills always made me feel worse than if I didn’t sleep at all. I’d feel dizzy and spaced out the next day.

If you’re not really worried about anything but your mind just won’t shut down, often simply observing your breath can help. But if your thoughts are high in emotional content, extra strength thought-stopping techniques are needed!

I’ve written about this before, but it works well for those who have tried it. Get into a comfortable position and simply close your eyes and slowly and gently move them back and forth. You can combine this technique with mindfulness practice. Observe your breath, but when a thought enters your consciousness, move your eyes back and forth to erase it. Then return to your mindfulness practice. If you’re feeling anxious, move your eyes back and forth until you have calmed down. Then go back to your mindfulness practice.

If you’ve suffer from severe, chronic insomnia, you might benefit from SSRIs such as paroxetine (generic Paxil). They cause drowsiness and reduce anxiety. Ask your doctor if it might help.

Once you get your insomnia under control, you’re free to pursue your goals and reach your potential.

February 6, 2013

You are the star of your life

by Dave P.

Take it as it comes, specialize in having fun.
~ Jim Morrison

No matter what happened in the past, you can’t change it. There are no “do overs” in life. But we can learn from our mistakes and use them to help us grow. People who don’t get to experience mistakes often develop a fear of failure. We don’t need to be perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human.

Put your mistakes behind you. You are the star of your life. If you were writing a script for today, you wouldn’t decide to spend it ruminating and worrying. That would make for a boring movie!

Ruminating can become a bad habit if you do it too often. The parts of your brain that you use most develops strong neurological connections. The more you do something, the stronger the connections become. That’s what you want if you’re trying to learn how to play the piano, but it can take a serious toll on your state of mind if it involves maladaptive thinking.

Research psychologist Martin Seligman found that people who ruminate a lot are prone to depression. Ruminators often suffer from low self-esteem, which is why they seek the approval of others. When they don’t get it, they obsess, worry, and ruminate, which results in the loss of respect from others and the diminishment of self-respect.

When you find yourself ruminating, try this. Simply close your eyes and move them back and forth fairly rapidly — about twice the speed of a clock pendulum. Don’t try to block the rumination, but instead, try to ruminate while oscillating your eyes. You’ll find it to be extremely difficult to think about anything since the process of moving your eyes back and forth requires a fair amount of concentration; there’s not much processing capability left over to process other thoughts. Any time the maladaptive thought enters your consciousness, simply close your eyes and move them back and forth.

I did a study on this technique, which I call Rapid Eye Oscillation Technique, or REOT, and the people who tried it reported it to be effective. I use it all the time to help me fall asleep and to stop ruminations that would otherwise disrupt my day. Nothing else has ever worked for me.

You can be the star of your life if you stop worrying so much about what others think about you. While we all want to be liked and respected, if your sense of self-worth depends on the approval of others, it will have the opposite effect; people will like and respect you less.

Be yourself. Be authentic. If you don’t like yourself, work on self-improvement. Develop your conversational skills. Make an effort to learn new things every day. Show gratitude for your relationships and the good things in life. Work on being a positive person. Try to make the world a better place. Take it as it comes. Specialize in having fun.

February 3, 2013

Path to the present: Find meaning in life

by Dave P.

Do you suffer from existential nausea? What you may need is some Existential Alka-Seltzer — a pill the size of an automobile hubcap that, when dissolved in water, takes away the queasy feeling induced by too much awareness of life. You may also find it helpful after eating Mexican food.
~ Adapted from Woody Allen’s The Condemned

How much time do you waste ruminating about your past or worrying about your future? Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming?

People are happiest when they’re absorbed in what they’re doing, but events from the past can interrupt or prevent a state of ‘flow.’ You may have been abused as a child, which damaged your self-esteem. You may have been bullied at school or work, which damaged your sense of confidence. You may have a learning disability, which affected your self-efficacy. Any of those things can give you social anxiety, which affects your ability to form close relationships.

One of the keys to living in the present is finding meaning in life. Meaning can come from a variety of sources, but most comes from a desire to improve the world in some way, whether it’s helping people overcome their problems, teaching, political activism, environmental causes, or even self-improvement.

When you have strong meaning in life, the small, negative things don’t bother you. You don’t spend a lot of time ruminating or worrying because you’re content in the present working towards a goal. Meaning pulls you toward a specific destination. When we’re not living in the present, we need to be pushed. We need to be pushed out of bed, pushed to clean up the house, pushed to go to work, pushed to do most everything. When you have a strong pull towards something positive, you have strong, natural motivation.

Pull is sometimes negative. When you’re in pain, you seek out pain relief, so you might be pulled towards alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuous sex, cutting, or other sources of pain relief. Those types of activities might relieve the pain for a little while, but afterwards, they leave you feeling even worse. They’re like the Sirens’s song, luring you in with a promise of ecstasy, but then leaving you shipwrecked on the rocky cost of life.

May 6, 2011

Thought Stopping Techniques

by Dave P.

by Dave Pollack

“I can’t believe I said those things at the office party last night! Everybody must think I’m a total idiot! I’m never going to hear the end of it and everybody at work is going to hate me!”

You lay awake in bed, tossing and turning, afraid to face the coming day. The next morning, you feel horrible from not having slept. Your eyes are bloodshot, you’re not thinking clearly, you’re in a bad mood, and you want to call in sick but you can’t afford to miss any more time off.

And so, you go to work, expecting the worst. But it turns out, what you said was no big deal. You weren’t the focus of everyone’s attention and hardly anyone noticed if you said something inappropriate or “stupid.” So you wound up making yourself miserable for nothing.

Worrying can become habitual. It might arise out of some genuine crisis. Maybe the company bully set his sights on you and made your life miserable. Afterwards, you started blowing any little snide remark or conflict out of proportion and you felt like the whole world had turned against you. Your relationships deteriorate and you begin to hate getting out of bed in the morning. You’ve become miserable and you’re making everyone around you miserable with all your complaining. You lose your comfort base. You snap at the slightest provocation. Your habitual worry turns into insomnia. Your friends no longer want to be around you. Your world is falling apart because you can’t stop those damned obsessive ruminations and maladaptive thoughts. You need help.

So how do you stop obsessive worry and ruminations? There are several methods and they can be used individually or in conjunction with each other. They do take a bit of self-discipline, though. You would think that it would be easy to control your own mind, but it’s usually quite difficult – at least in the beginning. We seem to derive some kind of satisfaction from rehashing events in our minds, which makes it difficult to stop.

Many people who suffer from insomnia have a hard time shutting down their minds when trying to fall asleep. Unless you’ve suddenly thought of a cure for cancer or have an idea that would make a perpetual motion machine possible, your thought doesn’t need to be processed when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep. Thoughts related to work can wait. Ruminations and worry can definitely wait for another time.

The cognitive approach to thought stopping can be effective in stopping the unwanted thoughts. When a thought pops into your head, ask yourself, “Do I really need to process that thought? Is that an important thought or am I just needlessly obsessing over something that doesn’t really matter? If it’s an important thought, does it need to be processed right now while I’m trying to sleep or can it wait until tomorrow?”

You can make a note to yourself to think the thought the next day after you get up. If you’re laying there worrying, tell yourself that right now you’re going to sleep, but you’ll be sure to worry about it in the morning when you get up. Make a note to yourself to worry, just in case you forget. Chances are, when you look at the note the next day, you’ll realize that whatever it was anything worth worrying about in the first place.

You can also do a cost/benefit analysis on your thought. What do you gain by thinking that thought? What do you lose? Sometimes thinking a thought has no positive value other than you gaining some kind of satisfaction from thinking it. Obsessing over things creates anxiety. Living in the present creates peace and equanimity. When we ruminate about someone who has done us wrong in some way, it doesn’t hurt the other person but it definitely does us harm, so what’s the point?

Ruminations often have their roots in self-loathing. You’re mad at yourself for allowing someone to do you wrong. You didn’t defend yourself the way you think you should have. So you go over the event over and over, perhaps imagining a different outcome.

The only way to get over a bad experience is through forgiveness. Forgive yourself for not defending yourself. Forgive the other person for causing you distress. That’s not to say you should become passive and let everyone pick on you. On the contrary, if you are at peace with yourself, you have a better self-image and can more easily defend yourself. And when you like yourself, people are less likely to pick on you. Bullies tend to go after those with low self-esteem.

After doing an analysis on a few maladaptive thoughts, you can simply tell yourself “It does me absolutely no good to process that thought and it actually makes things worse.”

Some unwanted thoughts will inevitably reappear, even after you’ve made the deliberate decision to not think about them. There are thought stopping techniques to stop them in their tracks before they’re fully formed.

One way most commonly recommended by therapists is to issue the “stop” imperative as soon as the thought begins to form. You can also visualize a stop sign. Another common method is to pinch yourself or snap a rubber band on your wrist when the thoughts start.

Then again, if you’re upset that someone treated you with disrespect and then you start yelling at yourself or hurting yourself, that might not make you feel any better. But there are other techniques at your disposal.

Bob Newhart did a funny skit in his TV series. On his show, he played a psychologist and a woman went to him for advice on how to get over her fear of being locked in a box. His advice was to “stop it. Just stop it.” Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.

While that’s not quite the same as issuing the “stop” command, a little humor can go far in diffusing negative emotions. When an unwanted thought appears, just imagine Bob Newhart telling you to “stop it.”

Another technique is to visualize your thought being sucked into a vacuum cleaner. You could also imagine zapping it with a Taser gun or perhaps it being eaten by a Pak-Man character. Or perhaps imagine a swashbuckler fighting the thought with his sword. You could visualize a Martian zapping it with a ray gun. Add some sound effects to your visualizations for more comic effect.

Humor can be extremely effective in weakening the negative emotions connected to your memories. The memories that are most vivid and most easily retrieved are the ones with the strongest emotional content. That’s why most people can remember where they were when they heard about the 9/11 attack or perhaps the Kennedy assassination, for those who are old enough to remember that.

We are most at peace when we’re living in the present – not rehashing past events or worrying about the future. People often go on vacation to clear their minds by sitting on a beach somewhere or camping out in the wilderness. We can do the same thing any time of the day by practicing mindfulness.

Many Buddhists practice what they call metta or loving-kindness meditation. It’s treating yourself with love and being fully in the present, usually focusing on your breath. You observe the sensation of the cool air passing in through your nostrils and the warm air flowing out. It gives you an object of focus and since your breath is always with you, you can be mindful of your breath at any time and any place.

You can also divide your attention between your breath and the task at hand. If you find that you can’t concentrate on a book you’re reading or a movie you’re trying to watch because of incessant ruminations, try observing your breath while engaging in those activities. When the extraneous thoughts subside, put your full attention on the task at hand. If the thoughts come back, return to dividing your attention between your breath and the task.

Many people have experienced good results with visualizations. Imagine yourself at a beach, the gentle waves rolling in and out, seagulls flying overhead… Or you could imagine yourself getting a massage or walking through a rainforest where you’re surrounded by vegetation and beautiful streams. There are many books dedicated to visualizations alone and you can find guided visualizations on the web and in media outlets.

A technique known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has been effective in treating PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Originally, EMDR consisted of visualizing the traumatic event and at the same time, moving your eyes rapidly back and forth. The theory is that it stimulates both sides of your brain at the same time and that weakens the emotional connections to your memories.

EMDR machines have been developed to stimulate both sides of the brain using sounds through earphones and vibrations through vibrating objects that you hold in your hands. You simply visualize the troubling event while hooked up to the device and the emotional content is weakened.

Thought stopping techniques can demonstrate their efficacy almost immediately. For severe problems with a racing mind or ruminations, it may take days or even weeks to get the problem under control. It does work, though, and the practice of thought-stopping along with meditation and mindfulness can actually change your brain chemistry so that your natural state of mind is one that’s relaxed and content.

April 22, 2011

Meditation May Help the Brain ‘Turn Down the Volume’ on Distractions

by Dave P.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 21, 2011) — The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often-overstimulating world.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that modulation of the alpha rhythm in response to attention-directing cues was faster and significantly more enhanced among study participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation program than in a control group. The report will appear in the journal Brain Research Bulletin and has been released online.

“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, co-lead author of the report. “Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”

Read more…

April 17, 2011

Mindfulness meditation practice changes the brain

by Dave P.

Mindfulness meditation alters regions of the brain associated with memory, awareness of self, and compassion, according to a brain imaging study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. Other studies have found differences in the brains of experienced meditators compared with non-meditators, but this is the first investigation to document brain changes occurring over time in people learning how to meditate mindfully. Results were published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (Jan. 30, 2011).

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to what you’re experiencing from moment to moment without drifting into thoughts about the past or concerns about the future and without analyzing (or making judgments about) what is going on around you. It’s not a new idea. Religious texts have extolled mindfulness for centuries, and it’s central to Buddhism and other contemplative traditions.

Since the early 1980s, mindfulness meditation has increasingly found a place in mainstream health care and medicine because of evidence that it’s good for emotional and physical health — for example, helping to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain, psoriasis, headache, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Some studies suggest that it can improve immune function. And research has found an association between mindfulness meditation–induced improvements in psychological well-being and increased activity of telomerase, an enzyme important to the long-term health of cells. With advances in neuroimaging, scientists have begun to explore the brain mechanisms that may underlie these benefits.

Read more…

April 17, 2011

Autogenics relaxation techniques

by Dave P.

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz and first published in 1932. The technique involves the daily practice of sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. During each session, the practitioner will repeat a set of visualisations that induce a state of relaxation. Each session can be practiced in a position chosen amongst a set of recommended postures (for example, lying down, sitting meditation, sitting like a rag doll). The technique can be used to alleviate many stress-induced psychosomatic disorders.

Schultz emphasized parallels to techniques in yoga and meditation. It is a method for influencing one’s autonomic nervous system. Abbe Faria and Emile Coue are the forerunners of Schultz. There are many parallels to progressive relaxation. In 1963 Luthe discovered the significance of “autogenic discharges”, paroxistic phenomena of motor, sensorial, visual and emotional nature related to the traumatic history of the patient, and developed the method of “Autogenic Abreaction”. His disciple Luis de Rivera, a McGill trained psychiatrist, introduced psychodynamic concepts into Luthe’s approach, developing “Autogenic Analysis” as a new method for uncovering the unconscious.

Example of an autogenic training session
Sit in the meditative posture and scan the body
“my right arm is heavy”
“my arms and legs are heavy and warm” (repeat 3 or more times)
“my heartbeat is calm and regular” (repeat 3 times)
“my solar plexus is warm” (repeat 3 times)
“my forehead is cool”
“my neck and shoulders are heavy” (repeat 3 times)
“I am at peace” (repeat 3 times)
Finish part one by cancelling[vague]
Start part two by repeating from step 2 to cancelling
Start part three by repeating from step 2 to cancelling

Many practitioners will choose not to cancel between the three iterations, in order to maintain deeper relaxation.

Quite often, one will ease themselves into the “trance” by counting to ten, and exit by counting backwards from ten. This is another practice taken from progressive relaxation.

Read full Wikipedia entry

Autogenic Training: A Practical Guide in Six Easy Steps by Karl Hans Welz (pdf)

April 4, 2011

Next Presentation and Discussion Topic: Thought Stopping Techniques

by Dave P.

Our next Presentation and Discussion Group topic is going to be about thought-stopping and relaxation techniques. Many of us have a problem with being able to shut off our thoughts when trying to fall asleep. Other’s suffer from incessant ruminations and worry. It can be extremely disruptive to our lives. There are ways to alleviate the problem and we’ll investigate them on Saturday, April 14 at 2:00. Check the events tab for more information and to sign up.