Have you ever had an unwelcome image or thought stuck in your mind? You can, oftentimes, ignore it and move on. But it sometimes keeps popping back up.
You don't want to think about these unpleasant things. So, what causes them to happen? They're known as "intrusive thoughts" and practically everyone experiences them from time to time. They can range from random images to violent, disturbing ideas such as hitting someone or being in a fatal accident.
In our previous article, we've established that intrusive thoughts are typically harmless. Common forms of these are sexual thoughts, violent thoughts, negative "loser" thoughts, and bizarre paranoid thoughts which are essentially “junk” thoughts.
If, however, you obsess over them to the point that they interfere with your normal day-to-day life, this can be an indication of an underlying mental health condition. Depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can all bring about intrusive thoughts. And when one has mental health issues, professional intervention must be sought out immediately.
WATCH these to understand how to better manage intrusive thoughts:
Reach out to JarvisHypnotherapy if you need help managing intrusive thoughts.
What can you do to manage intrusive thoughts?
The first step to breaking the cycle is by becoming aware of your thought patterns.
Our thoughts are never wholly under our control, and it is normal for our minds to be negative every now and then. On one hand, intrusive thoughts might become a daily struggle for some.
Just realize that a thought has no meaning, value, or power in itself. It's not possible to always stop these thoughts from ever popping up –and that's not fundamentally the goal here.
The aim is to focus your effort instead on finding ways to distance yourself from the thoughts and to make them less overpowering. The objective is to feel that you have the reins on your thoughts –and not the other way around.
Here are self-help techniques to help you regain power over your intrusive thoughts:
Keep in mind: they fade away eventually.
Help yourself regain perspective by repeating this simple, powerful mantra, "This too shall pass."
When an intrusive thought consumes your mind, it can feel as though it is bound to stay. But thoughts are always fleeting, and there is no such thing as a fixed state of mind.
With proper tools and sufficient professional guidance, you can develop skills and ways of thinking that will improve your mental health.
Learning to observe your thoughts calmly without judging or becoming emotionally involved with them is one of the key principles of mindfulness.
This can make it a powerful tool for dealing with intrusive thoughts as you're not dismissing or rejecting the thoughts; rather, you're altering your relationship with them.
Enjoy time with a pet.
Animals can be quite soothing for an anxious mind. They don't understand, nor do they have a sense, of our complicated, troubled thoughts, hence they are able to provide distraction and uncomplicated emotional help.
A huge study involving animals published in 2019 found that interacting with them can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to many mental health issues.
Moreover, animal-assisted therapy for trauma has become increasingly popular.
Visualization techniques through self-hypnosis.
Visualizing helps you feel more in control of your thoughts.
You can begin by imagining your mind as a wide, blue sky and your thoughts as clouds that pass by. Some clouds are dark, and some are light, but each one is not permanent. They are all just passing by.
A form of self-hypnosis thought clouds can be used outside of meditation sessions. Tap into this technique anytime an intrusive thought begins to bother you.
Externalize the thought.
Our brains are exceptionally capable of telling us stories that seem real. When an intrusive thought exists merely in your head, it can gain enormous power.
So, try externalizing the thought by journaling or simply saying it out loud to yourself to see if its effect changes. When you see it on paper or when you hear it, does it sound rational or unfounded?
Stay in the moment –in the here and now.
Oftentimes, intrusive thoughts can captivate your mind which leads you to focus on negative things and create stories not founded on truth.
You may be using a lot of time living in the past or agonizing over the future without even realizing it.
To manage this effectively, focus on the present moment.
Grounding routines, like meditation, deep breathing, and body scan meditation, can help you redirect your attention from negative thoughts.
Spend time walking in nature.
There is a considerable amount of evidence that spending time in nature can improve mental health and sharpen the mind (American Psychological Association).
Hiking or walking in a green space can help disrupt the cycle of rumination by engaging your senses and body and taking your attention away from your thoughts.
Approach each thought with curiosity.
Reconsider and redefine the intrusive thought. Watch your thoughts without judgment. Approach these thoughts with curiosity by focusing on how your body reacts to a thought that occurs.
We’ve learned that intrusive thoughts are involuntary, unwanted thoughts that are often upsetting. They often come out of nowhere and may occur repeatedly, making them seem even more powerful.
These thoughts are usually out of character and may contradict the individual's beliefs or values. And this can make intrusive thoughts much more upsetting as the person experiencing them may be harshly judging themselves.
Follow the self-help techniques outlined above if you're bothered by intrusive thoughts. Begin by acknowledging and labelling them for what they are: intrusive thoughts outside your absolute control. Don't reject them, instead let them come and allow them to pass eventually.
If, however, intrusive thoughts cause you anxiety, consume your energy, or make it difficult to function in your day-to-day activities, seek professional intervention for further diagnosis and treatment. Contact JarvisHypnotherapy today to receive help.
Get more helpful advice on mental wellness from JarvisHypnotherapy by reading: The Effectiveness & Benefits of Hypnotherapy to Our Wellbeing.