How Focussing On Not Wanting To Do something Is Counterproductive
Have you ever tried not to think of a purple turtle?
No not really (and let’s be honest, generally purple turtles are the last thing on people’s mind), but now you’re actually thinking about the purple turtle because I mentioned it. And if I now asked you not to think about the purple turtle, you would still have it on your mind. The same happens when you think about habits or behaviours that you want to change.
This is because our brain is not really good in recognising a no or a not in a thought, it rather focusses on the subject of the thought. If you think you don’t want to eat chocolate or lollies, then despite telling yourself not to do it, all you do is draw your attention to chocolate or lollies. The same goes for not wanting to snack after dinner, all you do is to draw attention to snacking after dinner.
So what’s a better way to change unwanted habit, behaviours or recurrent thoughts?
If you want to change a habit, a behaviour or recurrent thoughts, it’s relatively simple: First you have to have the intention to change. Then you decide that you want to focus on something entirely different. If it comes to eating chocolate or lollies, what is it you could do instead every time the thought of chocolate or lollies comes up? You might want to brainstorm those ideas, they could be simply just having a glass of water or having a piece of fruit instead. Same goes for snacking after dinner, what could you focus on instead when the thought comes up? What other activity would take your mind off snacking? It could be doing a puzzle, going for a walk, playing with your pet etc. Whatever works for you.
When it comes to unwanted thoughts consider what you could think about instead. If it is repetitive negative self talk, then find a positive statement that you can think of instead and most importantly that resonates with you.
Regardless if it is a habit, a behaviour or a thought, you can also have a rubber band or elastic hairband on your wrist. Every time you start to go down that old road of the unwanted behaviour or thought you snap that elastic band to remind you of your alternative and then do the alternative action or think the alternative thought.
Why does it work? Our brain can be pretty stubborn with its habitual thought patterns. The snap of the rubber band acts as an interruption to your thought pattern and gives you that precious little break to change.
The message is – don’t resist what you don’t want to do or think but focus on what you want to do or think instead.
The great news is that hypnotherapy is quite effective in helping you to achieve that more easily. If you want to learn more Book your free exploration session today - no strings attached.
If you'd like to learn more about Negative Self Talk, read our previous The Power Of Self-Talk How To Empower Your Inner Voice