Strategies for defusing unhelpful thoughts

A while back I wrote about how a thought is “little more than nothing” so all that matters is whether it’s helpful, not whether it’s true.

Sure sure, but how do you unhook yourself from unhelpful thoughts dragging you along? The book The Happiness Trap has some techniques for taking them less seriously.

  • Sing the thought to the tune of Jingle Bells or Happy Birthday. This one has been killer for me. It makes the thought feel like a silly story instead of reality. 🎵 I suck at, I suck at, I suck at my joooooob. 🎵
  • Mentally add “I’m having the thought that…” to the beginning. So instead of “they’ll think I’m stupid if I ask this question,” try this: “I’m having the thought that they’ll think I”m stupid if I ask this question.”
  • Picture the thought being said in the voice of a cartoon character. Cartman is my go-to because my Cartman voice is spot on, but a classic like Elmer Fudd would be good too. “You’ll never be muscular” (for example) carries a lot less weight coming from him.
  • Name that story. Something like: “Oh, I see, it’s the old ‘You’re Gonna Screw Up Your Presentation’ story again! Such a classic.” Great for hammering in that it’s nothing more than a story your brain is telling.

Those have helped me lately. But if all else fails, remember that you’re going to be dead someday.

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