Intrusive thoughts are common for trauma survivors or people with diagnoses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety disorders. That’s why it is important for therapists to have a variety of thought stopping exercises. The following is written with children in mind, but this skill can absolutely be used by adults as well.
Do you ever listen to the radio when you’re in the car with your parents? Or do you use a music streaming service, like Pandora or Spotify, that you can set to play random songs? Sometimes upbeat songs come on that make you want to dance, or soothing songs come on that make you feel very relaxed, and sometimes a song comes on that you absolutely hate.
Your thoughts are like a radio station, and sometimes your brain plays “songs” or thoughts that you don’t want to hear. Sometimes you have thoughts that you didn’t plan to think about and don’t want to think about. When that “bad song” comes on, you have the option to change the station!
Write or draw what the bad thoughts look or feel like. Then, write or draw the thoughts that make you feel happy and calm. When you have the bad thoughts, imagine yourself changing the radio station to the good thoughts!
This can work when you’re having thoughts that upset you, but you can do it at other times too! Like if there is a time when the “song” that’s playing makes you really excited and want to move around, but you’re at school and need to stay in your seat. You can change the station to something that helps you feel calm and relaxed.
Thoughts sometimes come into our brains when we don’t want them to, but we can change what we’re thinking about and play thought-songs that make us feel better!