Four Steps to Freedom from Negative Thinking

How to gain freedom from styles of thinking that don’t serve us and keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, and even addictive behaviors.

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A number of years ago I created a free email-based program called “Daily Now Moments.”  Every day people get an email into their inbox that is meant to inspire a moment of mindfulness or give some practical guidance in the direction of emotional freedom and happiness.

One of the practices is called “The Freedom Practice” and I wanted to share it with you because it can be so useful in gaining freedom from styles of thinking that don’t serve us and keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, and even our addictive behaviors.

Sometimes I call these styles of thinking “Mind Traps.”

Mind traps are styles like catastrophizing, blaming, and exaggerating the negative and discounting the positive or just your most common negative thoughts.

The Freedom Practice

When you first notice a mind trap or common negative thought, first stop, take an intentional deep breath and from this more mindful space, move through these next four steps (Name, Feel, Release, Redirect):

1. Name it

Actually name the style of thinking or behaving that isn’t serving you in your mind or say it out loud (e.g., overeating, catastrophic thinking, grumpiness, etc.). This not only creates more awareness for you, but also has been found to bring more activity to the part of your brain that has to do with emotional regulation.

2. Feel it

Recognize how this moment feels in the body. This grounds us to the reality of the moment and gives us access to a choice point.

3. Release it

Practice this phrase in concert with the breath, “Breathing in, I acknowledge the feeling that’s here; breathing out, I release it.”

4. Redirect it

Shift your attention to something that is healthier and/or more important to pay attention to.
Bring this awareness into the moments of your day, dropping into what really matters.

This practice was inspired by my work with the evidence-based program, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which used to be offered in only select areas and MBCT is now offered live online so it doesn’t matter where you are in the country you can have access to it.

Remember, most importantly, this is a learning process. That means don’t measure success by whether “it works” every time or not, instead you’re training your brain to name, recognize, release, and redirect. 

Mastery is only created with a learning mindset. Like learning how to ride a bike, as you practice and repeat this over time, your brain will start making this more automatic.

Adapted from Mindfulness & Psychotherapy