Stopping and catching thoughts really doesn’t seem to work for me. I can change the big bold negative words into neutral words when I use them in my self talk, which is rarely. Is it vital to catch and stop negative thoughts, or is it okay just to use a distraction.
As long as you are aware of the thoughts that is good enough, the aim isn’t to stop them and i think the word catch encourages one to still be using the mind when the aim is to become embodied. In other words it is more about diffusing from the thoughts and seeing them as just workings of the mind whilst you focus on other things,
I also wanted to say that I think it’s more about not dwelling and getting caught up in lengthy negative story lines than vigilantly catching every negative thought that occurs in your mind. That would make you crazy. I speak from experience
I think calmly ignoring them when you can as you focus on distracting yourself with something interesting for you or by getting active is a good strategy.
Last thing, I think the point of the ants handout, at least partially, is to gently communicate to your brain what you’d like it to do in the long term. All of the Neuroscience research says that your brain listens to you. In this case, that would mean it will work out how to ignore negative thoughts over time. Forcing and pressuring yourself about negative thoughts and how to ignore them is the opposite of calmly communicating with your brain that you want it think less negatively as you help it by distracting yourself for the moment. I’m not saying you force and pressure yourself. That’s what I’ve done by mistake many times until I realize what I’m doing and how it’s hurting me.
One last thing. The meditation I use by headspace talks about how it’s important to be gentle when noting thoughts or otherwise you’ll create more tension in your mind and body. It says to note a negative thought as if you were gently placing a feather on a fine crystal glass rather than batting at it. That helps to remind me to stay gentle with my brain, the same brain that I want cooperation from in order to reach my goals.
Good luck to you and me and all of us.
Also something else occurred to me that I wanted to share. When I’m really depressed or really anxious for an extended period, I realize when I come out of it after a few hours/days/weeks/or even months ( depending on how long it lasts ) that I’ve been believing really terrible things about myself. So another big part of gradually dissolving negative thoughts and beliefs is to not believe them. This can be difficult at times, especially when I’m very anxious or depressed. However, if I can just try to not believe them to some degree, then I’m able to feel a little lighter and some relief. It also helps because then I’m able to allow them to come and go and I don’t have to be as vigilant about them. I just remind myself to not believe them when they come up and eventually it becomes a somewhat automatic feeling inside me that negative thoughts aren’t as believed as they occur in my mind. The benefit of this is that the less I’m able to believe them, the more smoothly and easily they go away on their own. It’s not something that can be forced but if you keep practicing not believing them, I think it’ll gradually start happening. So when I’m not able to make them go away and they’re extra loud and disturbing, I just try to tell myself to not believe them so much but let them exist if they won’t go away because engaging with them just makes them worse. I just keep reminding myself they might not be true and when I’m finally able to see that, I feel so much relief.
Regularly instill doubt into the negative thoughts and beliefs and they’ll lose some of their power over you. I think that’s what turning the tables on the ants is about. Obviously this is better done when you’re by yourself and not too anxious