Dr Gail Ratcliffe reveals her technique called "thought - stopping" a simple three step process you can do to stop negative thoughts and replace them with more positive self talk. This will help you think in more healthy, constructive ways, which can make you feel happier! So, over to Dr Gail with her thought stopping process:

The easiest and by far the most effective way you can change your thoughts and control your emotions is a technique called thought-stopping. A method of controlling negative thoughts and feelings by switching off thoughts that stress you, thought-stopping is also a form of positive thinking, because it allows you to replace your negative thoughts with coping or positive ones.

Follow these three simple steps to stop negative thoughts:

Step 1: Select A Thought That Upsets You

Sometimes particularly upsetting thoughts are about situations you think are unable to change.

It doesn’t really matter which thought you choose, because once you have learned to switch off one thought using this technique, you will understand the process and be able to apply it to any other thought that troubles you.

Do be sure to select a thought that actually bothers you though because through this you will prove to yourself that you can become less emotional about this problem. After this dealing with any other will seem easy and you will start to have faith in your own ability to control your emotions, your stress and your attitude to the world.

Step 2: Write Down the Thought You have Chosen and Look at it Carefully.

Ask yourself these questions: What attitude to this situation would I rather have? What is the attitude I can live with? Or, what is a positive attitude I can believe?

What you are looking for here is an alternative thought or a replacement thought for the one that troubles you. When you switch off a thought that produces a negative emotion, you need to put in its place a positive or a coping thought, one that will not upset you but will calm you and make you feel more in control.

Be realistic, however – your replacement thought cannot be something that you would not believe. Maybe you are someone who dwells on guilt and inadequacies. You feel guilty about not meeting your parents’ expectations in life because you became a salesperson rather than the lawyer they expected.

So you identify the thought that upsets you as ‘I have not done what the family expected of me in life’; it would be foolish to think ‘I did do what the family expected of me’, because you did not.

You would be better to replace that thought with something like: ‘I did what was right for me’ or ‘Their expectations were unrealistic’; or ‘People need to live their own lives’; or ‘I need to be true to myself ’.

The briefer the thought, the better: just as long as it incorporates your meaning and your intent. If, for example, you were to write down: ‘My parents were unrealistic in their expectations of me; they tried to force me to be the kind of person they wanted to be themselves because they felt they had not fulfilled their own expectations’, this may be true, but you will not remember it when you have switched off the thought that upsets you.

You require a briefer thought. You will notice when you write down the thoughts that upset you that they are usually very brief too.

The following are typical thoughts that have upset others and typical replacement thoughts they have used:

a. George blamed me for things going wrong between us.
The blame was not mine. I really tried.
b. Oh God, I’m going to mess this up.
Be calm and you will be fine.
c. Maybe she doesn’t love me.
You have to trust her.
d.I can’t stand this damn noise!
They’re just being kids and I love them.

Sometimes you may find that a situation requires you to take some action as well as changing your attitude. You may have decided that you hate your job and would best solve your problem by leaving your job in six months time, but you are still bothered because you have not yet carried out your plan to leave.

When that is the case, you are better to switch off the thoughts that cause your anxiety and say to yourself something like: ‘I have a plan’ or ‘I have made a decision’ or ‘I know what I have to do’, or ‘Relax: it’s only another six months’.

Step 3: Write Down your Replacement Thought.

This will become your new attitude to what stresses you. Now you need to establish it in your mind. You can either teach yourself how to do this, or you can ask a friend to be your tutor and teach it to you.

This simple formula will steer your way to positive thinking by stopping negative thoughts. The more you practice the easier it will become. By following this three step process you'll be able to regain control of your mind, and replace these negative invaders with more empowering, positive thoughts.

TakeControl600pxDr Gail Ratcliffe, a clinical psychologist and author, is widely regarded internationally for her work in providing techniques for minimizing the impact of stress on everyday life. She is in private practice in New Zealand.

Her book "Take Control of Your Life" offers a complete and realistic recipe for taking control, achieving the outcomes you want and creating a balanced and positive life.