Have you ever found yourself in a mental loop? Excessively thinking about something with no resolution? You might be fixating on something which happened in the past or potentially might or might not in the future. Or perhaps you fill your head with endless negative self chatter? How about repeated trails of thought that keep popping up out of habit with no particular purpose? What all these have in common besides the continual repeatedness, is that they hijack you from the present without bringing anything to the table.
I can’t recall where I picked up this practice, but years ago I began using a rubber band as a tool to break the habit of rumination. When I find myself going on a mental binge over something I can’t control or that doesn’t do me service, I use the rubber band to snap myself out of it. It’s a super simple trick. I place the band around my wrist and everytime the accustomed thought/thoughts begin to roll the tape I snap the elastic band. The flicking is meant to be felt but not too painful. And the sooner you catch yourself about to go on the mental merry-go-round the greater the odds of prohibiting compulsive thinking.
Besides being an easy technique for ending an obsessive thinking cycle, there are three additional reasons making this an effective method. The first is, it brings awareness to the fact that you’re about to leave the present which gives you the option to change course and return back to the now. Everytime I snap the band I breathe deeply and remind myself to return back to reality. Instead of entertaining the ingrained thought, I make a conscious effort to stay present. This means focusing on my breath, my surroundings or giving my undivided attention to whatever activity I’m engaged in. The second thing you’ll notice if you give the rubber band a go, is how often you actually speed away from now. Personally I’ve found the amount of time and mental energy spent on stuff that I can’t control or that don’t benefit me, ridiculous. I’d much rather put all that effort into something valuable. Lasly, the rubber band process can function as a form of negative conditioning. This is orchestrated when the feeling inflicted by the band is in combination with the triggering thought. The association between the two can lower the likelihood of recurrence and with time fade out.
So if you find yourself drifting of mentally to a place you know doesn’t benefit you, use a rubber band and literally snap yourself out of it!