The Old Switcheroo

Chapter 14 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan

WE ALL HAVE TIMES when we think about something negative we can't do anything about: Something in the news, something that happened yesterday, one of our fellow workers who made us mad, a company policy. The time spent ruminating on that stuff is wasted. It's worse than wasted, because it makes our bodies produce stress hormones, which circulate in the bloodstream and aren't good for our health.

When you find yourself thinking about something negative and you want to stop, I'd like to give you a technique...but I can't. The mind doesn't work that way. It's like a river that just keeps flowing, and even when you try to dam it up, it just overflows the dam and keeps on flowing. A river must flow. You can't stop it.

But you can redirect it.

The same is true for your mind. It keeps flowing; it keeps thinking. You can't stop it. But you can redirect it.

When you are thinking about something negative you can't do anything about, redirect your mind. There are a million things you could direct your mind to, but let's choose a good one now rather than wait until we're bothered by something. Here's an extremely useful area to redirect your mind to: Complimenting other people.

You and I know we take things for granted and it would be good to appreciate what people do for us, but we don't, at least not as often as we'd like. Why? Because we need to think about it. When we compliment someone without giving it any thought, it comes out shallow, general, or phony. To do it well requires thought.

But we don't have the spare time to think about it‚ we're too busy thinking about negative things we can't do anything about (wink).


So from this point on, use the occurrence of needless negative rumination as a trigger, something that reminds you to think about complimenting someone. Use it as an opportunity to switch your mind, to turn it in a new direction. What specifically has someone done that you think was cool? Big or small, it doesn't matter. Next time you see that person, let them know you appreciate it. The fact that you acknowledge it some time after it happens shows it was important enough for you to think about later, which adds more impact to the compliment.

Give more sincere and well-thought-out compliments and your relationships will be better, your life will be better, the world will be better. And one way to give more compliments is to use the old switcheroo.

When you want to stop ruminating about something:
Direct your thoughts to what you appreciate and say it.

Self-Help Stuff That Works makes an excellent gift. Take time out now and order it for a friend.

If you think you're shy, or if you would like to be bolder or more comfortable around people, check this out.
Refuse to Flinch

Is your goal important but difficult? Here's a little encouragement from Utah.
Just Keep Planting

Here's a conversational chapter on optimism from a future book:
Conversation on Optimism

If worry is a problem for you, or even if you would like to simply worry less even though you don't worry that much, you might like to read this:
The Ocelot Blues

next: Having the Time

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 1). The Old Switcheroo, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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