Feb 06, 2018

Daniel Stewart's Tip of the Month: Thought Chatter

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

A few months ago we began a series of tips dedicated to creating positive riding potential by making sure the words we say to ourselves are positive. This month we’ll continue that conversation with a unique three-part technique called thought-stopping…but before we do, let's first talk about a few surprising numbers.

Your brain thinks up to 60,000 thoughts each day, which is about forty thoughts a minute or one thought every 1.5 seconds. But here comes the craziest number of all. For the untrained brain, up to 70% of those thoughts can be counterproductive to success in riding! Those that come in the form of dread and doubt, memories and mistakes, frustrations and fears - and what I like to call wonder, wishing, worrying, and what-ifs - all contribute to the surprising number of unwelcome thoughts, called thought chatter, that can enter our minds.

So, what these numbers really mean is that our brains are hardwired to think (it can’t actually stop thinking), but when it does it can be pretty good at thinking pretty bad. That is, until we teach ourselves to recognize the negative chatter, stop it, and replace it with more positive options. That’s where the three steps of thought-stopping come in:

  1. Thought-Recognition — You become aware of when you’re thinking negative chatter.
  2. Thought-Stopping — You disrupt the flow of the chatter by saying a thought-stopping word to yourself, like the words “whoa” or “halt.”
  3. Thought-Replacement — Once you’ve disrupted the flow of the chatter, you replace it with a positive replacement thought.

Here’s an example:

  1. Your recognize yourself saying something like, “I always get nervous when everyone else rides well in my class.”
  2. You stop the flow of that negative thought chatter by saying the word “halt” to yourself (inside or outside voice).
  3. You replace the negative thought chatter with, “Watching other riders helps me learn the nature of the jump course.”

So this month, begin to listen to your thought chatter and create a thought-stopper and thought replacement to stop and replace it if it drifts south of positive. Memorize both (nervousness has a tricky way of making you forgetful) and always remember that to fly you have to give up what weighs you down…and sometimes that just might need to be your very own thought chatter!

Join Coach Stewart at the US Olympic Training Centers in Colorado Springs and Lake Placid this summer for four-day Equestrian Athlete Training Camps. Riders of all ages, levels, and disciplines are welcome and members of the USEA receive a $250 scholarship. For more information visit the Pressure Proof Academy website.

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