Q&A with Barbara Ireland, author of Amazon best-seller, “How To Stop Negative Thoughts”

1) What is your book, “How To Stop Negative Thoughts: What My Near Death Experience Taught Me About Mind Loops, Neuroscience, and Happiness” about, and why did you write it?

“How To Stop Negative Thoughts” is about my surreal and completely life-changing near death experience – and how those terrifying 5 hours led me to develop “The De-Looping Method” which stops repetitive, negative thoughts.

If you’ve ever listened in to what you say to yourself, you know it can get pretty nasty: Self-criticism, self-doubt, resentments, fears, how we’re not good enough, we’re stupid… I call these thoughts “Mind Loops” because they can get stuck in our heads and loop around in there like some crazed hamster on a wheel.

Mind Loops can lead to a ton of unnecessary stress and suffering. But you can  get off that nasty mental hamster wheel by changing the neural pathways in your brain.

2) What was your near death experience like? What happened and what sort of impact did it have on you?

My near death experience was astounding. I was a professional singer at the time and on tour with Stone Gossard (the guitar player from Pearl Jam). One night while onstage, my mind inadvertently tuned into my own private “negative thought radio station” and I heard all these fearful, self-critical thoughts playing in my head about my singing. It was really disturbing…

When I got home I decided to sign up for a week-long camp where you face your fears and develop courage, thinking that might help me get rid of those negative thoughts.

During that week at the camp, I faced a ton of fears, and yes, I developed courage, which was fantastic. But then, on the last day, we had an intense endurance activity. During it, my senses got all scrambled like a horror movie.

I ended up suffering from a combination of heatstroke and hyponatremia (which is too little sodium in my body from drinking too much water and sweating so much). Either condition alone can cause death, so the combination, along with exhaustion, just about took me out.

The only medic at the camp had very little medical knowledge, which was a real shock – but he did give me electrolytes which is probably what saved my life. He had me lay down under a tree to rest and checked on me periodically. Little did we know what was to come…

One by one, my limbs “shut down”. Then I literally felt my life energy seeping out the top of my head.

That’s when a “Life Review” began. Over and over, scenes from my life would play in my mind’s eye and I’d be asked a question by a neutral, unknown Voice about that specific situation. This went on for four hours.

At the end of the Review, I was asked whether I wanted to stay – or go. Strangely enough, it wasn’t an easy question to answer, because what I glimpsed on the “other side” was so loving and inviting… Once I decided to continue living, my life energy immediately started flowing back in.

The first month after my near-death-experience was amazing. I was fully present, and life was grand beyond imagination. But then… my old life slowly began to filter back in – including my old negative thoughts.

Finally I asked myself, “What was the common theme of all those questions the Voice asked me during my Life Review?” It dawned on me they were all about my thoughts – specifically my negative thoughts. I wondered: If I could figure out how to stop my negative thoughts, would that change my life? Turns out that’s exactly what happens! So after 4 years of research and trial and error into how to stop negative thoughts, my life completely turned around.

3) How would you define a negative thought?

Any thought that causes self-doubt, criticism, excessive worry, anxiety, depression, resentment, and emotions like shame or fear. That includes when we re-live painful memories like breakups, embarrassing moments, arguments, or failures over and over.

Common phrases are: “Don’t be such an idiot!” “You’re fat.” “You’re not good enough.” “You never get it right.” “You can’t do it.” “No matter what you do, it always turns to sh*t – so why bother?”

Basically negative thoughts steal our happiness, confidence, and peace of mind.

4) It seems tough to stop negative thinking…

The steps themselves are super simple. But they’re not necessarily easy because it’s about changing a thinking habit – just like if you wanted to quit a smoking habit. It takes conscious awareness and consistency. But when someone is really ready to make a change, it’s so exciting because it works.

My life post-looping is so different than before. I used to worry excessively about a family member to the point of waking up from nightmares about them. And one time I looped for the entire month of November about a romantic relationship that went bad. I cried every day, spent a ton of money on therapy bills, and wore out my best friend with daily calls.

But as I de-looped, my relationships began to transform, and I’d say all of them are now built on love and respect. I stopped that crazy worrying about the family member. I have more energy than I did even 15 years ago. My struggles with money turned around in ways that blow my mind. I was even able to stop taking antidepressants after years of being on them.

Not every day is perfect – I’m still a human being! But I now know what to do when life throws me a challenge, and that’s made all the difference.

5) So what’s the De-Looping Method all about?

 The De-Looping Method is made up of 9 steps that change how you respond to stress and difficulties in your life. It’s all based on neuroscience.

The book covers the first 4 steps of the Method because they’re the most fundamental. Everything starts with stopping the destructive cycle of negative thinking. That cycle plays out like this:

You think a negative thought (like, “I always screw up in job interviews”). That thought causes you to feel a negative emotion (like anxiety). The emotion then influences what action you take (not performing well at the interview – or deciding to not go to the interview at all).

Sadly, an action based on a Mind Loop usually reinforces the original thought as in, “See? I told you you’d screw up the interview!” And the cycle is formed. That’s why it’s so important to clean up Mind Loops.

6) So how do we stop negative thinking?

The first step or “D of De-Looping” is to Detect what you’re saying in your head. You can’t do anything about thoughts you don’t even know you’re having. I suggest various ways to help you “spy on your mind” in the book.

The 2nd “D” is Detach. This is when you separate yourself from the thought, so you’re not “one” with it anymore. It’s not a truth, it’s just a thought.

The 3rd “D” is Detour, where you shift your focus to something other than what you’re looping about. It could be an activity or a mantra – anything that gets your mind off the thought. If you don’t “detour” from a looping thought, it can just follow you around like a shadow and it’s really tough to shake. A free “Mind Loops Workbook” comes with the book, and it has a mega list of detour ideas.

Then the 4th “D” is De-Story, and it’s really awesome. This is about reframing a situation, thought, belief, or memory by looking at it from different angles. I was astounded to find out how many “stories” I was telling myself all the time – about my childhood, a person’s motivation, my own abilities. It’s crazy what we think when we’re not paying attention!

7) How can people start de-looping?

One easy thing they can do is get the “Top 10 Life Hacks To Stop Negative Thinking.” These are 10 of the best and quickest ways to lift a low mood or stop a negative thought. They can get these free at www.HowToStopNegativeThoughts.com.

Also, my Amazon book comes with two awesome bonuses: A 36-page “Mind Loops Workbook” to go deeper and stay motivated with their de-looping – plus an audiobook, “The 7 Day Mental Diet: How To Change Your Life In a Week” by Emmet Fox that’s super inspiring.

8) You experienced a near death experience that had a profound affect on your life. How can other people gain the benefits of a near death experience without having to go through one themselves?

Death is such an abstract concept. I mean, you intellectually know you’re going to die. But to viscerally come to terms with the fact that at some unknown moment in the future you won’t be able to go out for a beer with friends ever again, nor watch a great movie, sip coffee, kiss, argue over politics, smell the air, hear the songs of birds, gaze at a blue sky… I mean, how could we not be here anymore? It doesn’t seem real. The thing is, life is unpredictable and none of us know how much time we have left to live.

I would suggest that people spend some time pondering this reality and really let that reality sink in. Sure, it’s disturbing… but it’s also motivating. I mean, do you really want to spend another minute thinking another negative thought about yourself? Hold yourself back from doing something that makes you excited to be alive? Feeling anxious or worried or depressed?

We all have the ability to choose – and that’s where your place of power is. What thoughts do you choose to think?

My whole goal now is to create as many incredible memories as possible. And that’s what I wish for your readers too.

Thanks so much Matt for inviting me to be part of your blog. I love what you’re doing here, and feel inspired after reading all the powerful things people are up to. Thank you!