Comedian Bob Newhart shares a powerful message through comedy

One of the great comedians and a pioneer in the craft, Bob Newhart, passed away on October 2nd, 2020, at the age of 90. His Emmy winning ‘Newhart’ television show that I loved in my childhood was hilarious, quirky and lasted for 8 seasons. He was a brilliant comedian with a dry sense of humour.

As a chiropractor, I love to share this Bob Newhart clip from MADtv and the concept it portrays with my chiropractic clients. It comes up when we’re talking about low energy states and the result in the mind that manifests as what we might call ‘negative’ thinking. In this ridiculous clip Newhart’s character is counselling a woman who has a fear of being buried alive in a box. He describes to her how his style of therapy is very brief and that she won’t be in his office for anymore than 5 minutes. She goes on to explain her fear of being buried alive, how she thinks about it all the time and can’t be in enclosed spaces. Newhart’s character tells her he has 2 words of advice and that this is all she needs to deal with her problem. When she’s ready to hear it he yells ‘STOP IT!’. She goes on to try to explain more to him and he keeps saying ‘STOP IT!’ over and over.

You can watch it on youtube and I think you’ll probably get the point: why keep focusing on something that makes you feel afraid and hurts you? Just ‘STOP IT!’

The paradox: We can’t stop the mind

Part of what makes the skit funny is that we know it’s not so easy to ‘STOP IT!’, but there really is a powerful simplicity to the idea.

As someone who has experienced significant anxiety and depression in their own life, I know that working with the mind is not an easy task. I’m not suggesting that you switch your negative thoughts to positive thoughts, that’s simply not realistic. I remember in my dark days of depression people would tell me ‘Well just think positive!’, and I would want to punch them, because I didn’t know how to do that, and felt that I couldn’t. I would try to think positive thoughts and my mind would just turn them back around again. Then I would just beat myself up even more because I couldn’t do it! Until I discovered ways to be more present in my body and learned how to shift my focus, I kept going deeper and deeper adding one thought to another and compounding my challenges.

It’s actually not really possible to ‘STOP IT!’ or to stop the mind from running. But what if we could give the mind something else to chew on? What needs to happen to ‘STOP IT!’ is to find a different focus which we’ll look at more below.

Thinking: What’s really going on?

It is well established that the brain uses more energy than any other human organ and, despite it accounting for only about 2 percent of our body weight, it consumes more than 20 percent of our daily energy intake.

It takes a lot of brain power to synthesize all of the information coming in from our body alone. The brain is extremely active tracking the body in space (especially the spine), coordinating movement and regulating all of the body’s physiological requirements (blood pressure, blood glucose, hormones, etc.). All of this is happening before we have any conscious thought.

Conscious thought is a higher order function of the human being and, sitting atop of a connected, energized and coherent body, the mind can be a powerful ally. With the ability to ‘freeze time’ and look into both the past and the future, our mind gives us the ability to learn, recall, plan and execute action in ways that otherwise would not be possible. However, with less available energy, the brain simply can’t perform as well and it’s more difficult to put the pieces together.

Unfortunately, one of the greatest challenges with the mind is that it doesn’t rest – even when energy is running low. It’s very nature is to churn and churn, chewing away at whatever is in focus and currently the object of our consciousness. The mind will turn over whatever it has and depending on how much energy is available, our focus and how we’re connected within ourselves, this can be uncomfortable and even problematic. Without enough energy to connect effectively within ourselves, the mind cannot discern reality from imagination. Disconnected from the physical experience of our body, the mind is ungrounded and will run wild with any and all possibilities and thoughts that have no basis in reality.

Our energetic state determines how we think

Thoughts are a function of the energy that’s available in that moment. When we have more energy our thinking is more clear, empowering, and joyful. Think about how you feel after a vacation or maybe after entrainment: you’re happy, you feel better and the world seems brighter. Conversely, when energy is low, our thinking is more muddled, disempowered and worrisome. Just recall how you feel and think when you haven’t been sleeping and/or eating well. In a lower energy state, you probably find that you’re more moody, easier to set off and find it harder to concentrate and form constructive thoughts.

We use the term ‘low energy thoughts’, as opposed to ‘negative thoughts’ because we don’t see thinking in and of itself as either positive or negative. What we see is that the quality and tone of our thoughts is based on how much energy we have in that moment.

The solution is to improve our energetic state and our thoughts will follow.

Recognize what’s happening

Before anything can happen, we first need to be aware of our energetic state (how we’re being, feeling and thinking). We need to recognize that our state is not serving us and maybe even hurting us. Now, we may not even notice when we’re having low energy thoughts because we’ve developed such a powerful habit with them, so it can be tricky to catch ourselves. Working on mindfulness and self awareness (like we do on our chiropractic tables) can be helpful in this regard. When you do catch yourself, you have an opportunity to do something different.

Being mindful of what’s happening inside can help us to stop going down the rabbit hole. Thoughts have energy and carry momentum. They’re like a trail in the woods: the more it gets walked the more familiar and entrenched it can become until eventually it becomes a ditch that’s difficult to move out of. The more time we spend in a low energy state, the more practiced and automatic the low energy thoughts become. We do what we know and like an object in motion, the mind will continue to move in the same direction, thoughts growing upon each other and building strength if we let them run. Low energy thoughts can become habits and eventually we may even start to believe them.

When we’re experiencing low energy thoughts and feelings, we’re stuck in a pattern, a low energy state and a way of thinking about things that isn’t serving us. If the thoughts we’re having are associated with unpleasant feelings, we can almost be certain that those thoughts aren’t ‘true’ or helpful. This isn’t the time to figure it out or understand why it’s happening – that will only further the rut and drain more energy. As fast as possible, it’s time to make a switch. We need to recognize that even though the thoughts might seem important in our minds, in our current energetic state, they aren’t serving us, and in fact may be adding to a growing source of pain. It’s vital to redirect our focus and stop spiraling down that rabbit hole.

Redirect focus to stop going down the rabbit hole

Even though we can’t stop the mind from running, we can focus on something else. Almost anything would be better than what’s taking us down the rabbit hole and draining our energy even more.

There are an infinite number of other things we could focus on in any moment and they will all have different effects on our energetic state and wellbeing. What we’re looking for is to do anything to ‘STOP IT!’ If we can choose a focus that would prevent us going further down the rabbit hole, then we’re helping ourselves.

A helpful concept here is doing small things that we CAN do to improve our energetic state, bit by bit. Just as I described earlier how I couldn’t flip my negative thoughts to positive ones, it’s not really an option to make big changes and have them be sustainable. There just isn’t enough energy yet. So we need to be aware of that when choosing a new focus and choose something that’s realistic for us so that we can feel some success. Feeling that success as opposed to feeling like we’ve failed (again) will have a very different impact on our energetic state.

That said, the quality of the focus we choose and can have success with will help us more or less depending on what it is. In our chiropractic practice we focus on connection as one of the most powerful ways to ‘STOP IT!’. When we connect we actually work with the energetic state that’s present and can process our experience more efficiently. This allows us to not only ‘STOP IT!’ but also to heal and enhance our energetic state in the process.


When looking to refocus the mind, distraction is the simplest approach and requires the least amount of energy. When there isn’t enough energy for anything more, it can be a decent short term strategy to break the pattern and a step in the right direction.

Some examples of distraction are listening to music, watching something, social media, or doing busywork. If we do choose distraction as a new focus, it will be even better if we choose something that will have an uplifting and energizing effect, for example a beautiful piece of music, an empowering video or photo, a funny video or photo, or a self-improvement article or podcast. The quality of information we expose ourselves to profoundly affects our energetic state. When we focus on programming that’s violent or depressing it lowers our energetic state. If we expose ourselves to information that’s uplifting, inspiring and life enhancing, it will elevate our energetic state. When we choose to distract ourselves, it’s valuable to consider the effect it will have on our state.

We’ll often choose distraction, without even knowing we’re choosing it. We don’t like how we’re feeling and intuitively we do something to distract ourselves. Be aware that distraction is like hitting the ‘PAUSE’ button. The energetic state that was present and manifesting as low energy thoughts and feelings hasn’t really changed, but at least it’s probably not getting worse.


Moving our body is a brilliant way to shift the focus and change our energetic state. It helps to move our focus out of the mind, leaving unwanted thoughts behind. Try going for a walk, doing a workout, or maybe doing a yoga pose or squats and pushups. Movement can get us out of our heads and refocus to more presence in the body. Who doesn’t feel better after getting their heart pumping and having a rush of healthy endorphins to make the brain happier?

Connection and Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of our favorite refocusing strategies because it’s a way to create connection. In our model of wellness, we want to connect with what’s happening inside as opposed to avoiding it or distracting ourselves from it. When we’re mindful, we’re paying attention to the experience of being in the body. We’re aware of our senses, our breath, our movement and how we’re feeling. This is effective because when we pay attention to our sensory experience, it’s very difficult to continue thinking so we’ll automatically ‘STOP IT!’.

Mindfulness activities are also generally relaxing. With relaxation, our body and brain shift from a sympathetic (fight or flight) mode into a more parasympathetic (rest and recover) state (see our article Cellular Management – Part 1). This allows us to think more clearly and process our thoughts and feelings more effectively. One of the most powerful tools we have for connection is the breath and it’s so brilliant because it’s with us all the time. The simple act of paying attention to our breathing for a few moments or minutes will not only help us shift our focus, but it could also help to problem solve the challenges we’re dealing with due to the clarity gained by upgrading our state. We’ve created a couple of videos to guide you in the process of creating connection within (Check out Spinal Connection 1 and Spinal Connection 2).

Taking Action: building strength, creating solutions

Above, we’ve focused on some concepts and ideas to ‘STOP IT!’ in the moment.  Additionally you can read our article De-stress and revitalize in 5 minutes or less for some more ideas to refocus and create a quick shift in our state. These moment to moment tools are important to break the cycle and stop going down the rabbit hole.

If we really want to see a sustainable change in our energetic state and the quality of our thoughts, we’ll want to take further action. If we can move into some kind of action it can be a good way to ‘STOP IT!’ and shift our energetic state. Of course, all of this depends on having enough energy to make the decision and get things moving in a new direction. Perhaps in the moment we catch ourselves, we could take an action that would directly address our current predicament or maybe we could take an action that we’ve been procrastinating on.

We can also think longer term about how to improve our state and create healing within. The effects of getting adequate sleep, eating well and exercising all impact the amount of energy that’s available as we walk through life. Focusing on body centered activities like chiropractic entrainment, yoga and specific types of meditation can help us move out of the mind, de-stress, heal and improve our energetic state. We also know that building strong connections with others is one of the keys to having a healthy body and mind. Remember when we take small steps regularly we can build sustainable improvements in our vitality and energetic state.

In Summary

If we really want to ‘STOP IT’, we need to:

  • Be gentle with ourselves
  • Be more aware that we’re thinking low energy thoughts and are in a low energy state – remember that what we’re experiencing is not how we ‘are,’ but rather a reflection of the energy available in that moment
  • Make the decision that we want more for ourselves, which will guide our choices
    • Meditation and mindfulness can help with awareness
    • Our approach in chiropractic helps our clients connect with their body, breath and movement and in turn become more self aware
  • Do something, anything, to ‘STOP IT!’ and refocus on something else.