Where do your thoughts take you in quiet moments? What’s the story and internal dialogue you have in your head about who you are and what’s happening in your life now and what’s going to happen in the future?
As humans we dwell on negative experiences as we feel the hurt or emotional sting much more than we recall the feeling of joy from praise.
Not only does it affect our relationships with others, it can have a powerful impact on our behaviour, decision making and even physically change the behaviour of our cells, tissues and organs.
I’m holding my hands up here to having been massively affected by negative self talk…..
Unable to notice at times that my thoughts have been making me feel down, overwhelmed, physically drained, empty and just down right shitty to be around. I would also guess that you too could resonate with some of this. We’re human after all.
Negative thinking can easily become a bad habit, we don’t realise that we are doing it until it takes a physical hold and you feel awful, heavy, and you can struggle to see anything great in your current situation.
If you were told you had a 5% chance of winning the lottery what would you think? …..That’ll never be me.
If you were told that you had a 5% chance of something going wrong at a hospital appointment. …….Oh yes, that’ll be me!
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Negative thinking and being negatively biased is likely a result of evolution. By paying attention to bad or dangerous situations throughout time has allowed us to keep ourselves safe and evolve as a species.
There’s possibly been times when you’ve had a generally good day but then someone has upset you and changed that feeling completely, with emotional unease lingering on & it being difficult to forget about that one small thing.
Maybe you can relate to having an argument with your partner and then you begin to focus on their flaws and then find it hard to see any good in that person with trivial things being amplified into annoyances and good characteristics being overlooked.
Some unhelpful thinking comes from conditioning. What were you told or did you believe about yourself as a child?
As a teenager I was told I was lazy. I’m sure most teenagers have moments when they are showing behavioural signs of being ‘lazy’, not wanting to do what they have been asked or what is expected of them. This played in my favour because as I was told I was lazy it made it easy for me to become more lazy and not chip in and help.
This unhelpful thought of being lazy can creep in now and again if I don’t want to do something or I am requiring some downtime & rest. Instead of acknowledging my need to take time out I can feel ‘lazy’ and then leave myself feeling bad by giving myself that old lazy label rather than refreshed which was what I was aiming for.
This unhelpful conditioning or old labelling that we may have been given or we have given to ourselves can be really toxic and stop us from leading the life that we want or getting what we want from life or cause us to feel stuck where we are in these unhelpful thought processes.
How can we stop this unhelpful thinking?
First of all we must NOTICE that we are having negative thoughts. This sounds easy but it can be trickier than you think, especially if it’s something you do habitually as you often don’t notice until you’re feeling blurrrghhhhh.
Can you identify why you are feeling this way, has something set you off? Maybe something on social media, or a certain person or situation has started your inner thoughts spiralling and has left you feeling less than great.
Is anything currently making you feel worse? Tiredness, hunger, time pressure, feeling overworked.
If you were to give the negative self talk a separate identity for example Debbie Downer or Anxious Annie you automatically detach yourself from it. It might seem silly but it can be really helpful in changing how you feel, giving the idea of a funny sitcom rather than a personal attack on yourself.
An amazing technique for this is…
– Make a daily appointment with Anxious Annie of 15 mins at a time you know you’re most prone to worry thoughts. If you become aware she’s there before your appointment time tell her to “GET LOST!”
– During that 15 minutes you can write down what’s in your head, get all the toxic thoughts out onto paper and then at the end of the time rip the paper up, burn it, or bin it. (The action of physically writing on paper is important to increase neural activity in the brain.)
– Move away from the area that you have been worrying in to separate yourself from the thoughts you had.
– Change your state by turning on some loud music that you love and dancing like you haven’t got a care in the world. It’s so good for your soul and instantly makes you feel good.
By allowing yourself a short amount of time to worry gives you the opportunity to process & make sense of your thoughts. Maybe you will come up with some solutions & do something to resolve them. Because this can be a habit you may find that after a while you don’t need to make your daily appointment with Annie, you can book on appointment with her weekly instead if that’s all you want.
Writing a conversation down on paper between your Positive self and Anxious Annie can bring some insightful solutions to your inner thoughts. I bet you won’t agree with every thought that annoying inner voice has been whispering in your ear & drip feeding into your being.
A very simple in the moment technique is to breathe.
Breathing deeply in through your nose and inhaling all the way into your stomach with a long exhale also brings you into the here and now. By focusing on your breath it stops you thinking about what has happened or what might happen and makes you focus on what is happening now. This also tells your nervous system that you are not in danger and it is safe to stop hovering over the emergency panic button.
A simple change of scenery can also break the cycle of the thoughts by really reminding yourself to take notice of the moment that you are in. Tune into your senses and take some deep breaths while thinking about what you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. These may be subtle and will distract your mind from anything unhelpful that is cropping up for you.
A simple act of kindness can also be hugely beneficial into helping us feel better about ourselves. Maybe giving someone a compliment, helping someone in a way you know they need or maybe simply buying flowers for someone. By bringing some kindness and positivity into someone else’s life has a huge impact on you own emotional wellbeing and you can have some good thoughts and feelings about yourself knowing you have brightened someone else’s day.
Your thoughts create your world so be mindful of your thoughts.
A quote I love from Henry Ford-
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right!”