When coaching, I find the clients who tend to have a natural leaning toward negative thinking patterns, can create unnecessary stress and anxiety which paves the way for them having a bleak outlook on life.
How you think about the events and people in your life can either help you reframe things in more positive ways that help you cope or take you down a rabbit hole of negative thinking and feeling bad about yourself, other people, and your prospects. Unhealthy ways of thinking and reacting to things can cause depression and anxiety, prolong stressors, and create chronically stressed states of mind that can affect your heart health and immunity.
You can’t always control what you think, but you can learn to identify when you’re sinking into a negative pattern, and then reboot and redirect your thinking along a more constructive or hopeful path. If you keep redirecting your negative thinking over months and years, you may even change the patterns of neural connections in your brain so that you react to life’s events in more grounded ways, with less panic and judgment.
It’s tricky to identify negative thinking patterns, because our thoughts feel so immediate and true. We have a habit of accepting them uncritically, without questioning. Also, worrying about something bad that may happen can draw you in, making you feel like you’re doing something about the problem, even when you’re making things worse for yourself.
So let me ask you to think about the last time you gave yourself a hard time, possibly a time when you beat yourself up over how you performed in a situation, or said something you felt was on reflection in your head stupid, or you were ignored and felt invisible, and within a millisecond your heading down that rabbit hole of negativity, your inner gremlins are having a party, in fact they are enjoying your situation so much, they get you to relive it over and over again.
This means that we have to make an extra effort to focus on, notice, savour and celebrate the positive. Here’s how:
- Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training
When we start tackling the negative emotion of shame, you will be surprised how many times we feel shame. Shame of not being enough, not earning enough, not giving the kids enough of your time, the list goes on and on.
What to do instead: As gremlin ninja warriors, our first move is to recognise when we’re feeling shame. Then do a bit of mental gymnastics: remind ourselves that we all have imperfections and struggles, and the point is to be courageous in spite of them. The most important move, the one that’ll probably knockout the shame, is to talk to someone. Shame hates company – if someone sees the real you and still loves you, what is there to be afraid of? But as long as we keep it hidden in the dark, the gremlins win.
- Down The Rabbit Hole
Although it’s natural and can be healthy to self-reflect, reflection becomes problematic when it’s negative, excessive, and repetitive. Rumination is a kind of negative thinking in which we get mentally stuck and more anxious, as you keep thinking of more and more negative outcomes that could possibly happen. If you feel lonely, you may think about being lonely forever, never meeting the right partner, never having kids, losing all your friends, and ending up alone in a ditch. Ruminating can also make you feel depressed.
What to Do Instead: Pay attention to when you’re thinking starts to get repetitive or negative. When you notice rabbit hole thinking, make yourself break the cycle and ask yourself is this true?
The Work by Byron Katie is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause your suffering. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity. In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and the turnarounds.
- Is it true? (Yes or No. If NO, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or No.)
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Remember to Remember
- Every morning when you get out of bed, write down the 3 feelings/thoughts that you are having.
- Write down HOW these thoughts/feelings will potentially influence you day.
- List 3 POSITIVE behaviours and feelings you would like to have instead
- Commit to focusing on having these 3 POSITIVE thoughts/feelings today in everything you do and say.
- Check in with yourself and ASK:
- How do I want to feel?
- How am I going to make this happen?
- Check in with yourself and ASK:
- How will I feel if I make this happen?
- POSITIVE FEELINGS list
- HOW/WHERE/WHEN did you use your feelings ritual?
- Did it work for you? If so what did you do to make I happen?
- If it did NOT work, then what could you have done make happen?
Want to further develop your positivity?
Here are some resources to help.
FOCUS GROUP: 20th November 7.15pm
empower|me: The Ultimate|Mind-Shift workshops
COACHING: Coaching Packages
BOOK: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael A Singer.
TED Talk: The new era of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. [23 mins]
Have a great month