Inspire You | World Thinking Day | How to stop negative thoughts.
The theme this year is Peacebuilding, and I’m putting my own therapeutic spin on it by talking a bit about cognitively re-framing negative thoughts. Think of it like peacebuilding with yourself and your own mind.
Did you know we have about 6000 thoughts a day! So, it is important to consider how powerful our thoughts are. We are all immersed in a complicated cycle whereby our internal and external representations of the world are impacting on us. This explains why everyone has different ‘realities.’ You know, when lots of people see the same thing but all have a different opinion of it!
When we experience an event, our brain filters based on thoughts, beliefs, memories, decisions and values (all personal to us) and deletes, distorts and generalises the information into our internal representation. This in turn creates our feelings and behaviour, such as anxiety, depression and the many symptoms we experience, which impact on our decisions and choices.
If we have a negative thought our brains delete distort and generalises based on what we have previously experienced and then our decisions create our behaviour as outcomes. By reframing our thoughts, we can change our trajectory and change our behaviour. So, what does this mean for us? Well, one of my favourite phrases is ‘where focus goes energy flows’ which means that the more we focus on the negative, the more negative we feel and the more negative things become for us. The good news is, if we reverse what we focus on and focus instead on the positive elements (I know this one is much harder right now!), guess what, positive shifts start to come within our behaviour and our mindset.
Here are some of my top tips when it comes to re-framing negative and limiting thoughts into more positive, productive ones:
* Look at the bigger picture.
Try not to get consumed by a thought and give it too much power – that thought is a drop in the ocean of who you are and the scope of your life.
Magnifying and overgeneralising our thoughts can stop us from realising that we have the power to change things and move on- we fixate on these thoughts and lose sight of the bigger picture.
It is important not to become stuck in this negative thought pattern which produces limiting beliefs.
Everybody makes mistakes, but they don’t define us or our futures. Change is possible for you so try setting some SMART goals to further your self-development rather than re-affirming fixed self-critical beliefs.
* Ask yourself questions
By asking questions you can engage your critical thinking skills to determine if a thought can or should be re-framed. It can be helpful to ask questions in order to interrogate the thought you are having. Thoughts are just that and are not ‘fact.’ They are only given power when we choose to engage with them. Consider questions such as: ‘is this thought helpful? How will I feel about this in a week? What advice would I give to others? Are there other thoughts that would serve me better?’
Apply critical thinking skills to your own thoughts can be difficult because we often conflate our thoughts with our identities/ selves, but we are much more than just our thoughts!
By looking at the thought from different perspectives we can obtain different viewpoints and hopefully different thoughts. By raising different thoughts into our awareness, we can develop different options for ourselves. This helps us to ‘problem solve’ and create our own solutions.
* Try assuming positive outcomes
We talk about shifting the negative thought and thinking the opposite. Instead of pre-emptive negative thoughts, try assuming positive outcomes (even if you fake it until you make it) and see how that alters your behaviour and interactions with others.
We often fear the worst or assume and try to predict the future. Our favourite pastime seems to be assuming the worst around what others think based on limited information, generalising and often underneath that there is a negative thought about ourselves. This almost acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy and reinforces that belief in ourselves.
When we think about negative thoughts about ourselves we often think about 4 main themes:
Safety/ Vulnerability ‘I am not safe’ ‘I cannot trust anyone’
Control/ Choice ‘I am weak’ ‘I am not in control’
Responsibility ‘I should have done something’ ‘It’s my fault’
Self-Defectiveness ‘I am not good enough’ ‘I am a bad person’ ‘I am ugly’
By focusing on the opposite thoughts, we can start to repair what is really underneath a lot of our thoughts. Sometimes the opposite thought is too far removed from where we are in the present. When that happens, we like to consider ‘bridging statements’ such as ‘I am becoming’ or ‘I can learn to.’ This helps to start to shift the thoughts.
* Acknowledge the whole spectrum of your emotions
Reframing negative thoughts isn’t about ignoring or suppressing difficult feelings. So many people come to me saying I don’t want to feel anxious/ sad etc. The reality is that we will always have those feelings but in order to really connect with yourself and identify how you can grow and improve your well-being/cognitive coping skills it’s about dealing with them in a more constructive and empowering way.
Therefore, we are not trying to ‘not experience’ difficult emotions again as that is not real, but it is about arming yourself with the tools to manage ALL emotions and training your mind to work with you instead of against you.
Always acknowledge how you really feel and label it as it is the first step to release it and transforming. Remember all emotions are valid and manageable when we have the right tools.
* Be kind to yourself
It is so important for your mental health and emotional wellbeing to show yourself compassion in your thoughts and actions- this is the fundamental basis of self-care.
If you have experienced a lot of trauma and struggle with your self-esteem it can feel very strange and even wrong to treat yourself kindly but it is necessary practice in order to allow changes to take shape. Speak to yourself with care and compassion, you are inherently worthy of love and support including from yourself.
How I can help you:
I can help you with reframing your thoughts tailoring a specific set of reframes to you. I can help with compassion and self-care and how to help yourself. I can help with specific strategies and tools to help you gain different perspectives and break down the limiting beliefs that might be at the root of some of these thoughts.
Don’t struggle this can be resolved and does not need to define you. Book in a FREE chat and let me help you re-frame these thoughts.
Claire :- )