Today let’s talk about negative thoughts. Are they are reality? What is the matter with being critical and aspiring to perfection? Maybe that is not the issue but the issue is how we aspire to perfection. What is it we do to motivate ourselves? Is it uplifting or does it in fact pull us down?
So how can we soften this what can often be seen as negative approach? We all have a tendency to dwell on negative thoughts we play an embarrassing memory over and over in our minds, we recall a past conversation musing about that clever thing we should have said and we imagine all sorts of things that can go wrong in the future: an injury, a job lay off, a break up.
It turns out negative thinking is in our evolutionary biology. Our brains are wired to over-learn from negative experiences and and under-learn from positive ones – this tendency helped our ancestors evaluate threat and avoid danger, helping to stop us becoming complacent and so protect us.
But when we dwell on negativity, our stress levels increases and our happiness suffers – so here is a process you can use to reshape your negative thinking – let’s say for example that you are stuck in a thought cycle that goes something like this – I bombed today’s interview I will be unemployed forever.
First it’s useful to learn to monitor our thoughts and feel the trigger as soon as a negative thought arises. Notice – does the thought sound familiar? Is this trend or way of thinking something you say to yourself over and over? Negative thinking is a habit so it is useful to notice and understand, understand our thought patterns.
Second don’t suppress the thought or judge or reprimand yourself for having it – telling yourself I have to stop thinking about that job interview won’t alleviate the thought, instead just bring awareness into what is happening – Say to yourself I am obsessing about this job interview and stuck in negative thoughts
Third challenge the runaway thought cycle ask yourself was it actually that bad or is my memory clouded with fear and anxiety? Does the outcome of a single job interview really determine my future? And am I solving anything by dwelling on these negative thoughts?
When we separate from or recognise a negative thought, it is useful recognise it and challenge it and remove its power. We have to practice this over and over to change our tendencies. Of course negative thinking is not always unwanted sometimes we focus on problems to find the solutions, but much of the time our negative thinking only harms us.
So next time you wander off into the darkness of your thoughts reach for a light switch! We may feel helpless when swept away by a storm of negativity but with effort we can overcome it. As William James said the best weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another ……