How to recognize then change negative thinking is a big ask but it is necessary if you want to live a happy and satisfying life.
The thoughts you have impact on your daily life. They affect your emotions and your behaviours therefore it is important that you know how to control them in order to reduce the negative consequences, and cope with negative thoughts appropriately to ensure that you have a more optimistic outcome in your life.
We can be the most positive people in the world but life happens and bad things happen to good positive thinking people, it is just that positive thinkers respond differently to the negative thinkers.
“One of the biggest differences between sad people and happy people is:
Sad people become “negative evidence collectors” dutifully looking for awful things, people, events, to put into a mental folder labelled
“PROOF LIFE IS AWFUL”.
Happy people are “positive evidence collectors”, constantly looking for awesome things, people, events, to put into a mental folder labelled
“PROOF LIFE IS AWESOME”.
After being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease I did the usual me thing and went to pieces! This stage never tends to last because I get bored playing poor me and I can’t do anything from that position so although at the time I struggled with doing basic day to day things like getting dressed, walking the dogs, well walking with any stability and strength at all I found ways around it.
I remember getting into a crop top then couldn’t get out of it! I thought “I will have to get my neighbour, Andy, over to take it off!” That idea passed very quickly, so I then thought I would just cut it off, but I had it half way over my head and my arms were stuck. I felt very claustrophobic and started panicking but in the end with a lot of deep breathing and the use of the door handle I got it off. I sat on the floor and laughed thinking well that is one way to get my upper body exercise.
I kept going to the gym and doing RPM classes with no resistance on the wheels at all. I did weights using the machines, again with basically no weights on just to keep some muscle tone and strength but never did I ever think I would give up and give in.
Once I had my first lot of treatment I couldn’t believe the difference but I do notice just before my next lot of treatment, which I have monthly, my strength drops and the sensation in my fingers and hands alters.
I am now on a drug trail. It is a different way of administering the medication I am on and I don’t have to go into hospital once a month for infusions. I won’t know if I have the drug or if it will be the placebo but if I deteriorate they will get me straight back in for a top-up infusion so we will see!
Again it is about living deliberately and not allowing circumstances to dictate how you feel. It is about choice. Sure I have days when I feel bad but I don’t focus on what I can’t change. Instead I re-frame my thoughts into a more positive constructive form which in turn changes my feelings. It isn’t about what happens to you it is about how you choose to respond to what is happening.
Warning Signs You Are Thinking Negatively
Recognizing negative thought patterns is the key. These are the unproductive repetitive thoughts that serve no real purpose but cause negative emotions felt in the body. Once you become aware of these you can begin to choose how you will respond. Are you going to fuel them or starve them? Here is what to look for:
The all or Nothing Pattern of Thinking
My life is shit, everything I do is wrong, I’ll never be able to do that, no-one likes me! Get the picture. Nothing is all or nothing so when you head down this path you are setting yourself up for failure and not bothering to explore other options because what’s the use syndrome!
Unsupported Conclusions or Non evidence based conclusions.
I am an expert at this one as are so many health professionals. You have a sore throat so you must have laryngeal or oesophagus cancer. You got a question wrong so you failed the whole exam. There is nothing supporting your conclusion so you are putting yourself through un-necessary distress and worry for nothing. This type of thinking is not constructive and can lead to the very things you fear the most.
Nothing Good Ever Happens to Me.
The poor me I am a victim thinking. It’s too good to be true so something is bound to go wrong thinking. This person expects the worst and is never disappointed when it shows up. They miss the good things because all their focus is on what isn’t right in their life.
Regret and Guilt, I Should, Could, Would.
The guilt and regret; I should have done this, or I could have don’t that, or would have, but didn’t. No way to live your life, always looking and worrying at the things you didn’t do. Usually we don’t do them for a reason and once that opportunity has gone there is no point going over and over it again but should, could, would, thinking keeps you stuck in the past. There is also the dredging up past mistakes which is like picking at an open wound it is never going to heal if you don’t let it go.
It Is All My Fault
Wow! You must be pretty powerful if everything that goes wrong is your fault. News flash the world doesn’t revolve around you. This type of thinking comes when you have such a low opinion of yourself that you take responsibility for things when they go wrong because who else could it be.
Expecting the Worst
Always expecting the worst outcome. My father-in-law was a great example of this. He would say things like “It’s bound to be me who gets made redundant!” “What’s the bet the market will crash because I invested in those shares!”
Usually they think they know what others are thinking about them and you can guarantee it isn’t positive. “I know he thinks I’m stupid”, thinkers. They wouldn’t think like that if they knew how little other people really think about them.
Self-beating and Criticism
You tend to be very harsh on yourself, focusing on your perceived weakness and flaws. On the other hand you may be very critical of others putting a strain on relationships. This type of negative thinking leads to low self-worth which can lead to under compensating or over compensating.
What’s Wrong Instead of What is Right.
You become focused on what is going wrong in your life instead of what is good. You attention is fixated on the day to day small things that go wrong and the negative aspect of your life instead of looking at all the good things. This type of thinking brings on negative emotions which fuel the negative thoughts. Instead of expanding your thoughts and your life you constrict them. This leads to anxiety and depression.
This is when what you have is never enough. Every thought is around having more to be happy. “I just need to get that new car, house, trip, or promotion and then I will be happy”. You put off your happiness for something outside yourself so you never have enough because as soon as you get that thing, situation or person you are already focusing on the next thing in the hopes it will be the answer to your happiness, to you fulfilment. The problem with this is looking for fulfilment outside yourself is very short lived and brings with it stress, dis-satisfaction, and further restlessness.
“A negative thinker sees a difficulty in every opportunity. A positive thinker sees an opportunity in every difficulty.”
6 Steps to Changing Your Negative Thoughts Around.
The first step is becoming aware of your thoughts. Most of us are on auto-pilot. The predominant thoughts become our “go to” when we are not watching them. If they are self-destructive thoughts then we are constantly inviting negative situations into our lives. When you are trapped in this cycle you often experience a feeling of hopelessness of loss of control over the situations that show up in your life.
Observer or Impartial Witness
Become an observer or impartial witness, not a participant in the negative thoughts that come into your mind is an important step. By observing you remove yourself from the emotion attached to those thoughts. Look at your negative thoughts with curiosity rather than fear. “I wonder what brought that on and what does it have to do with my situation now?” “How can I look at my situation differently? Let’s play with some different thoughts and outcomes.” It diverts the emotional attachment and allows you to look at the negative thoughts objectively! You could play a game that you are a scientist studying your thought patterns and the validity of them. The idea here is the detachment from the emotions and therefore the outcome.
What we resist persists. These thoughts have been around for a long time so they are not going to want to go any time soon. You need to acknowledge their existence as they come into you mind but don’t focus on them. You can chat to them if you like as if it was an acquaintances then let it go. I wrote in an earlier article how I would thank them for coming as it gave me an opportunity to practice watching them come in and go across my mind like clouds and disappear out the other side. You notice I didn’t say focus on them but merely observe, acknowledge, then let them go. It isn’t easy to start with especially if you have developed a long term relationship with this pattern of thinking. You may see very little change but try to relax and not get anxious. It is the act of consciously accepting and letting go that the shift takes place.
Be in the Moment.
Most of our thoughts either come from the past and negative experience involving you or others that ended in a negative outcome, or the future and fear of the unknown. We project our past negative patterns of behaviour and outcomes into the future expecting the same outcomes which in turn limit us from doing things for fear of failure or rejection. It tends to take the form of stress and anxiety. Whatever your negative thoughts are, be aware that in order to engage in negative patterns of thinking you need to cast your mind to the past or the future.
To overcome this pattern you need to bring your thoughts back to the present moment. Redirect your attention out of your head and become engaged in your present moment giving it your undivided attention. Again don’t force it but gentle start focusing on the immediate environment. The colours, smells, texture and patterns of the thing around you. The sounds, and what is happening in front of your eyes. Don’t get into a mental dialogue about your surroundings instead be aware of what you are experiencing in the moment.
It is only in this moment that you can create and if your thoughts are always off thinking about negative things that happened in the past and projecting them into your future with feelings of fear and anxiety you are going to continue to have the same outcomes. It also ruins the present moment.
Changing Your Thoughts.
Once you have developed inner awareness it is time to start re-programing your patterns of thought. It is about living deliberately and choosing to change your thinking so it is constructive rather than destructive.
Dwelling on the past is not constructive and only leads to feelings of fear and anxiety. It can, however, be a stepping stone for the future if you change your perception to a more positive one and use these experiences to make better choices in the future.
“Constructive thinking helps you be happy when things are good and able to deal constructively when problems arise.”
Borrow from the Past
Not all past experiences are negative but when you get into that spiral that is all you focus on. You are now going to look for a positive experience from your past to assist you and give you positive thoughts more impact especially in the early stage.
When you are changing your thoughts to be more positive you will find initially the emotions don’t come along for the ride. This can start you thinking this is not working and begin to feel anxious before you have given it a chance. Remember it took a long time to develop these thinking patterns they are not going to change overnight.
Borrowing a positive event or person from the past and focusing on that will bring the warm emotions you experienced at the time just the same as the negative ones do. So get a positive thought in your mind like “I am happy” then borrow the feeling from some situation in the past when you were happy and focus on that while holding that thought. I did it using my grandson. Every time I thought of him I felt warm and happy. It wasn’t long before I could say “I am happy” and it was true. I no longer had to borrow the experience from the past.
Once you start to notice the change and become more aware of your thoughts then you have a better chance of living a happy meaningful life. You are living life on your terms you are living deliberately.
Life goes on. Whether you choose to move on and take a chance in the unknown or stay behind closed doors locked in the past and thinking of what could’ve been. It is up to you. The choice is yours.”
Author: Bernice Fitzgibbon
Transformation Consultant and Health and Wellness Specialist. Registered Nurse
Certified Hypnotherapist and Accredited Life Coach and Author
Creator of Changing Your Thoughts, Living Deliberately and Ageless Living.
Creator of :Changing Your Thoughts, Living Deliberately and Ageless Living.
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