Challenging Negative Thought Patterns - Christina Hibbard
Insidious Unconscious Thoughts
Do you know that negative thinking can get in the way of our relationships and goals, impact how we live our lives, and make us avoid situations that might have been great for us? Negative thinking causes us to miss out on so many opportunities, but that’s not all; it also creates the conditions that cause us to miss living our lives to their fullest.
Even if we do know this, we can feel helpless to do anything about it. After all, we have thousands and thousands of thoughts going through our minds, which makes it is so easy for a negative thought to slip in without us even being aware of it.
For example, when you look at yourself in the mirror and see a new wrinkle, or some other blemish you don’t like, a quick negative thought might cross your mind before you even realize it. Thinking critically about yourself can be so second nature that you might not even consciously realize you are having a negative thought.
So what can you do?
To stop unconscious negative thoughts from creeping into your daily life, pay attention to when they are happening (you’re going to have to really tune in and pay attention to the thoughts you have throughout the day!).
Do they happen when you look at yourself in the mirror or when you’re getting dressed?
How about when you’re around your family, at a party or in a large group of people?
What thoughts cross your mind when you look at project you just completed, or consider your performance at work?
Does looking at your bank account cause you to put yourself down or question your worth?
This step might take a few days; it’s not about judging (or even immediately changing) anything - just notice when your thoughts tend to take a negative turn.
Noticing is the first step, but engaging is the second!
Don’t keep those negative thoughts around forever! When you figure out when they are most likely to happen (many of us have patterns that we immediately slip into when it comes to negative thinking), that’s when you can start stopping them in their tracks.
Challenge yourself to recognize these negative thoughts, and then take control of situation by rationalizing (see the next step). Important tip: Don’t fight the negativity to the point where you’re engaged in a battle with yourself yourself. You’re just alerting yourself to the thought’s presence and working on adjusting your perception of this negativity so that you can wrap it with a positive energy that springs up naturally.
Consciously acknowledge your thoughts with this in mind: negativity doesn’t provide us with value. It just makes us feel terrible and doubt ourselves! Negativity also prevents you from feeling happy or worthy; it takes away your ability to feel that you are good enough.
When you notice that you’re having a negative thought, try asking yourself these questions:
Why do you feel this way? (Stress? Overwhelm? Someone else telling you this?)
Are you building yourself up or tearing yourself down, and how does that feel?
Is this helping you in any way?
Do you feel better or worse about yourself/your life/your work as a result of this thought?
What could you replace this thought with? (How can you reframe it?)
For example, if you’re not particularly happy with the way your life is going right now, you might find yourself thinking things like: “I am such a loser. I’m a total failure. I’m not as good as ______. My ______ would be so ashamed of _______. I’ll never make it. This is what I deserve.”
You only have to think those types of thoughts so many times before they start becoming ingrained ways of thinking - imagine what a negative impact that will have on your life! Seriously consider those questions, and consciously process why those thoughts are coming up for you. You can process out loud (or in your mind), but my favorite way is through journaling!
That might look a little like this:
Q - Why do you feel this way?
A - My sister just got promotion and everyone else just seems farther ahead than me. I think I’m feeling really stressed about not having it “together” enough and other people seeing me and thinking I’m a failure too.
Q - Are you building yourself up or tearing yourself down, and how does that feel?
A - Definitely tearing myself down, which makes me feel even worse about everything. I’m so afraid of everyone else’s judgment that I’m being extra harsh with myself.
Q - Is this helping you in any way?
A - Honestly, it’s just putting more stress and pressure into my life. I feel so stuck, and then when I’m telling myself what a failure and loser I am, I don’t have the confidence to even try to put myself out there or change anything. I want to start charging more for my services, but I don’t think I even believe I deserve it, so it’s going to be a hard sell.
Q - Do you feel better or worse about yourself/your life/your work as a result of this thought?
A - Definitely worse, and not inspired to get any better!
Q - What could you replace this thought with? (How can you reframe it?)
A - Honestly, my sister is so stressed with her new raise, I don’t really envy her that. And a lot of my friends with houses/kids/spouses/”better” jobs don’t have the freedom or flexibility that I have. I would like to be making more money, but I’m coming up with a plan to make that happen.
If you’re on the fly and don’t have a lot of reflection time, just notice the thought and say:
“That’s not true. I am _________________.” and fill in the blank with something that IS both true AND positive.
Benefits of Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts do have one benefit: they are our hearts way of letting us know that change is needed.
For example, every day you spend going to a job that you don’t feel satisfied in might feel miserable, and you might KNOW it’s not a good fit for you. sBeing scared, unsure, and thinking that you don’t have the ability to make the necessary changes are negative thoughts (that you don’t want to keep around), but they are also huge CLUES that tell you you NEED to create change in your life.
Part of creating that change is to turn those negative thoughts into positive ones by reframing them as action steps or goals that you’re going to work towards. Just like in our reflection example above: I felt negative about the amount of money I had, but reframed it by focusing on the positive goal of creating a plan and working towards making a change
Talk it Out
A good way to understand your feelings is to try journaling - write down not only your feelings, but also what is going on around you when you’re having negative thoughts You might also try speaking to someone - it truly helps to have someone to talk too.
Finally, give yourself a Fabulous Pep Talk. Talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend, and consciously CHOOSE to create positive thoughts in your life. A little progress each day adds up to big results!
”I started my Coaching Business with a goal to empower and inspire more women to step outside their comfort zones and create a life that they love. To grow, to learn and to experience new things. I want to help women feel comfortable in new surroundings and feel confident to explore new places. That’s why I strive to empower women to embrace flexibility and create lifestyles that better meet their needs and wants.”