We all have negative thinking habits — and for good reason.
Our survival instincts track our biggest perceived threat and attend to that, so we hear warning voices in our minds. These voices help keep us safe. It is when we turn these voices against ourselves that we bring in self-hate and other self-destructive behaviors.
We are surrounded by negativity through all the information that comes to us on any given day: the news, advertisers, other people caught in their negative thought patterns, and our habits of negative thinking. No wonder we can feel like we are spinning in a downward spiral of negativity, maybe even seeming without end.
How do we begin to shift from our security alarm gone awry – the voice endlessly chattering frustration, resentment, bitterness, and a sense of just not feeling at all comfortable with ourselves – back to the healthier, more logical alarm for keeping us safe?
Here are a few tools that I have found so helpful for releasing negative thinking habits:
Become aware of your current negative thinking patterns.
Just do assess from a neutral place of observation. For example, “Oh, look at that. I have a pattern of thinking that things will always go wrong for me.” “I keep hearing myself say I never finish what I start.” Or, “Oh, I just said, ‘I’ll never be enough, no matter what I do.’” In this step, you are just becoming aware of your thinking and taking inventory of the negatives.
Do not complete a negative thought about yourself.
What a brilliant suggestion this was from my friend GuruPrem Singh Khalsa. It has been an exciting and challenging practice for me to notice when I am saying something mean or harsh to myself, but it is possible to do this and that’s the point. The more I catch myself with a thought trying to put myself down about one thing or another, the fewer times such thoughts arise. Changing the thinking ‘in midstream’ is a way to change the brain’s patterning into a healthier state.
Meet yourself where you are.
We are adept at ignoring, looking away, or just plain stuffing down whatever we are experiencing that does not seem or feel pleasant to us. We can quickly get in the habit of looking away from ourselves when things get uncomfortable. We are so used to others criticizing our mistakes despite our best efforts, instead of being championed for our courage to try, that we get in the habit of criticizing ourselves. Then that criticism can quickly accelerate into self-loathing if we don’t take steps to turn it around. When we face ourselves, we can then step into the work of healing whatever we have been avoiding. Whatever we are experiencing at the moment and how we are processing it is information for us to use to make healthy choices about how we are going to respond.
Accept all of who you are.
When we accept that we have all the emotions of any human, with all of their twists and turns, then we find a measure of peace. We are who we are. We are in the human experience. We are doing the best we know how. Give yourself a break and embrace all of who you are. Accept and allow yourself to be YOU.
Do not judge yourself.
Move to a neutral place of being. Whatever you are up to or going through, try to look at it through the lens of it’s not “good” or “bad,” it just “is” you know that saying ‘it is what it is’? That may sound trite, but when I come from a neutral, more impersonal place or perspective, I find a far more significant measure of ease and freedom shows up automatically. Dropping judgment and accepting all of who we are go hand-in-hand.
Go to the breath and keep your attention there.
Allow the body to release whatever energy you are experiencing. Breathe deeply, slowly, equally; balance your inhale, and your exhale. This type of conscious breathing gives the primitive part of the nervous system that is on constant monitoring for our safety the signal that we are safe.
Be selective in how you choose to interact with the world.
We can decide how much information we want in our lives daily. Your choices around how much news you watch, the radio stations you listen to, from talk radio to music, what you read, to the people you choose to interact with. All these choices can affect how much negativity we experience.
Take responsibility – you are the decider.
When we are aware of our tendencies around negative thinking, we can then choose how we will act. It is our choice to continue to speak to ourselves in a degrading manner or to lovingly forgive ourselves for being the vulnerable, perfectly imperfect human that we are.
By adopting these practices, we retrain ourselves. We are rewiring ourselves through how we take ownership in our thinking patterns to a healthier way of living. These are simple steps, but they need practice. In my case, I apply this every day, and I am grateful to have such a powerful way to help me stay on a more empowered course in my life, rather than stuck in the victim mentality of being at the mercy of negative thinking patterns.
I invite you to grab your copy of a free toolkit to help you manage your stress.