Author : Dr. Neeta Pant
One of the common problems that is found in all of us irrespective of the age factor is that of negative thoughts. It starts with just a thought or a feeling, or maybe with a sentence spoken by someone else, and then it starts to drag one down. Negativity that wells up inside of us or in the world around us can quickly become toxic and hold us back from living the life we want. Negative thinking contributes to anxiety in almost all situations and wake of life. The key to changing our automatic negative thoughts is to understand how we think and then use strategies to change thoughts or make them have less effect. Negative (unhelpful) thinking patterns can have a strong and sometimes devastating impact on our relationships, our health, our work, our lives.
Let us explore HOW we can change our mindset towards negative thoughts …
First task is to get
RELEASE FROM LIMITATIONS – Limitations rise mainly from two aspects –
External Circumstances which comprises of religion, family, society, parental values, beliefs, upbringing etc. These are the major reasons that impact our thinking and behaviour and we end up behaving and thinking the way we behave and think .
Internal Limitations which also have a huge impact on the way we think and behave. Internal Limitations refers to how our own perception about self which stems from our own fears, capabilities, confidence, anxiety, stress etc. External Limitations are where we do not have control on but Internal limitations are that we have control on as this is something that is within us.
Internal limitation and external circumstances both create a perception about ourselves in our mind and this perception, this idea of self is what hold us back. Such perceptions in turn becomes the reality of the person, for self as well as for the world around. The beauty here is that we have control over our internal limitations which means we can and should work around to change our realities.
Psychology suggests that human brains are wired in such a way that our thoughts are generally negative which means we habitually think negative. So then if we want to create positive thoughts or change these negative thoughts from our mind, we have a huge task in hand because now we want to try something which is against nature. Difficult, yes! Impossible, no!
Lets us understand
HOW OUR THOUGHT CYCLE FUNCTION –
What are thoughts?
Thoughts are nothing but a stream of inner dialogue, a continuous mental chatter within our own minds. While contemplating over tasks, setting priorities, deciding what we should do or not do, we have a continuous dialogues within us. And generally these thoughts are negative. Imagine a thought like a drop of water, collection of drops will make a puddle, more drops may make it a pond, pour more into it, it may turn into a river, with more inputs, we might end up having a raging sea of negative thoughts in which we will subconsciously submerge ourselves. And the sea is negative, mind it. When we continuously & unconsciously think negative about ourselves, we are training our mind to further submerge into the raging sea of negativity.
What is the need here? The need is to consciously think POSITIVE which leaves a million dollar’s question – HOW?
Our thoughts are like the seeds that are being planted in the soil of our minds that get nourished by our thoughts and turn into a full fledged tree. If we are sowing a tomato seed, we cannot expect an apple tree to come out of it. Same way, if we are sowing a negative thought, we cannot expect a positive behaviour or action to come out of it. What we sow, is what we will reap. It is just that simple!
If we are positive thinking individuals, we will appear to be contributing, joyous, happy, content, productive & confident to the outer world. On the other hand, if we are negative thinking individuals, we will appear to be sulky, unproductive, dry, sad, closed and underconfident person to the outer world. Our inner thoughts becomes our outer reality to the world which is what ‘Louise Hay’ too mentioned.
INNER THOUGHTS = OUTER REALITY
Second task is to
UNCOVER ‘NEGATIVE BELIEFS’ –
We all often try many different ways to get rid of our negative thoughts, including distractions, diversions or ‘drowning their sorrows’ only to later mentally beat ourselves up for being still stuck in their negativity. It can feel like a real internal battle. These are common strategies that attempt to stop the thoughts and numb the pain in the short term but they only make things worse in the long term. It doesn’t fix the problem at its core.
So then what can be done? Can thoughts be changed? Yes, they can be. Not an easy task to accomplish but yes, they can be changed. Thoughts can be changed by consciously choosing to affirm different thoughts. We need to understand that since we are going against nature (nature being habitually negative), we need to put in extra efforts.
With the six keys listed below, and a little practice, I believe anyone can break free of negativity for good.
KEY # 1 : Stop judging yourself – What we believe about ourselves and about life becomes true for us. Most of the mental chatter that we have is about self only and habitually negative. Thoughts like I can not do it, I will not be able to pull it off, I am not good at that, does major harm to the our psyche. If we are feeding to our brains continuously about our in-capabilities or hesitations around it, our brain is getting trained to accept it as our reality and one fine day it will stop making efforts in the positive direction and will accept it as our reality, reality of incapability.
Key # 2 : Ideal Self Vs Real Self – In our minds, we have perception about ourselves and we unconsciously divide them into two parts (a) Ideal Self – An idea of what we should be; (b) Real Self – An idea of who we actually are.
Ideal self is our idealistic self, our expectations from ourselves, our potential self, where we want to see ourselves. Real Self is what we are capable of, what we can actually do or achieve. The more is the gap between the ideal self and real self, more are the issues.
Ideal Self – Real Self = Gap in Reality
Gap = Expectations from Self
The more are the expectations from self, more we introduce ourselves to a toxic world “SHOULD”. The more we are telling our brains, we should do this, we should achieve this, the more we are telling our brains about our in-capabilities and creating negative thoughts in our minds. The endeavour should be to replace the ‘should’ with – I could, if I wanted to.
Key # 3 : Recognise & Step Back from Negative Thought Patterns – With the same old thinking/action, we will get same old results. We need to break/change the pattern of thinking if we want newer/better results. If we continue doing what we have been doing in the same pattern/fashion, we cannot expect any different results. If we break the pattern or change the pattern, then only our new world of action and results will emerge.
Negative thought patterns are repetitive, unhelpful thoughts. They directly cause what we could describe as ‘negative’ (unwanted or unpleasant) emotions like anxiety, depression, stress, fear, unworthiness, shame etc. Once we learn to recognise and identify negative thought patterns as they occur, we can start to step back from them.
Imagine you get up in the morning and you realise its raining outside. It’s possible that a thought might come into your head that says “what a dreadful day”. Now is it true that the day is dreadful? No, of course not, it is simply raining. However if you believe the thought “what a dreadful day”, you will probably have a dreadful day.
The ability to recognise unhelpful negative thinking and step back from it is incredibly liberating! It can change the quality of our whole day and indeed our whole life. The problem is not that we have negative thoughts. The problem occurs when we believe our thoughts are true.
Key # 4. : Coming to our senses – Almost all negative thoughts flow from two directions; first is dwelling on the past—maybe we ruminate over mistakes, problems, guilt and anything in our life that did not go the way we believe it should have gone. The second is worrying about the future—fear of what may or may not happen for yourself as well as for others. Now this constant worry or dwelling in the past may take the form of stress.
To become more present, and be able to step out of negative thinking, we simply need to redirect our attention out of the thoughts in our head and bring our focus to our sense perceptions. Coming to our senses calms the mind and grounds us in the present moment.
Key # 5. : Move away from Criticism – Do not criticise yourself because when we criticise, our thoughts are negative. Instead tell yourself that I am doing the best I can at every moment, and I am learning & growing.
Key # 6. : Don’t Scare Yourself – We must stop terrorising ourselves with our thoughts. We normally tend to get into the loop of over thinking. When we get into a situation, we start over thinking about the entire episode in our heads and start analysing the situation, prepare our defence / attack too. The need here is to plant a new seed, new seed of positivity. It’s never too late!