If you lie awake at night wondering how to deal with the negative thoughts about yourself, and the people in your life, then chances are this negative thinking leaves you’re feeling pretty lonely worthless. It only takes one thing to set off the self talk that keeps chipping away at your self esteem and confidence reminding you not to even bother trying as you’ll probably fail. If your thoughts are not helpful and they knock your self belief, then you need to watch this video because I’m going to explain how negative thoughts impact your life and why positive self talk doesn’t actually work.
When you have those quiet times to sit and reflect on your life, what thoughts go round your head? They say that we have, on average, 12,000 - 60,000 thoughts per day, which is a huge amount of mental activity, but what is more disturbing is the fact that it is also said that 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of our thoughts are the same ones we’ve simply carried over from the day before.
It’s claimed that people know significantly more words to describe negative emotions than words to describe positive or neutral emotions, so without any rationale, I recently asked people across all my social media pages to let me have at least 6 emotions that came to mind, thank you so much to all of you who commented. I wasn’t asking to necessarily relate the words to their current emotions, I only asked for a list of words, but I do suspect that, for many, the first words that came to mind, were connected to their present state of mind. Here is a list of all the words that people wrote …
Of course many of the words were duplicated, but of all the words listed, approximately 60 percent were negative, 30 percent positive, and 10 percent were neutral, and seeing as people contributed from all over the world, I also suspect that these thoughts relate to a broad selection of ages, nationalities and cultures.
One view is that positive emotions tell us that everything is fine, so there is no need to think about them, whereas negative emotions indicate something is wrong, so we need to pay more attention, time and energy on them, but it’s not quite that simple.
Imagine this bowl of water is your mind full of thoughts, you have clarity and there is nothing polluting your thinking and causing you any distress. Now let me add some negativity and see what it does. As soon as we add just a tiny amount of the crap you pick up during the day, it starts to fester, and very quickly it begins to cloud your judgement so you no longer have a clear mind.
The power of positive thinking is all well and good, but watch what happens when I and add some positivity, the water is still dirty, and no matter how much more I add, you may be diluting the bad stuff, but it’s still there.
The dirty water represents the negative thoughts, maybe you keep telling yourself you are not good enough, but as you can see, it doesn’t actually take a lot of negativity to cloud your thinking. So when asking people to relate 6 or more thoughts, even if 5 of them are positive, or neutral, it only takes that one negative one to upset your emotional state.
Your thoughts directly impact on how you experience life, or day to day events, they dictate how you feel and measure your role in world around you. Let’s say you receive an email that says you’ve not got the job, or you didn’t get picked for the sports team or maybe you didn’t make the guest list for your friends wedding with the 30 guest list maximum, your inner dialogue kicks into overdrive and you think that you are not good enough, which then leads to low self esteem, and confidence, which make you turn down the invite to go out, as who would want to spend time with such a loser.
Or maybe you feel let down by work colleagues, family or friends, you feel betrayed and hard done to, leading to thoughts filled with anger and bitterness, which only serve to make you agitated, aggressive or depressed. In other words, the strong connection between the mind and body, means that when you choose your thoughts, you are also choosing your emotions and behaviours, but this connection isn’t just behavioural, it is physiological.
Whatever you do, you will meet different people throughout the day, but the only person that talks to you 24/7 and doesn’t filter out the things that are ether false or you don’t need to know, is yourself, and that tends to be the one person who plays this negative commentary on a loop system, meaning that any time your mind is not otherwise engaged, it’s almost brainwashing you into believing whatever you have originally programmed it to say.
Imagine those self help tapes to help you stop smoking and they suggest you play them at night as you fall asleep, well how many of us go to bed and play the same self made tape over and over again telling you where you, or the rest of the world are going wrong, and what’s so dangerous, is that you wake up, almost self programmed to believe that it’s true. it reminds me of the time I dreamt my husband ran off with, Julia Roberts and I was in such a bad mood with him the next morning.
If your internal conversation is full of negative self-talk, you will convince yourself that it’s true, and once you believe it, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy as you live and behave according to this self certified label. Telling yourself you are not clever enough, or attractive enough or confident enough to achieve your goals is probably the only way of guaranteeing that you won’t,
Self talk is inevitable, but it’s dangerous as it sets off a chain reaction that, once started, is very hard to stop. Let me explain, if you think about your favourite food maybe it a juicy steak, or a rich chocolate cake, once you think about it, and create a vision of how it looks, tastes and smells, making it real, you experience a physiological change in your mouth, or in other words, you begin to salivate. And just in the same way that the salivation doesn’t occur without the thought, the emotions don’t occur with the negative thinking, meaning that, if your internal dialogue is negative, then the resulting emotions and actions will also be negative.
In the same way that people can become addicted to alcohol or drugs, people also become addicted to negative thinking and just as you can’t tell an alcoholic to stop drinking, you can’t tell a negative person to simply’ get over it’ or ‘look on the bright side’
Look at it this way, Adrenaline is more commonly known as the fight or flight hormone, and it’s secreted when when you’re excited, afraid, or emotionally charged. When released into your blood, adrenaline increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, which can sharpen your senses and give you a boost of energy. For some people, this feeling becomes so addictive that they seek this sensation from extreme sports, such as skydiving, in the same way that others might chase a high from a particular drug, hence the term adrenaline junkie.
Without going into the physiology of the endocrine system, when you think about a really stressful thing, your brain receives a signal to tell the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a bit like an inbuilt alarm system as its the hormone that helps to warn you about imminent danger, and just like the adrenaline junkie who lives off the thrill, if you have negative thoughts every single day that causes your body to release stress hormones, you’re going to become chemically addicted to cortisol, which means that your body is going to force the brain to think negatively so that they can get that hit.
So even if you want to be positive, it’s really hard as you are chemically addictive to negative thoughts, and your body will unconsciously search for opportunities to stress you out because that’s what it has been used to for such a long time.
Overcoming an addiction takes time, as it’s really hard to become permanently self-aware of negative thoughts, but going back to our cloudy water, trying to cover up or mask the negative thinking by topping up with ‘the power of positive thinking’ doesn’t actually work, as you aren’t facing it, dealing with it, and removing it from your mind completely. So here are 4 ways that you can start introducing into your life to become a more positive person, but if you really do want to make changes in the way you think, and therefore feel, download my free book on how to reframe self critical thoughts, the link is in the description box below.
1. Stop Negative Self-Talk
You need to be extremely intentional. As you wake up every day, force yourself to think positively. Look in the mirror and smile, tell yourself how fantastic you are and start the day with clear, positive thoughts. At the first sign of anything negative from your childhood to the day before, shut it out immediately, don’t let any crap cloud your day.
But beware, as just because you are positive in the morning doesn’t mean it’s going to last all day, so catch and dismiss the negative thoughts before they take effect. Not allowing the dirt into the water is far better than trying to remove it one in there.
2.Reframe the Situation
I am also a photographer, and as much as technical ability plays a huge part in a good image, to me, framing is everything. If what you see doesn’t look good, look at it from a different angle, see things from a different perspective, there will always be a way to look any situation and see something positive. Losing a job gives you the opportunity to try something new, ending a relationship allows you to spend that much needed and valuable time on yourself, until you meet someone who truly does love you.
3.Establish New Patterns
When you find yourself ruminating on negative things, go and do something that you enjoy, something that enables you to redirect your attention elsewhere and engage in an activity that makes you happy. Listen to music, go for a walk, I love the feeling of finishing a really good days cleaning and sitting down at night feeling a huge sense of achievement. Ask yourself if what you are doing makes you happy, and if the answer is no, work out what you need to do in order to change the way you enter do the same task, or cut that task out of your life completely.
4.Appreciate Joyful Moments
When something goes wrong, it’s easy to spend the rest of the day thinking about it, discounting anything that may have gone well. So when something great happens, take a moment to stop and enjoy that feeling of elation and all the emotions that go with it. The more you practice, the more your mind will create a habit of storing the happy moments.
Whatever thoughts you have, they generally start from a trigger, so it’s really helpful to identify what actually makes you feel positive and negative. Maybe it’s a particular person or a task or, maybe it’s a memory that you keep bringing to the surface. When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re far more able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way.
So the key is to become extremely self-aware and even if you physically shake your head and say no stop it, you will eventually find it becomes the natural thinking process as your self-talk contains less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.