Negative thinking is something we all do but what can we do about it? How many of your thoughts are useful to you? We hear it so often with our clients that only 5% or 10% of their thoughts are kind and supportive, the rest of the time they are being really harsh on themselves. They all agree if they spoke to friends in the way they speak to themselves, they would be very lonely!
I came across an article by John-Paul Flintoff, the author of ‘Change the World’ and he suggests there are categories of negative thinking:
Black and white thinking: “I am a failure” Mind reading others: “They think I’m stupid.” Crystal ball gazing: “There is no point in trying, I won’t be able to do it.” Over generalisation: “I will never meet Mr Right.” Disqualifying the positive: “I may be a good mother, but anybody can do that.” Drama queen: “I can’t find my keys. I’m going mad.” Unrealistic expectations: “I’ve got to keep going, I can’t stop for a rest.” Name calling: “Idiot!” Self-blame: “She looks worried. It must be something I said.” Catastrophising: “Nothing is ever going to work for me.”
If any of these sound familiar, there is good news – you can change them and start to train your brain to think in a more useful way. The brain has the brilliant ability to re-wire itself (called ‘neuroplasticity’) based on the way it is used.
If you have done the Lightning Process, you can use the tools learnt there to help you combat this thinking but if you haven’t try these steps:
1 – Start to notice your negative thoughts and the different times you have them.
What are the repetitive thoughts? Is there a common link or trigger for when they occur?
2 – Create a character for your inner critic – give them a name.
What do they look like? What do they sound like? John-Paul Flintoff suggests you can get creative and draw them and add in speech bubbles of the horrid things they are saying. It is quite an eye opener for many and an interesting way of externalising the thoughts so they are no longer coming from you.
3 – Every time this character pops up, say a simple ‘stop’ or ‘no’ to it to pause it in its tracks.
This will give you time to confront your inner critic rather than letting the thoughts continue down the old and expected route.
4 – Use this stop technique to give you the opportunity to argue back.
Imagine you are supporting a good friend and overheard someone being mean to them – what would you say? Now say that to your critic and start to be kind and compassionate to yourself in just the way you would to a dear friend, letting yourself know you are OK.
By stopping the negative thoughts in their track and moving forward in a useful and nurturing way, your brain will quickly start to learn that you are not going there anymore, and will start to re-wire itself into new and supportive thought processes.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” Willie Nelson
Contact us if you struggle with negative thinking and want to find out how the Lightning Process can help you.