Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Defeating Negative Thoughts

"If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of you like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." - Roald Dahl
Having introduced you to the types of negative thought patterns last week, today I'm exploring how we can turn these negative thoughts into positives.

Our thoughts offer constant commentary and judgments about ourselves and our actions. But it is important to remember that you are not your thoughts and your thoughts are not true. Changing our thinking is hard, but if it means unhealthy thoughts can be defeated then I'll give it a go.
"We are the ones who create the messes in our heads. It does not come from outside." - Paulo Coelho
David Burns' The Feeling Good Handbook does suggest a number of ways to challenge your thoughts once you have identified them. He  tells us to examine the evidence for our distorted thoughts, talk to ourselves how we would to a friend, and to survey others about your thoughts.

There are numerous books built around challenging negative thoughts. Many authors refer to these thoughts as self-talk; the way in which we talk to ourselves.

'Self-Talk for a Calmer You' by Beverly D Flaxington urges readers to make a personal plan to keep track of your negative self-talk.

Steven Andreas' 'Transforming Negative Self-Talk: Practical, Effective Exercises' states that refocusing your attention and focusing on the present can defeat negative thinking.

Taking all these books and tips, here's how I defeat my negative thoughts.

Defeating my Negative Thoughts

When I'm feeling consumed by a particular negative thought, or pattern of negative thoughts, I turn to my journal. To find perspective I reality test these thoughts.

I've found that reality testing helps to defeat my negative thinking. Having described my thought, identified the type of cognitive distortion my thought fits into, I then turn to challenging my thought. By asking questions of your thoughts, you challenge whether what you believe is real or true.
Some questions that I often ask myself when dealing with negative thinking are;
  • Is my thought accurate or true?
  • What evidence goes against my thinking?
  • Is my thought helpful?
  • Does my thought make me feel better about myself?
 And one question often leads to more questions as you work your way through tackling the thought.
Reality testing offers alternative explanations for why someone didn't say hello to you that day, why you haven't heard back about that job, or
I've even used reality testing to get to the bones of what was really behind my emotional reaction to a perceived rejection by a friend.

This method helps me to recognise that there are other reasons for events occurring rather than my own failings. Thoughts like 'I've never done it before' can become 'an opportunity to try something new'.

I've also found it useful over the years to challenge my thoughts in other ways. When you talk to yourself, use positive self-talk such as "I am enough" and "I am capable". A lot of negative thoughts come from a lack of self-confidence, so building up your own confidence when you talk to yourself is important.
Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to your best friend is one of the best pieces of advice you will ever receive. When a friend is facing a crisis, most of us will be compassionate and supportive - not judgmental and harsh.

Being able to change your inner narrative lets you defeat your "I'm not good enough" mentality.
Because the thing is, you are good enough. I am good enough. Even when we don't think we are.

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