“Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity”-the dailypositive.com
I’ll admit it. I have been experiencing a lot of negative self talk lately which is the inspiration for this blog post. It’s been a few weeks now of “should’s, should not’s, can not’s and never.” These are words that I often refer to as silent assassins. They creep up on us without warning and are very effective at killing confidence, self-esteem and joy. After a strike I notice that I am often left feeling helpless, hopeless and tired. I then wallow in self-pity thinking: “I’m never going to be successful” or, “I’m not working hard enough.” These thoughts leave me feeling guilty, and angry and the vicious cycle continues on…and on…
You may be reading this and thinking to yourself: this happens to me too! It happens to most of us. One of my favorite books, Buddah’s Brain by Rick Hanson, PH.D explains that the brain is wired to have a negativity bias of memory. This means that your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls and reacts to unpleasant experiences. Think about that time when you received 10 compliments and one piece of “constructive feedback.” Which one do you still remember?
There is a purpose to the negativity bias: it helped us survive-we were able to remember and react quickly to threats and dangers (i.e. don’t eat the poisonous berries), however it also feels a bit like the human curse. We spend so much time in our heads thinking, processing and analyzing information that our negativity bias can become like a deep rut or even a black hole. Research indicates that mental activity shapes our neural networks-for example neurons that are particularly more active are even more responsive to input. This means that our minds can become conditioned to a negative way of thinking leading to what I refer to as “clouded glasses.”
I often have to remind myself and my clients that how we think is how we feel about ourselves. Our thoughts influence our emotions and behaviors. It seems simple, yet can difficult to for the following reasons:
- Our thoughts are often automatic-we don’t even realize the way we are talking to ourselves
- Our rut is deep-we are “stuck” in the way we think
- We are not in the present moment
- The negative mental material is from unresolved past experiences (such as in childhood)
Below I have created a list of ways to create more positivity in my life and hopefully yours too. I also came up with some strategies to quiet the negative self-talk.
- Choosing your narrative: Often times we may feel helpless, like things are happening to us that are out of our control. Think about your thoughts like a story that you get to write. What are you going to chose to pay attention to?
- Actively look for good news: What is happening that is going well?
- Savor the experience: When something good happens, how long do you let yourself savor it? Practice staying with the moment, focusing on emotions and body sensations. Intensify the experience by deliberately enriching it by thinking of other times when you have felt this way.
- Visualize a positive experience
- Challenge your thinking-what is actually true?
- Ask yourself if you would speak this way to someone else
- Cultivate empathy for yourself
- Decide what you can control and what you can’t
It is never too late to begin righting the negative bias. In order to be successful it takes practice and more practice-we have the ability to take in the good if we work at it.