Are you trying to be more positive but somehow, negativity slips back in your life? You Nama-stay in all the right places but your resting bitch face takes you elsewhere?
You’re not alone.
Being positive isn’t something you achieve overnight, it takes learning the what, how and why to make it stick.
In this blog you’ll discover how to pimp your positive neurons (even better than Obama) and put negative thinking to the curb so you can start the day with more sunshine… and less rain on the brain.
- How to find out when and why negative thinking happens
- Why negative thinking makes you feel safe
- How to stop negative thinking from spreading through your relationships, your work and your health goals
Step 1: Catch it before it spreads
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself: when did I start thinking more negatively? It’s not like one day you are Dr Jekyll and the next day you’re Mr Hyde.
Negative thinking is often slow to develop and therefore it’s cause (or catalyst) is challenging to uncover, similar to a cancer that spreads in silence. As a result, trying to fix a negative mindset with that same negative mindset is challenging and highly unlikely without tools in place. But don’t worry - that’s why you’re reading this blog!
The first and most important problem we need to solve is: how can we fix something that we can’t see?
Easy(ish)! We need to make the invisible, visible!
One of the most effective techniques I use with my private mentoring clients and students is a ‘thought diary’ in which clients SMS me their thoughts as they have them. Effectively, ‘catching’ their thoughts while they are being created.
I created this process over 8 years ago and have used to guide hundreds of clients, and it still remains to be the most effective tool in creating a positive change in mindset.
The Thought Diary aims to 'catch' your typical thought patterns - whether that's surrounding the food you eat, your daily stressors or anything else that's creating blockages in a productive mindset.
Here’s how you can do it: keep a written diary of your thoughts for the next seven days - clients often find this easiest to do in the 'notes' section of their phone (prior to texting me them).
Even though you won’t be texting me your thoughts, the main benefit is that this is a reflective exercise, meaning, it will help you objectively introspect (learn more about yourself) by tuning in to your private thought patterns.
SUGGESTION: Alternatively, pick a good friend or a trusted family member to do this process with!
- There is no right or wrong in this process – make your own guidelines and adapt as you learn.
- This isn’t a test to see how positive you are! Just be yourself.
- Don’t edit what you write or modify it to sound ‘better’. You can’t fix what you continue to hide!
Step 2: Pick up the patterns
After seven days, set aside some time to look at your thought diary in one sitting, which is the only way step 2 will be effective.
Unless you are truly an exception to the rule, you’ll likely pick up on some repeated patterns.
For example, does negative thinking usually come up:
- On the way to work?
- When you are around a certain person/group of people?
- Before or after a meal? Or a specific food group (i.e. sugar)?
- When looking in the mirror?
- After a bad night’s sleep?
After you find the pattern, zero down on a descriptive word that best describes the emotion attached to this feeling.
- A specific person is linked to feeling angry
- While on the the way to work in linked to feeling powerless
- Eating a donut is linked with feeling guilty
- Looking in the mirror is linked with feeling sad
- A bad night’s sleep is linked with feeling grouchy
Try and find a highly descriptive word that really encompasses what is going through your mind. The more specific you are, the better! This is known as the power of ‘emotional granularity’ - or the ability to put feelings into words with a high level of accuracy.
Research has suggested that persons who have higher levels of emotional granularity are less vulnerable to poor mental health.
Need a bit of help finding the right word? Download my Emotional Granularity tool here.
Step 3: Let’s get loud
Although I am 42yo, I am still
quite very scared of being home alone.
Yes, I am that person who circles the house (with my two protective chihuahuas and a butter knife), whipping open doors screaming at non-existent shape shifters.
Even writing the term ‘shape-shifter’ scares me.
Problematic? Hell yes.
But a quote from the great Harry Potter is a good source of rescue:
“Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.”
Harry Potter - Chamber of Secrets
Indeed, some very interesting research has shown that merely saying (verbalising) scary words out loud can lessen their emotional hold on a person.
Let’s give it a try right now, using the main word you discovered from step three. Say the word out loud 5 times. For example:
GUILTY > GUILTY > GUILTY > GUILTY > GUILTY
It is thought that we gain emotional relief through ‘distraction and reappraisal’ of repeating the word over and over again.
In fact, it has even been shown that activity in parts of the brain associated with anxiety and fear is reduced while increasing activity in the part of the brain associated with logic, in turn guiding us to feel less emotional and more in control.
Put it into Practice
While switching our thinking from negative to positive isn’t as easy as “1-2-3”, practicing steps 1-2-3 will make it easier in time! And the more practice you put in, the easier the process gets and the more you get out of it!
Sometimes things don’t go to plan the first time you try, but never forget the most important point: you gave it a shot!
- Step 1: Catch your thoughts using the 7-day thought diary
- Step 2: Pick out the most prevalent pattern
- Step 3: Lessen the emotional impact of the ‘negative’ term through verbalisation and repetition
It’s important to note this process isn’t a one-hit-wonder - you won’t finish this blog and become a stress-free saint (although if you do, please credit the living daylights out of this blog!)
But you now know the what, how and the why to make it happen. So why not make today your time to shine?
You got this.