Defeat negative self-talk
Are you the type of person who focuses on the negative and assumes the worst? Are you the type of person who constantly tears himself/herself down? Are you the type of person who only thinks in terms of “always or never?” If so, you’re not alone. The good news is, you can do something about this negative spiral. I’ve written before about the importance of positive self-talk, i.e., giving yourself “pep-talks” when the going gets tough. But to do that, you need to “banish” negative self-talk from your vocabulary. Many people already conduct dialogues with themselves, but the quality of them is poor and shallow. In the age of social media, we seem to worry more about how to act, what we wear and how we look. Society seems to be telling us to keep up with everybody else and, of course, the ever-present “influencers.” When we do this, we neglect to find ourselves and our self-talk becomes negative. But there are ways to defeat negative self-talk.
Calm your monkey-mind
To have a real conversation with yourself, you must eliminate all the noise and calm your mind. The fastest way to do that is through controlled and slow deep breathing Focus on your breath and the present moment. Then the work begins, and it should always start in the morning. The way you start your day impacts the rest of the day negatively or positively. So why not make it positively? Why make life difficult by allowing your mind to run wild with anxiety. Buddhism calls this state a “monkey-mind” or sometimes a “circus-mind.” Make sure you spend your day in a positive frame of mind that will allow you to attack the world with zest! I use the word “attack” because it is truly a war. But it’s a war that you can win battle by battle.
Get a great morning routine
I set out to win my war with the world and negative self-talk first thing in the morning. I like to do it when I’m alone – when I’m just with myself. I do this in silence. If I sleep until the alarm goes off, which I rarely do), I never hit the snooze button. I wake up, stretch in bed like a cat (OK, an old cat) and get up. Lying in bed will only give you time to ponder yesterday’s problems and today’s issues. Getting out of bed right away is your first battle. And when you’ve won it, that’s a great positive start to the day. Next, I light candles (even when it’s daylight in the summer here in Sweden) and grab a cup of “joe” (coffee) complete with MCT oil (coconut). Then, it’s time for my positive affirmations about the day and the future. I ask myself a series of questions. What am I grateful for and excited about today? What is my purpose today? And finally, are my goals aligned with my purpose?
Work out in the morning
I know, I know! It’s not always possible to work out in the morning. But when you do, you’ve set the tone for the rest of the day and achieved your second victory of the day (the first was getting up). There’s no time for negative self-talk because you’re working hard. And when you’re done, you’re ready for whatever the world has to throw at you. Now, I’m not saying that this is easy. Like everything else worth fighting for, you’ve got to put in the effort. And you’ve got to believe in yourself. Kicking negative self-talk’s ass requires believing what you’re saying to yourself. Repeating words that you don’t believe in will get you nowhere.
Eat the frog
The next thing I do is what Mark Twain calls “eating the frog.” He said “eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you all day.” Basically, it means doing something you don’t want to do. It can also mean tackling the least desirable task at home or at work first thing in the day. In my case, it can be making the bed, putting dirty laundry in the washing machine or putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher. These are not significant tasks, of course, but getting this done before first thing pumps me up. Once you’ve accomplished this, you’ve notched up your third victory of the day and it’s still early! By now, there should be no room for negative self-talk. As you move through your day, you must continue to swat away any negative thoughts that might appear. In the beginning, they will continue to appear, and that’s perfectly normal. But the more you practice pushing them aside, the easier it becomes.
Negative self-talk affects us in a very powerful way. If we believe something is possible, we’re more likely to make an effort to achieve it. If we believe it’s impossible, we won’t even bother trying. If we think we are a good person who deserves a good life and love, we’ll create that life. But, if we believe we don’t deserve this or that we don’t have the tools to achieve this, we’ll undermine our own efforts. Negative self-talk fuels our worries. It magnifies insecurities and perceived weaknesses. There are plenty of negative attitudes, negative people and negative thoughts that bombard our existence daily. Worrying about these serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever. When I start to worry (and yes, I sometimes do), I ask myself if worrying will makes things better. I’ve never found the answer to be “yes.” Maybe that’s why I love the phrase “no worries” so much. Worrying can lead to negative self-talk, and negative self-talk can lead to anxiety. Defeat negative self-talk and banish it from your vocabulary. You’ll feel much better for it!
Stopping negative self-talk
For many people, shifting negative thoughts to positive thoughts is tough. It’s tough because they’ve been doing this for so long. They continue along the same way, sabotaging themselves and making the “negative” neural paths even stronger. But remember this, you are the source of your thoughts and you control them! You can choose to stop negative thinking and replace it with positive thinking. Here are a few ways to accomplish this. Stop putting “always” and “never” in front of your thoughts about life (unless, of course, you’re saying I will always be positive), for example, I always mess up or I never get things right, etc. It’s simply not true. Stop focusing on everything wrong and bad. Life is a combination of good and bad, right and wrong. If you continuously focus on the bad, you’ll never see the good. Remember, you can choose which side to focus on.
Just a thought
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote about the benefits of meditation for anxiety-sufferers in the Harvard Health Blog. “If you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently,” said Dr. Hoge. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self.’”
No worst-case scenarios or guilt-tripping
Stop focusing on worst-case scenarios in your everyday life. Going out on a life-or-death mission requires you to plan for every possible bad thing that can happen, but you don’t need to do this in ordinary life. Nobody knows what will happen in the future, so why worry about it? Instead, focus on what’s happening now and find the positive in it. And most important, stop guilt-tripping! By that, I mean beating yourself up for everything wrong you’ve done in the past. You can be remorseful for past mistakes, but don’t let them define who you are today. When you made those mistakes, you were not the same person you are today. You made those “bad” decisions with the best tools you had available to you then. Everyone makes mistakes. We gain experience from poor judgment, and that experience gives us wisdom. When you look closely, you’ll see you’ve done a lot of good things in your life, too. Once you choose to see yourself as a good person who, like most people, have made some mistakes in the past, you’ll realize you have unlimited possibilities.