“Be careful how you are talking about yourself, because you are listening.” Lisa Hayes
Are you your own worst enemy? Do you find yourself putting the worst possible “spin” on things? Do you find yourself exhausted, anxious and stressed? If so, you are probably a master at negative thinking!
What’s the best way to retrain our brain to go from negative to positive self-talk? The first step is to recognize that we are doing it. These thoughts are often called negative automatic thoughts. Far too often, our thoughts pass through our minds without us even being aware that we are thinking them. Clients describe that they may suddenly feel sad or depressed or stressed but can’t really describe how this happened. When we really tune in and pay attention to what we are telling ourselves, we will see that the negative self-talk has a huge impact on our moods.
Common types of negative self talk:
1- All or nothing thinking. You think in terms of absolute black and white categories.
2- Overgeneralization. You view a negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat.
3- Mental filter. You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
4- Discounting the positives. You insist that your accomplishments and your positive qualities “don’t count”.
5- Jumping to conclusions. (A) Mind reading. You assume people are reacting negatively to you when there is no definite evidence for this. (B) Fortune telling. You arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.
6- Magnifying or minimizing. You blow things way up out of proportion or you shrink their importance inappropriately.
7- Emotional reasoning. You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot so I really must be one”. Or “I feel afraid to do this so I won’t do it”.
8- “Should” statements. You criticize yourself or others with “should” ,”must”.
9- Labeling. You identify with your shortcomings. Instead of saying “I made a mistake” you say “I am a loser” etc.
10- Personalization and blame. You take responsibility for things that you are not responsible for or blame others for things you are.
Once we have increased our awareness and recognize that we are thinking in one or all of these ways, it’s time to begin reframing and retraining our brain! I suggest keeping a notebook or worksheet with the following column headings: “Trigger/cue”, “Feelings”, Negative automatic thoughts” and “Rational response”. The goals of the exercise are to counter each negative thought with a more rational response . Initially, you probably won’t “buy” the rational response and that’s ok. The goal is to begin to see alternatives to your negative world view.
It really helps if we have the opportunity to write down our rational responses. Sometimes folks complain that this process feels forced or phony. I agree, initially it does! Eventually the new responses will become as automatic and natural as the negative ones are currently. As difficult as challenging our own self-talk may seem, it is essential if we are to empower ourselves to take control of our lives.
There are many things in life beyond our control. Our self talk is one major thing that we have total control over! We can CHOOSE how we perceive
events, comments, behavior ,etc. If we can master our thoughts, then we can master life. I love this quote and think it sums up my message: