We all have the potential to get into a habit of unhelpful thinking which can cause us to feel unhappy a lot of the time. This makes life far more difficult than it really needs to be.
I always use the term “unhelpful thinking” rather than “negative thinking”. Why? – because when people realise they’ve gotten into a habit of negative thinking they often make it worse by judging themselves for doing so! If you identify a lot of negativity in your thoughts, try not to judge yourself, but rather see its as an opportunity to grow as a person.
Here are 3 ways to become aware of unhelpful thinking—and 3 ways to shift it!
1. Morning Grumps
Waking up in a bad mood: what we think about determines our emotional state – but what if you wake up in a bad mood? What if you wake up and that feeling of discontent and grumpiness is already there before you’ve even started your day?
You can make the shift from this by beginning to notice your thoughts before you fall asleep at night. Your falling asleep thoughts drift into your subconscious and percolate there ready to be launched as you wake up.
If you go to bed thinking unhelpfully about something:
• Ruminating over some difficult conversation
• Stressing over how you are going to manage a problem
• Regretting some past event
You’re very likely to wake up with those thoughts hovering; perhaps not at the very surface of your awareness, but certainly having an impact on how you feel.
So monitor your falling asleep thoughts and specifically choose more helpful ones, such as
• “That conversation is over – I can’t change it now. Next time I’ll approach it differently”
• “I’ll write out a plan to manage this problem – tomorrow.”
• “The past is gone – but what have I learnt from it?”
We all want to progress in life; whether it’s something big like starting a business or going to college, or something smaller, we’re inspired to make changes in our lives. The problem is that quite often we sabotage our own success by thinking unhelpful thoughts and beating ourselves up over every little hurdle. Thoughts such as:
• “Why does everyone else manage to do this but not me?”
• “Maybe I’m just doomed to be a failure!”
Can mean we give up on our goals before they even get started.
The Shift comes when you begin to understand that every dream – will have rocky patches and hurdles to navigate. Life is a journey of evolving; it’s about learning new things – expanding. We often learn and grow through the challenges we encounter, and that’s ok.
If you keep giving up on your dreams because you get stuck in the hurdles, you can make a shift to change this by chooses thoughts such as:
• Ok, so what can I learn from this mistake?
• So, I’m stuck, I won’t stress over it – who can I ask for help?
3. Exasperating People!”
Is there someone who really annoys you to the point of Grrr! Maybe they seem take up all your emotional energy? It’s often the case that those people who are the most annoying and exasperating in our lives are the people who are here to teach us the greatest of lessons. The trouble is we don’t recognise this. In fact we can get into a pattern of always expecting them to be a problem and so we experience them this way—even when they’re not.
Here’s a powerful little exercise you can do to shift this.
Take a piece of paper and draw a circle. Place the exasperating person in the middle and place yourself somewhere on the edge of the circle. Just below where you’ve placed yourself, write down all the unhelpful thoughts you have about this person.
Now take a different colour pen and choose another part of the circle and draw yourself again. This time you’re looking at this person from a different viewpoint – what do they seem like from this different angle? Are they really so bad? What new and more helpful thoughts will you write down about them?
We’re All Unhelpful Thinkers Sometimes
The secret is that from time to time we are all Unhelpful Thinkers; but practising these 3 ways to make a shift will help you greatly towards having a happier, wiser and more joyful life.
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