WELCOME TO THE GRATEFUL DUDE WEEKLY BLOG FOR SEPTEMBER 5th, 2017
Do you ever catch yourself thinking negatively? If so, you’re not alone....
Fortunately, there is a cure. But the longer you wait to cure it, the more difficult it becomes.
I catch myself thinking negatively at least a few times every single day. Some days, when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I seem to spend an entire day thinking negatively.
That said, after 7 years of mental training, I’ve reduced my negative thinking by at least 75%. Here are 3 of my favorite methods for quieting that negative internal chatter.
1) Notice a Negative Thought
The first step to reducing negative thinking is to notice when you’re thinking negatively.
According to researchers at Harvard, the average human spends roughly 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re currently doing. They also found that this mind wandering causes unhappiness.
That’s when the negativity can really get you - in that 47% of time where you weren’t even aware you were thinking. It happens without you even noticing it.
In order to improve your ability to notice your thoughts, you need to improve your ability to pay attention to your thoughts.
Attention is just like a muscle, as neuroplasticity now demonstrates. Back when I was 18, my mental muscles were weak. I was a habitually negative thinker and I didn’t even know it!
I would wake up with negative self-talk, have negative self-talk throughout the day, and negative self-talk would keep me up at night. At the time I felt like I was destined for a life of unhappiness.
I got to what felt like a breaking point. I could barely stand to be with my own mind. Every day was a struggle. That’s when I decided to talk to a counselor, who introduced me to mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation (click HERE to learn what Mindfulness is) trains you to pay attention to the present moment. The problem with all this self talk is that it’s actually taking us out of the present moment. When we’re so focused on our thoughts, and our thoughts are taking up 80% of our attention, we aren’t paying attention to all the sensory experiences going on around us.
The amazing thing is that, by redirecting our focus back to the senses, our thinking mind quiets down. So, the more time you spend focusing on the sensory experience of the present moment, the more your mind quiets down. You do less unconscious mind wandering.
When you aren’t mind wandering, and you are instead watching your thoughts, you begin to notice the thoughts as they happen. Consequently, you start to notice some of that negative thinking as it’s happening.
Noticing a negative thought is a mindful moment. When you notice a negative thought, you can gently say to yourself “Negative thinking”. That practice of labeling negative thoughts will help you get into the habit of realizing when you’re thinking negatively.
So let’s say you’ve had a mindful moment and just caught yourself thinking negatively. What’s next?
2) Re-interpret Your Thought
Most of the time, negative thoughts aren’t useful or true. They’re more like made up beliefs, such as:
"I’m never going to find that special someone. I’m just not destined for love."
Though subtle, these types of negative thoughts are powerful. If you don’t notice that negative thought, and it happens again and again over time, something BAD happens.
That thought becomes a belief….
As Gandhi once said,
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
Our thoughts shape our destiny. The quality of the thoughts you are having today is a good indicator of what type of path you are on.
The key, then, is to start noticing our negative thoughts. You try to catch them before they cascade into more negative thoughts. In that moment where you notice yourself thinking negatively you can re-create the story for yourself.
So next time you catch yourself thinking something negative like I’m never going to find that special someone, see if you can redirect your thinking before going down a rabbit hole of negativity.
"I believe the right person is out there for me."
3) Be Kind to Yourself: Channel your inner Grandmother
Most of the time we’re pretty dang hard on ourselves. A lot harder on ourselves than we are with others.
"I suck at this. He’s so much better at this than me."
As you learn to reinterpret and redirect your thinking, it’s important to do it from a place of love and kindness towards yourself. In order to do this, consider how your grandmother might talk to you. What kind of tone would they use and what type of things would they tell you?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing a great job. Just keep doing your best.
Channeling the perspective of someone who loves you is a helpful tool for generating more self-love. As you do this, over time, you slowly start to speak to yourself like this without thinking about it.
At the end of the day, you’ve gotta be your own best friend. Do you want your best friend to be nasty or nice?
According to Gandhi, our thoughts ultimately shape our destiny. Thus, if we want to create a future that’s full of positivity, we need to learn how to manage negative thinking.
There are many ways to reduce negative thinking. My process follows three basic steps.
Step 1: Become aware of your negative thinking
Step 2: Reinterpret a negative thought
Step 3: Be kind to yourself by channeling your inner grandmother.