It’s true we all experience negativity in our lives. One day you’re in a great mood until you talk to that one friend or family member that always manages to bring you down. They may have been well intentioned, but they were just so negative it was an energy-suck. You may have even been that person a time or two, possibly thinking you were being helpful or cautious.
The average human has about 48 thoughts per minute. Only 6-8 of them are conscious and the other 40 or so are running in the background, in our subconscious. That means that almost 80% of your reaction to the world is literally on auto-pilot.
What’s even more alarming is that psychologists say on average 70% of unconscious thoughts are negative or limiting. YIKES! If you’ve ever wondered why you’re just not that happy or feeling stuck, read on….
Here are a few of the most common automatic negative thoughts (ANTS):
1. All or nothing thinking: Everything is black or white. Think of the words always and never. “I always mess things up “ “I never get what I want”. “I never do anything right”, “Nothing is ever good enough” “It’ll never work out”
2. Catastrophic thinking: Fixating on the worst-case scenario. “If I fail, I’ll never recover, and life will be ruined.”
3. Emotional Reasoning and/or Mind Reading: You are so sure of an outcome you actually create it. “I know she won’t go out with so I won’t even talk to her” or “I know he’s mad at me so I just ignored him”.
4. Should-ing on oneself: Feeling guilty or trying to live up to others values. “I should lose weight” “I should have studied more”. While seemingly harmless, should-ing on oneself is based in guilt or shame and keeps us stuck in a cycle of fear. It is not the same as “I want to lose weight” or “Now I’m going to study more seriously”.
5. Labeling: I’m “lazy, stupid, a terrible cook, cheap”.
6. Blaming others: Chronically being the victim; “I would have been ok if you didn’t…” “I am trying but everyone else is…” “This place is just so…”
These are just some of the biggies, but there are countless more. Any inner-talk that is telling you why you can’t do something is a limiting belief or ANT. Not ALL negative thoughts are bad. Some of them keep us safe. The key is to understand which ones are working for you and which ones are not.
The good news is, that once you understand your limiting beliefs, you don’t have to allow this negativity to rule your life! We all have a choice to either run on auto-pilot or consciously choose to boost positive thinking. The question is, do you have a true desire and willingness to look inside to improve yourself?
Have you noticed how much more energizing it is to be around positive people than negative? Negative people leave you feeling tired and depleted. Positive thinking not only feels better emotionally, it creates endorphins in the brain that make you feel better physically and open you up for bigger possibilities and creativity. Building confidence and self-esteem.
You can turn the negative thoughts that no longer serve you into positive ones that do! And, changing the way you think will change your life! Here is a practical approach to practice:
1. Awareness is the stepping stone: You can’t change anything until you know what it is you want to change. Practice thought awareness. One way to start is to pay attention to your body’s cues. How do you breathe when you have certain thoughts? What thoughts make you feel anxious? Laugh? If you want something badly, and the first thoughts you have feel depressing or give you a feeling of angst PAY ATTENTION. They are likely limiting beliefs and probably distorted lies! Listen to the “inner-voice” that is telling you why something isn’t possible. Try and figure out who is telling you that your idea isn’t good. Is it you? A friend or family member? Maybe a teacher or boss?
Try journaling. Writing down your thoughts without judgement is a great way to go deeper into them. Often when we uncover one thought we become aware of two or three more that are running behind it. Try this until you feel sure you have gotten to the “core” of the belief. This may be going back years in your life. Our childhood experiences dramatically shape our world view. What served us as children may not necessarily work for us as adults.
2. Is it really true? Does it always (or never) happen this way? Really? If it was true in the past, is it really still relevant? Who or what situations have defied this lie?
3. Consciously choose a better thought. You do have a choice. Decide on a moment-to-moment basis that you are going to stay aligned with happy and cheerful thoughts. This works better when you state them positively. Don’t tell yourself what you’re not going to do (for example: “I will not overeat”). Even if the intention is positive,
it is still a “negative” thought. State this in a positive manner, like “I only eat until I am satisfied”. Believe it or not, thinking positively will create pleasure hormones in your brain which will make you feel happier.
4. Fill up with positive, motivational and inspirational messages and people. There are a bunch of ways to do this: daily affirmations; videos; pod casts; blogs; my personal favorite is guided meditations. Focus on positive thoughts and your mind will begin to recognize and eject the negative ones easily. Surround yourself with positive people and you will naturally become more upbeat.
5. Make a conscious effort to notice how much better positive feels. There is a real domino effect that is going to take place either way. If you stay negative, you will continue to feel more and more negative. When you begin to think positively, you will create more positive situations in your life which will leave you feeling and thinking more positive again.
6. With practice, most people begin to have awareness of the underlying core issues that drive limiting beliefs. It is common to realize our negative and limiting thoughts are rooted in something deeper than the surface. Don’t be afraid of it, it is only a thought. If it feels overwhelming or you just want to connect with someone who is highly charged and positive, life-coaches are trained and experienced at helping people uncover the root causes of limiting beliefs and overcoming them.
7. If you can, minimize negative or toxic relationships – None of us need people in our lives who chronically make us feel bad about ourselves. Sometimes we can step away from them, but other times we can’t. Do your best to detach both physically and emotionally whenever possible. If you can’t remove yourself from negativity you still don’t have to let it drag you down. Try to focus on something that brings you joy.
8. Be true to yourself. We can’t make everyone happy all the time and sometimes we just have to say no. It can be hard, but it is better to say no than to lose yourself and end up resentful.
These are just a few practical suggestions that can help you lose the negative self-talk and replace it with positive thoughts. It is time to say good-bye to limiting beliefs and say hello to empowering thoughts that will enable you to feel truly happy and achieve your dreams! If you have a personal favorite strategy you’d like please share it below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Wendy J. Cope – Recovery & Positive-Change Coach
About the author:
I was a rebellious teenager and at the age of 20 found myself in a recovery program for drug and alcohol addiction. That was 30 years ago and I have been passionate about the pursuit of personal-growth ever since. At one point in my recovery I felt really “stuck” and needed to do something different. That was my first encounter with coaching. I completed a 12-week program and the changes I experienced were profound. Like more than 5 years of therapy profound.
I felt inspired to become a Positive-Change Coach and later to create a platform that serves both coaches and clients. Hence, I created Life Coach Library. Educating people and getting the message to them that they CAN reach their goals while providing a practical means for great coaches to grow their businesses is what Life Coach Library is all about.
I hold a bachelor’s degree from Hawaii Pacific University in Justice Administration and I’m currently pursuing a graduate degree in professional counseling from Walden University. Later in my career, I completed a career switcher program and hold a professional teacher’s license in Virginia and Delaware. Additionally, I am a certified hypnotherapist and Reiki master. I completed my coach certification at Coach Training Alliance and I am committed to personal-growth and life-long learning .