5 Ways to Stop Negative Thoughts in Their Tracks

 

You yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe deserves your love and affection. - Guatama Buddha

Much of our lives are based on our beliefs.  Beliefs lie under the surface and are the essence of who we are.  We have positive beliefs and we have negative beliefs. Typically we sail through life with our underlying beliefs causing no problems.  Occasionally, we hit a bump in the road which leads to some negative thoughts, patterns, or beliefs (whatever you want to call them).  These beliefs stand in the way of our ability to achieve at our highest potential and they stand in the way of our happiness.

Negative thoughts

It happens to all of us.  We hit a slump or we get stuck.  We just don't feel like our best self.  Maybe it's mental.  Maybe it's physical. Most likely it's both.

We don't look a certain way - we are too fluffy, don't look fit, too scrawny, our arms are too big, our legs are too skinny.

Maybe you are fine with how you look physically but have critical thoughts about your success.  You have set your expectations too high so you never feel successful.  Even when you are succeeding, you don't feel that true sense of achievement.  Have you ever fallen short of a goal and that feeling of shame lingers a little too long?

Sadly, these thoughts and underlying beliefs start to shape how we perceive our SELF and effect our performance.  I know for me, I have experienced all these things.  Critical thoughts about my body image as well as my sense of achievement have played on my belief system effecting my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.  In these times, I feel like I am stuck in a negative loop of thinking. Here's the good news!  We all have the ability to pull ourselves out of these negative looping thoughts when we are ready.  Below are some suggestions to get you started, give you inspiration, or simply validate the path you are taking.

5 Ways to Stop Negative Thoughts in Their Tracks:

Understand What Self Awareness Is

Have you ever realized we are our own worst critics?  How we eviscerate ourselves in the name of self-awareness?  Self-awareness isn't about only focusing on what doesn't serve us, it's about seeing the full picture. Self-awareness is not about action, that comes later, nor should it be about judgment.  Self-awareness is simply the acknowledgment of a belief or behavior.  It is a lifelong journey focused on gaining greater insight into what makes us uniquely us.  Self-awareness is a positive experience and we should be cautious when it turns negative.

Maximize Your Strengths

On an interview for my graduate school internship I was asked the dreaded question of what I thought my strengths and weaknesses were? Since I was in my early 20's and not a skilled interviewer, I did what was natural.  I launched in to all my weaknesses without a thought for presenting my strengths first.  I got the internship but I also got the first piece of honest feedback in my life.  It was made clear, in no uncertain terms, leverage your strengths to overcome your weaknesses.

Next time you start looping on the things you aren't good at stop.  Start looping on the things you are good at!  Take a new look at that body part you have been nit-picking on.  What body parts are your strengths?  Play those up.

Be Mindful

Observe your thoughts and behaviors.  What messages do they send? If there is a negative thought that seems to loop over an over, try finding a mantra to stop the looping thought.

Consider keeping a journal to track of your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.  Journaling is a great way to create mindfulness and identify patterns in our behavior.

For the purpose of identifying patterns, I keep a weekly journal in Evernote so I can see all the days grouped together without having to flip through pages.  However, if you are really struggling to sort something out, I find pen and paper work best.  Something about the physical motion of the pen that is meditative.  It is important to pick a process that works for YOU!

Reframing Thoughts and Perspectives

Not all our thoughts, perspectives or beliefs need to be reframed.  Most serve us quite well.  The key is being able to identify the thoughts requiring a shift in perspective.

While you are being mindful and journaling, you can ask yourself "is this thought empowering or defeating?"  On a very simplistic level this will let you know if you need to consider reframing the thought.

To reframe the thought, you will need to flip it from defeating to empowering.  Some examples are:

  • Defeating thought: I missed my goal and feel like a failure.  Reframed: While I didn't make my goal there is an opportunity to learn something about myself.
  • Defeating thought: I never meet my own expectations and feel unsuccessful.  Reframed:  I work hard, take initiative, and have a positive attitude.  That is what defines success.

Give Voice to Dark Thoughts

We all have dark thoughts.  Things we don't want to admit to anyone.  Thoughts that embarrass us for having them and induce feelings of shame.  These thoughts make us feel weak and vulnerable.  From my experience, when we leave these thoughts in the dark recesses of our mind (and hearts) they give way to underlying beliefs that don't serve us.

Finding the courage and support to shine light on those dark places is one of my greatest struggles.

Conclusion

Don't take this list to be finite and don't think you need to do all of these.  If and when you are ready, find the encouragement to start small.

[tweetherder]One small action will give way to other small actions.  [/tweetherder]

I am certainly not an authority on this topic.  As a matter of fact, I consider myself a life-long student.

[tweetherder]What I do know for certain is that the self is the guru.  [/tweetherder]

In other words, we have the answers we seek.

Leave a comment telling me how you stop negative thoughts in their tracks? I would love to hear your perspective, or you can also join my closed Facebook Group - Love Deeper, Play Bigger, Live Better - and share your thoughts there!

PS. I would be so grateful if you shared this post with others on Facebook or Pinterest.  I want to encourage others to be their own guru!