5 Habits That Turn Off Negative Thinking

From The Power of Positivity

5 Habits That Turn Off Negative Thinking

negative thinking

“We act how we think and feel. When we remove the negative thought, with it goes the drama and pain.” – Anon.

Negative thoughts serve absolutely no purpose. Zero. None. Not-a-one. Know what else?

Negative thinking has absolutely nothing to do with you as a person. Toxic thoughts don’t define your character, and they can’t determine your destiny. Wedetermine the power of each negative thought. Unfortunately, we often grant negative thoughts too much influence – and this is what causes damage.

The Buddha once said: “Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.”

Notice the word unguarded in Buddha’s teaching. As he is with most things pertaining to the mind, Buddha is once again supremely wise. Sometimes negative thoughts have a tendency to hang around – this is when cognitive reframing (i.e. ‘cognitive restructuring’) is essential.

Dr. Alice Boyes, a former clinical psychologist and author of The Anxiety Toolkit, describes cognitive restructuring as “a core part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT),” which Dr. Boyes says “is one of the most effective psychological treatments.”

No, you don’t need to participate in CBT to learn cognitive restructuring.

In fact, in this article, we’re going to teach some fundamentals of cognitive restructuring. While you may not become an expert on the technique, you’ll walk away informed and – more importantly – empowered.

HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO REFRAME NEGATIVE THOUGHTS:

1. OBSERVE THE THOUGHT

Take a seat in the far back of your mind and simply observe the negative thought. (Think about how you’d watch a bird flutter about on a rooftop.)

Negative thoughts are generally a product of cognitive distortions, or irrational thought patterns, something recognized by psychologists and psychiatrists the world over. You don’t require psychotherapy or medication – you only need to observe a thought, and then watch it dissipate.

2. QUESTION ANY RUMINATIONS

Ruminations are patterns of overthinking, e.g., “I have this problem, which I can solve if I just keep thinking about it.” Unless you’re actively engaging the frontal lobe of your brain – that is, attempting to solve a problem – most ruminations are pointless.

The question then becomes “How do I reframe these thoughts?” 

Here is a suggested course of action:

(a) Create two columns on a sheet of paper. Label the first column “Thought” and the second column “Solution.”

(b) When the rumination appears, write down the time. Write anything of use in the “solution” column.

(c) At the end of the day/week/month, count the number of times the thought appeared and any insights.

Is there anything of value? If not, re-read #1.

stress

3. DETERMINE THE EVIDENCE

Another way of reframing your thoughts is to evaluate the evidence behind them.

For example, if you’re always thinking “I never have enough money,” it may be helpful to assess the evidence and come to a solution (if needed).

Once again, you’ll create two columns. In Column (A) write any supporting proof that you “never have enough money,” e.g. bank account balance, always asking for money, etc. In Column (B) write any objective evidence demonstrating the contrary, e.g. having shelter, food, clothing, and so on.

What information is conveyed through this exercise? Can you say with 100 percent honesty that you “never have enough money”? If so, what’s the next course of action? Do you create a budget and limit your spending?

4. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS

What better place to mention mindfulness than after talking about money – a near-universal stressor?

Christopher Bergland, a three-time champion of the Triple Ironman triathlon and scientist, explains mindfulness as “much more basic than most people realize.” Bergland breaks down his approach to mindfulness in three steps: “Stop. Breathe. Think about your thinking. Anyone can use this simple mindfulness technique throughout the day to stay calm, focused, optimistic and kind.”

Structured mindfulness meditation practices and techniques, such as Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) exist for those people seeking more formal training.

5. UNDERSTAND IMPERMANENCE AND NEUTRALITY

We touched on this during the introduction, but it’s worth repeating: negative thoughts are fleeting and temporary; without any real power of their own.

No matter what negative thoughts cross your mind, it is crucial to understand these concepts. In fact, you can even create and recite a maxim, for example, “This is a negative thought. I’ll observe but not engage, as it will quickly flee.”

One terrific way to demonstrate the powerlessness of a negative thought is to distract yourself. Do something that will occupy your mind, so there’s no room for the negative thoughts.

We wish you peace, happiness, self-love and self-compassion.

Stephen Hawking’s Beautiful Message For Anyone With Depression

Stephen Hawking has one of the greatest minds of our time. He is well known for his work in theoretical physics, and was born on January 8, 1942, (300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. As a young child, he wanted to study mathematics, but once he began college, he studied Natural Sciences. Then, during his first year in Cambridge at the age of 21, Hawking began to have symptoms of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Doctors gave him two and a half years to live.

Now, at the age of 74, he continues to teach, research, and provide the world with beautiful messages. He says that his expectations were reduced to zero when he was given the ALS diagnosis. Ever since then, every aspect of his life has been a bonus.

One of the most brilliant minds did not allow these life challenges to stop him. He continued studying. Hawking has twelve honorary degrees. He has dedicated his life to finding answers about the universe, the Big Bang, creation and scientific theories. He cannot speak or move, bounded to a wheelchair, but he has found ways to inspire the world, encouraging us to find the mysticism in the stars. He says:

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”

Recently during a lecture in January at the Royal Institute in London, Hawking compared black holes to depression, making it clear that neither the black holes or depression are impossible to escape. “The message of this lecture is that black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly to another universe. So if you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up; there’s a way out,” he said.

When asked about his disabilities, he says: “The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” He continues with an inspiring message about disabilities:

“If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you. One has to have a positive attitude and must make the best of the situation that one finds oneself in; if one is physically disabled, one cannot afford to be psychologically disabled as well. In my opinion, one should concentrate on activities in which one’s physical disability will not present a serious handicap. I am afraid that Olympic Games for the disabled do not appeal to me, but it is easy for me to say that because I never liked athletics anyway. On the other hand, science is a very good area for disabled people because it goes on mainly in the mind. Of course, most kinds of experimental work are probably ruled out for most such people, but theoretical work is almost ideal.

My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field, which is theoretical physics. Indeed, they have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in. I have managed, however, only because of the large amount of help I have received from my wife, children, colleagues and students. I find that people in general are very ready to help, but you should encourage them to feel that their efforts to aid you are worthwhile by doing as well as you possibly can.”

Stephen Hawking does not only encourage the scientific minds to pay attention, but inspires the rest of us to take notice that there is connection between the stars and each one of us. His disabilities have not stopped his curious mind and sense of wonder.

His daughter, Lucy, shared with the crowd at the lecture, “He has a very enviable wish to keep going and the ability to summon all his reserves, all his energy, all his mental focus and press them all into that goal of keeping going. But not just to keep going for the purposes of survival, but to transcend this by producing extraordinary work writing books, giving lectures, inspiring other people with neurodegenerative and other disabilities.”

How To Train Your Brain To Go Positive Instead Of Negative

By Loretta Breuning for Forbes

Our brain is not designed to create happiness, as much as we wish it were so. Our brain evolved to promote survival. It saves the happy chemicals (dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) for opportunities to meet a survival need, and only releases them in short spurts which are quickly metabolized. This motivates us to keep taking steps that stimulate our happy chemicals.

You can end up with a lot of unhappy chemicals in your quest to stimulate the happy ones, especially near the end of a stressful workday. There are a number of reasons why your brain goes negative. The bad feeling of cortisol has its own survival purpose. It alerts you to an obstacle on the path to meeting your needs so you can navigate your way to good feelings. But once you do that, your brain finds the next obstacle. You will feel bad a lot if you follow your survival brain wherever it leads. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to rewire this natural negativity.

Let’s start with an example I call the Dog Poop Paradox. Pet mess was everywhere when I was young because picking up after your pooch was not the norm. Then customs changed and the streets were gloriously cleaner. Did that make anyone happy? NO. People barely noticed. They do notice an oops, however, and they get plenty mad about it.

Our brain evolved to scan for problems and it is skilled at finding problems when it looks. For example, reporters predicted the downfall of civilized society when the bicycle was invented. They warned that people would flit from here to there instead of having long conversations, and that we’d retire early from exhaustion instead of conversing in the evening. We have inherited the brain that helped our ancestors notice threats in time to act. We are skilled at finding threats, even as we seek rewards.

Build Yourself A Positivity Circuit

Negativity will engulf you unless you build yourself a positivity circuit. To do that, spend one minute looking for positives, three times a day for forty five days. This trains your brain to look for positives the way it is already trained to look for negatives.

You may think there aren’t enough positives in the awful world around you. But you don’t have to perform in Carnegie Hall and rescue orphans from burning buildings to create positivity. Any positives, no matter how small, will build the pathway that seeks and expects positives. Just appreciate the absence of dog poop on the path in front of you and neural connections will develop. It may seem false to seek out positives when negatives are so apparent. But as explained in my prior post (7 Reasons Why Your Brain Goes Negative), your present lens is false and in need of correction.

It’s hard to go positive when everyone around you is going negative. Your mammal brain wants to run when the rest of the herd runs. In the state of nature, you’d end up in the jaws of a predator if you ignored your group-mates’ threat signals and waited to see the threat for yourself. Mammals bond around shared threats, and fighting the common enemy raises a mammal’s status within its group. If you ignore the perceived threats that animate your group mates, you will probably pay the price in social rewards. Positivity has a cost, but the benefit is greater.

PARE Your Negativity

When you build your positivity circuit, you will PARE your negativity with Personal Agency and Realistic Expectations.

Personal Agency is the pleasure of choosing your next step. You can never predict the results of your efforts but you always get to choose the next step toward meeting your needs.

When Your Cortisol Surges

Realistic Expectations are the alternatives you generate when your cortisol surges. Though it’s natural to have a survival-threat feeling when your efforts fail to bring immediate visible rewards, you can remind yourself that your survival is not actually threatened. Most human achievement came from efforts that did not bring immediate visible rewards. When your results are disappointing, you can adjust your expectations and take another step.

PARE and you will REAP, because Realistic Expectations lead to Acting Personally. You will stimulate your own happy chemicals instead of just hoping the world stimulates them for you.

Loretta Breuning, PhD, is Founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and Professor of Management at California State University, East Bay. She’s the author of The Science of Positivity and Habits of a Happy BrainThe Inner Mammal Institute offers a wide range of resources that help you build power over your mammalian brain chemistry. On Twitter, see @InnerMammal or facebook.com/LorettaBreuningPhD/.

What/why is there an emphasis on a higher power in AA? It is assumed that “higher” is understood to be of great value. What do you think?

Quora discussion – our answer:

There are many good answers here already, but we will chime in only to say that for many, the concept of “higher power” as they understand it in the context of AA can be one heck of a road block, and in many cases, it can be an “Exit Only” from AA.

To be clear – we support virtually *anything* that people can use to get past addiction, and depression. If a higher power does it for you? Great. If it does not? You can still recover.

We believe that the roots to most addictions run much deeper than the addiction itself. Psychotherapy can be the saving grace for so many of us.

Just know that if AA is not working for you, you still have options. And if it is working for you? Congrats! Whatever works… 🙂