“Negative thoughts stick around because we believe them, not because we want them or choose them”
– Andrew J. Bernstein
Life isn’t easy. It throws crap at us on the daily. Sometimes it is real crap that creates a real pain, sometimes it is an annoyance that we just don’t need, sometimes we don’t even know why it feels difficult today.
People experience symptoms of low mood, anxiety, stress, in varying degrees of severity.
The truth is though, for the most part, we make life much harder than it has to be. People have a tendency to aggravate an already challenging situation or create a difficult situation unnecessarily.
How do people do this? By overthinking, worrying and approaching life with a pessimistic or negative view.
We are hardwired to protect ourselves from any kind of threat, and so we look out for all the negatives and we miss out the positives.
The way you look at life, your past and situations you find yourself in, will determine your every day experience. The person who tries to find the positive is going to live a happier life than the person who only focuses on the negative.
Negative beliefs and thoughts can end up running your life. They impact your self-esteem, mood, relationships and prevent you following your dreams.
These thoughts might be there everyday in the drivers seat, or perhaps, they are triggered easily when things don’t go how you had hoped.
Let’s go back to basics…
Let’s talk about thoughts, considering how much influence they have over us, we don’t do that enough. Your thoughts are the inner dialogue that goes on in your mind, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep. We have thousands and thousands of them a day, switching and swapping from one thing to the next. Take a step back and observe your mind, what are your thoughts like?
Pretty constant, I expect.
Your thoughts are influenced by the beliefs you have formed throughout your life. For example, if you have a belief that you are not clever, your thoughts will often back this up, perhaps you will assume other people think you are stupid, or if you miss a deadline you will put that down to your lack of intelligence.
Yet again – your past manages to creep up and dim your light. How long are you going to let that happen for?
You have thoughts about everything. About the tone of someone’s voice, the way you look, the state of your house, the weather, how much money your friend earns, what time you need to get up tomorrow… honestly – it’s tiring just typing it.
Humans are skilled at jumping to conclusions, imagining worst case scenarios, criticising and comparing ourselves to anyone and anything else. Basically any opportunity to put yourself down, you will take. It is a real, real shame how natural this is for people.
The really sad thing, is when we live by these mindsets, for the most part, we are not happy. Whilst you may have moments of happiness, you certainly do not experience that feeling of fulfillment. Life is so short, and we are letting false beliefs make us unhappy. Whether it be the sad belief you have about yourself, about someone else, or the belief that you won’t be happy until you get your hands on that shiny new thing you have your eye on. It is stealing your happiness.
Given that feeling happy is what life is all about, it makes sense that we need to take control of the situation.
If you are going to live a life of joy and content, you need to be more aware of your thoughts and the world they are creating around you. When left to their own devices, thoughts are dangerous.
There are three details about your thoughts, that once understood, can change your experience of every day life:
We are all professionals when it comes to making up stories in our mind. Your thoughts are simply just thoughts. Mostly made up of opinions. Opinions you happen to believe.
For as long as you believe your thoughts, they will create a false and unhealthy sense of reality. Your interpretation of most situations is not real. How can they be when you don’t even stop to take account of all the facts and look at the bigger picture?
Try to resist attaching yourself to all the thoughts in your mind, accept they are just thoughts that will come and go.
Get into the habit of checking out the facts, ask yourself if you could stand up in court and say this thought is 100% true.
On the rare occasion that your negative thoughts are true, don’t threat. It’ actually useful to know when thoughts are accurate rather than made up, and at least now you can decide what to do about the situation.
People believe they have no control over their thoughts. You accept yourself as being an ‘overthinker’ or a ‘worrier’ or a ‘negative nancy’ – whilst it may be true right now, it doesn’t have to be that way. This is just the habit you are in.
If you want to retrain your brain, perhaps to be more optimistic or to let go of unhelpful thoughts, you have to practice, practice, practice, every day. It is a lifestyle change that you need to dedicate time and effort to. Sometimes you will fall short to old habits, that’s normal. Not only do I coach this stuff every day, I practice it every day. I know it works.
Your thoughts pass, they only stay if you cling on to them. Whilst you cannot stop a negative thought coming into your mind, you get to decide if you are going to feed it. When you feed it, it grows. It gets bigger, it manifests into anxiety, it feels bigger than you and you feel stuck in it.
For techniques on how to shift your thoughts, Check out my post ‘Prone to Overthinking and Worrying? Try These Techniques to Help’.
The way you think about yourself, your life and the world, is having a direct impact on the way you feel. If you feel miserable, anxious, frustrated – it is a result of your thoughts and how you see the world. I know that makes it sound really simple, and I know it’s not, but it is true.
Behind every uncomfortable feeling, is a thought, working you up – and you my friend, are biting.
Let’s use an example of you having to wait in a long queue. If you meet this with thoughts of “This is ridiculous, I shouldn’t have to queue for this long, why does this always happen to me”, you are going to feel frustrated and physically you will tense up. As a result you might become snappy. Alternatively, if you have thoughts such as “This queue is unfortunate, there isn’t anything I can do about it so I’m going to relax”, you will feel less frustrated, less tense and you will have more patience with those around you.
A lot of the time, it is not as easy as dealing with a queue. I know that. But if you dig really deep, there is always a lesson to take or a positive in there somewhere.
If you can start to find more balanced ways of thinking, slowly, life will feel easier and you will experience a deeper sense of happiness.
It’s normal to be unaware of your thoughts, instead we usually notice and act in response to our emotions. Emotions are intense. When you are in the midst of a strong emotional take-over, be aware that your thoughts will spiral.
When you are sad, you will think of all the sad things in your life, when you are angry, you will think of all the things that are wrong. Try to think of things that are not related to the mood you find yourself in, see if you can see if a shift.
A good strategy here is to think of 10 things you are grateful for. Even if they are the same ten things every time. I do this a fair bit, number 1 is always my niece and nephews, just the thought of them helps shift my mindset to a happier place.
Remembering these three points and using the tools I mentioned, will help you gain control of your thoughts and subsequently, your emotions and actions.
Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes
Of course, if all of this was that simple, you would have changed it by now. I’m not here saying it is easy, I am saying it is possible. Every day people take care of their mental health. People with severe anxiety and depression have found ways to manage their thoughts and mood. I don’t think anyone will tell you that has been easy. It has taken hard work, commitment, effort and tears. Anyone is capable of change, you just need to believe it and act on it.
Click HERE to join my Facebook Group for support, inspiration and tools on how to love yourself and live a Happier life.
Click HERE to follow me on Instagram and see what I am getting up to and help me spread the happiness message.
You deserve to be happy.
Carly Ann xx