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Dealing with your negative thoughts

In life, there are many times when we can be our own worse enemy when we let our negative thoughts and emotions hijack us. This is never intentional but the impact on our life and mental wellbeing can be totally overwhelming.

They can prevent us from functioning on a daily basis and if left unchecked can immobilise us and prevent us from addressing the underlying issues.

It is natural for us to focus on the negatives but the impact it can have on us if we don’t realise this is what we are doing, impacts our ability to move forward and process situations and can leave us feeling trapped and at times overwhelmed.

The thoughts it can generate include statements like the below:

  • Nothing ever goes right for me

  • Everyone is against me

  • I’m not good enough

  • All my colleagues think I’m not up to this job

  • It’s all my fault

  • There is nothing I can do to change this situation

Whilst it isn’t something you can change overnight there are things that you can do that will help you address your thoughts and start to move forward and change the things in your life that you are not happy with and over time cement new thought patterns that allows you to be open to different options in life.

The First step

First, you need to recognise and acknowledge that this is what you are doing.

This can be done in several ways a couple of which I have detailed below:

1. Ask people you trust to be honest with your family/friends/colleagues, whether they recognise that when you talk about situations in your life do you talk negatively about yourself. Do they recognise that you use phrases like those above?

2. Think about the situation that is causing you an issue and do a brain dump writing down exactly what your self-talk says. Then when you have finished read through what you have written and identify the negative thoughts you are having about the event.

Taking action

Once you have identified the negative thoughts you are having then you can start to examine them in more detail.

  • · Are you mind reading – this is when you think you know what someone else feels or thinks but have no evidence to support it?

  • · Are they factual? What is your evidence?

  • · What are the actual facts?

  • · How can you find out the facts?

  • · What emotion am I feeling and why?

When you have all the facts down you can start to ask yourself

  • · What would you like to be thinking and feeling about this?

  • · What is in your control to change?

  • · What can you do differently?

  • · Who do you need to include to support you to take action?

  • · Knowing what I now know is there a different way to view the situation?

This enables you to start to form an action plan to enable you to change the way you think and feel about the situation you are in. When making your action plan think about the steps you need to take and break them down into manageable parts.

Then put your plan into action.

Focus your attention on the positives

We can retrain our brain to be more focused on the positives in our life. We can do this by taking daily steps to enable us to start looking for all the positive things in our lives.

1. Create your own positivity journal.

a. Get yourself a new notebook that you will only use for this purpose

b. Every day write down a minimum of three positive things that have happened that day. These can be small things, like getting out of bed on time, enjoying a coffee with friends, having a comfortable bed, etc.

The purpose is just to get you to start noticing all the positive things in your life. This has two benefits to it.

  • You are starting to retrain your brain

  • you are having a bad day and feel everything is going wrong you can read back through it and remind yourself of all the positives in your life.

2. Create an achievement log – This is aimed at work situations but can be used across all areas of your life.

a. Get yourself a new notebook/create a spreadsheet that you will only use for this purpose

b. Diarise 15 minutes at the end of each workweek to note down everything you have achieved that week.

The purpose of this is to get you to pause and recognise your achievements for that week and pause to recognise them. This has several benefits:

  • · It allows you to focus on the positives in recognising what has gone well

  • · If you are having a bad day/week it reminds you of everything you have achieved.

  • · When preparing for your reviews it can be used to remind you of everything you have achieved. This is especially useful for annual reviews as we often forget to include things especially if they are from the start of the review period.

  • · when you update your CV then you have a record of your achievements to choose from

  • · When you decide to apply for a new role/go for promotion it gives you multiple options to demonstrate your competencies.

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