March 20th sees 2021's International Day of Happiness and by golly, we could all do with some of that right now, couldn't we? But why stop there? Why not consider happiness for 365 days of the year? Now there's a thought and one that Gemma is unpicking in this week's blog.
What is negative thinking?
Everyone has that inner dialogue in their head. The voice that talks to us all day long, our thinking voice. We all have one and this inner voice has evolved and developed over time.
When we look at negative thinking people sometimes shy away from admitting it happens for them, but actually researchers have found that over 94% of us have negative thoughts every single day, so it really is quite normal.
Negative thinking is a thought pattern we have, where we have thoughts that are of a negative tone either towards our self, others or our surroundings and situations.
Although the majority of us can manage our negative thoughts and spend time thinking positively too, it can become a sign of mental illness when we find it increasingly more difficult to see, think and feel with a more positive outlook.
Why do I have negative thoughts?
So why do so many people have negative thoughts? Well, this is all down to evolution. See if you think about it, back in the Stone Age, life was pretty dangerous. Vicious predators, who could jump out at any second, not to mention rival tribes that could spring out of nowhere. Our 'Reptilian Brain' was on 'High Alert' all the time, keeping us safe, protecting us from the worse and assessing each moment of everyday with a 'worse case scenario' outlook. After all survival was everything. After many years responding and behaving in this manner, passing it on through generations, our brain still responds in this way. Although it's not usually sabre tooth tigers and tribes people that we are thinking about!
What our reptilian brain doesn’t understand, even in today’s modern world, is the level of threat and danger, and you may find yourself reacting irrationally about things and regretting them later or indeed missing out and avoiding opportunities because of the ‘what ifs’ that swim around in your head.
What are negative thought examples?
These are only examples of negative thoughts as this really could be a never ending list, but negative thoughts that we experience can be:
I'm no good at this
Why does it always happen to me?
I really hate this
What's the point?
No-one likes me?
I'll always feel like this
Nothing ever goes right
What's wrong with me?
There's so much to do
It's worth mentioning that the thoughts we can have may depend on where we are too, so we may have different negative thoughts at home, about ourselves and at work. Our negativity bias, may even come out to play more in a certain environment too.
How do I get rid of negative thoughts?
There's a reason why 94% of the population have daily negative thoughts and that's because we are supposed to. Some wellbeing sites, will advise us to remove the negative and just think more positively. This cannot always be achieved and actually avoiding the feeling or thought can actually make the matter worse. For example, if I asked you to close your eyes for 1 minute and whatever you do, do not think about a holiday abroad with a sandy beach and beautiful blue seas, most people would struggle to keep that thought from their heads. Try it now and what ever you do, DO NOT THINK OF A LOVELY SUNNY BEACH!
Our brain just can't help allowing thoughts to creep back in. So we're not trying to suppress our negative thinking, we are trying to develop a better relationship with those thoughts and change them that way
How can I train my brain to be more positive?
Positive thinking is probably not quite accurate here. To build a better relationship with our thoughts, we need to retrain our brain to think more logically and rationally. These thoughts can be more positive, but I think sometimes people expect a more happy go lucky idea rather than rational and logical.
Our logical thinking takes part in a newer part of our brain, that hasn't had as long to evolve as our reptilian brain from before, therefore it's often more quiet, but it's here, that with determination and practise you make some changes to your negative thought cycle.
We like to talk about the 5Cs a series of steps that can seem like a lot to follow, but actually with practise, as with anything, gets easier in time. You may just think through this process or you may find it beneficial to write it down - whatever is best for you.
Catch - catch yourself having a negative thought and accept it. Ok I'm feeling....because I'm thinking....and that's ok.
Check - have you got all the information? What would other people think? Is there information missing?
Collect - evidence your thought. Where is the proof that this is true? (You might not find much)
Challenge - talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend. What would you say to someone who was having this thought?
Change - Use our 'flip the script' technique, so rather than "There's so much to do," change it to "What do I need to tackle first, I can get through these task if I break them down into smaller chunks."
Something really valuable to remember is that your thoughts do not define you as a person. They are thoughts, not facts. Allowing yourself to disconnect from them can be very powerful.
How we can help
Negative talk is something that we get asked about a lot in our coaching programme which works on building confidence within people to allow you to thrive throughout all areas of your personal and professional life.
As well as this, we will be going into more detail with topics such as this when we launch our online community, later in the year. If you'd like to be kept up to date with details of our online community or about our coaching programme please get in touch
If you love a good read, why don't you check out our other blogs about mindsets.
If you would like to know more about Grow Your Mindset click here.