Put your mind to rest...at least the negative part of it!
It is estimated that we have somewhere between 12-60000 thoughts/day. That's up to 1.44 thoughts/second. And that 80% of those thoughts are negative. That’s a whole lot of negative all day. No one can actually find the exact studies to prove those numbers. It seems the numbers are just re-quoted often enough that we believe them. But in my experience of seeing thousands of patients (and being a human myself!), I can believe it. Maybe you can relate. It can feel like you are walking around with a really toxic person speaking in demeaning language all day except that the toxic person is actually you!
And this can be detrimental to our health. The opposite of negative self-talk is self-compassion which can improve our mood, keep us from addictive behaviors and even make us choose healthier habits. But if we need self-compassion and what we have is a flood of negative, critical thoughts, how do we change the dialogue in our head?
1. First, be a witness.
The power lies in noticing our thoughts. When you talk to yourself, what is the tone? Are you demeaning or gentle? And don’t forget the subtle messages. There are obvious ones like “I am such a loser” or “Why do I even try?” and then there are ones we may not recognize as well. Like our quick motion to dismiss a compliment, “Oh, I just got lucky” in response to praise. What is the narrative in your head? Make no judgment, just notice. This is the first step to kindness with ourselves.
2. Ask yourself, is the kindest I can be?
Is there another way to say this? Can I say this in a way that acknowledges I am so much more than any mistake I made? How do you accept your human-ness while gently encouraging yourself to improve? It could be as simple as using different words to address yourself, “oh, silly one…” instead of using “should” and “how could I”? Imagine how you would treat a child or a loved one, how would you be kinder to them?
3. What is your grounding mantra?
When you feel like everything is going wrong, how do you reset? Can you find words to bring you back to a calmer, more gentle and hopeful state? These words have to ring true to you. I believe all is perfect in a higher realm, so I repeat, “All is perfect” to remind me that there is purpose and meaning to all of my challenge. What can you say to bring yourself hope and faith for a moment of more ease?
4. Can you step out of your story?
I mean it, can you physically step out of your story? You can literally use movement and step to the side to signify to myself that what you are hearing is just that, just a story. You don’t need to get wrapped up in it. You don’t need to let it be my reality. Not today, or ever. You have the power to step out and make a new story anytime. (Remember you are the one who created the first story! You can do it over all again!)
5. Flood yourself with gratitude.
I mean, typhoon-like floods! Our brains are wired to find the negative. It’s plain and simple. It’s how we have survived. But we are not trying to live in the wild, running from saber-toothed tigers anymore. Flood yourselves with the positive and help your brain look for beauty. Write down 2 new things every night that you are grateful for this month and watch your world shift. Neuroscience shows us this practice secretes hormones that make us feel happier and more over, pushes us to keep looking for joyful things. So why not try to wash over those thousands of thoughts every day with a different story?
Remember that this work takes patience and self-compassion (see rule #2!) None of us ever get perfect at it, that’s why they call it a practice.
The goal is not to be perfect, the goal is to have the awareness to reframe our thoughts in a kinder way. Be your own best friend and supporter.
Change your dialogue and watch your world change right before your eyes.
Live (and love) well,