Are you familiar with the voice in your head?
No, I’m not talking about schizophrenic kind of voices. I’m talking about the voice inside that you use to tell yourself a story.
That voice has several purposes (one is to explain decisions that your subconscious has already made) and one of them is to paint a picture of yourself.
This is perfectly normal.
Everybody does this.
But that it’s normal to do so, does not mean you should blindly accept what it’s telling you, though. Because that voice has a great impact on you.
Great as in huge. Not great as in wonderful, necessarily.
Oh, but I always ignore the negative thoughts
Today, I’d like to explain to you how you can become aware of what you are telling yourself, about yourself. And how this affects how you feel. More importantly, I want to talk about how this affects the decisions you make in your life. Most importantly, I would like to explain to you how you can take control and change the story you tell yourself.
So, what story are you telling yourself?
Create awareness to stop negative thoughts
You need to be aware of the story you are telling yourself, because for a lot of moms the story isn’t so great.
We try to be too much: perfect moms, perfect wives, hostess, professional.
Just as an experiment, imagine you are at your work. Daycare calls, the little one is sick and you need to come to pick him up.
What’s the voice saying? That you are a good mom? Or that you are a bad colleague? That this is really bad?
How does that make you feel?
What story are you telling yourself?
Stop for a moment and think on what kind of thoughts you have about yourself and your environment.
Because both are important.
Even if you are mostly praising yourself, putting your environment or the people around you down in your head still makes a difference. It’s true that they can’t year you, but you can.
If you thoughts are negative regularly, you’ll talk your mood down.
The first step to stop negative thoughts is to be aware of them.
The effect of negative self-talk on our feelings
Did you know that for every bit of negativity, we people need 5 times(!) as much positivity to feel good again?
Negative talk has such a great impact on how we feel and experience our lives. As a result negative thoughts about ourselves can really dampen our spirits on any given day. Regardless of whether anything bad actually happened, or how or day has been going.
I can’t tell you how different the day feels when I tell myself that today is a good day, as opposed to a more negative start (and continuation) of the day.
When I tell myself that it’s a good day and that I’m the kind of woman who gets stuff done, I feel so much more powerful and assertive. It’s so much easier to find joy in the day when I’ve prepped myself to find joy in the first place.
And all that just from changing the thoughts in my head.
Start the day with saying to yourself it’s a good day and that you are a fierce woman.
Effects on our lives
So the above was just on how you feel. And feeling happy or joyful is certainly worthwhile! But let’s now look at the effects on our lives if you don’t stop negative thoughts.
Let’s say that there is something you want to change in your life. Perhaps you want to change jobs, or start a new hobby.
How will you fare if you started by telling yourself that you’re useless? My guess is, not so well.
How would you fare if you told yourself that you are awesome and today is going to be a success.
You now, there is no such thing as a lucky streak that brings people joy for the rest of their lives. The main difference between the people who live a joyful life and the ones that don’t is that the people who are successfully and actively shaping their lives went and took action in the first place. The reason they did this, is because they told themselves that they could!
The effect of what we think is immense in making the decision to take action.
Taking action is what changes your life.
Tell yourself that today you’re on a roll.
So now that you realize how important it is to think positively and to stop the negative self talk, I would like to take you through three ways on how to stop negative thoughts.
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How to stop negative thoughts
1. Pin down the voice
Often, the voice in our heads, the one causing the negative thoughts, is mumbling at us while we’re not paying attention.
That’s how it gets away with all the nonsense: most of the time we’re semi-ignoring it.
Well, that doesn’t work.
Step one in how to stop negative thoughts is to pin down that voice.
Next time it starts talking, stop what you are doing and pay attention to it.
Okay, so maybe next time it starts talking is really inconvenient (because you’re in a meeting, or the kids are painting on the wallpaper), so do this next time you have the opportunity (for instance, when you’re merely making coffee and you’ve spilled a little on the kitchen counter).
What are you telling yourself? What negative thoughts are you having exactly? Word for word?
You don’t have to write them down, but pay attention. Listen.
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Then, very deliberately tell yourself the opposite.
For instance, if you’ve spilled coffee and the negative self talk claims that you are so dumb. Replace it with:
Never mind, everybody spills coffee at times. I’ve got this, because I’m the kind of person who can fix things.
Sounds better right?
Get into the habit of doing this. You’ll miss a few opportunities of talking more positively at yourself, but that’s okay. Habits can be difficult to break. Just try again next time.
And keep trying until you get the hang of it. Just keep going.
2. Drag it out into the light
This is a good step for negative thoughts that carry a lot of emotion and are less well defined.
If something is causing you stress or anxiety.
For instance, you suspect you’ve done something wrong in your job and you’re worried about it. It’s gnawing at you.
Our instinct is to avoid it. To tuck it away into the recesses of our head and pretend it’s not there.
But guess what, this is exactly where the negative thoughts, that ugly voice, get a hold of it. Not good.
What you do instead, is the exact opposite of what your instincts are telling you.
Basically, when you’re alarmed by something, the fight or flight system in the brain kicks in. The more stress you have, the more often and easier that system starts going.
The instinct, then, is to run: flight. Pushing it away into the back of your mind (where it gets to fester).
Instead, do the following.
Sit down and breath for a few minutes. Take your time to settle in.
Then, start talking. You can do this just in your head, or with a real person you trust. Whichever you prefer. But start talking and explain, in detail, the situation. Pretend that the (imaginary) person you are talking to has no idea what you are talking about and so you have to explain everything.
This is important, you have to nail the details down. If you try to skirt around the topic, you give your negative thoughts room for escape. And you don’t want to do that.
Fear is often in the unknown. The goal of this step is to eliminate the unknown.
You’re not going to flight, or fight. You are going to pin the negative thoughts down and look at them.
You will find, they are not as bad as you thought.
Let’s put things into perspective
Is this really true?
I remember when during my burnout, I was telling myself that having the kids in front of the television eating crisps made me a terrible mom. At one point, I was talking to a coach about this and she made a great point: “So what if they are in front of the television eating crisps? What will happen if they do?”
I tried to list why this was awful (they’ll get fat, they’ll turn into criminals) but the truth is, of course, that one afternoon is not going to make any of this happen.
In fact, one afternoon each week of T.V. and crisps won’t even make this happen. Far more important is a loving, relaxed environment from which the kids can safely explore the world.
What if it is true?
So, you were at the office and one of the kids was sick. You left. You left your work and you left your colleagues.
Are you feeling guilty?
So what if something is true. You just dropped your work and left your colleagues to fix it.
Well, aren’t they getting paid to do the work? Aren’t most of them parents and thus have been in the same situation. Isn’t that solidarity?
And if one of them has a problem with that, couldn’t they discuss it with you? Since they haven’t, doesn’t that mean that apparently the issue isn’t really all that important?
So, even if it is all true, why are you being harsh on yourself when others aren’t?
Personally, I will happily take over someone else’s work if it means they get to go comfort their sick child. And I believe most decent adults would agree to the same.
What do your values say?
I strongly believe in living according to your values
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If you have a good awareness of what your values are, you will have an easier time making decisions.
If we take the example above again. You’ve left the office to comfort your child.
What do your values say about this?
I suspect your values will tell you that you made the right choice. Even if it leaves your colleagues with more work to do, you did the right thing.
Hold your values close and in the front of you mind if you go about changing the negative story in your head into a positive one. Because they can shut up that nasty little voice in a heartbeat.
Let’s tell a different story
Of course, the story in your head is there a lot of the time and it often has a not too pretty opinion about stuff.
What you can do about this is take control. Look closely at what these negative thoughts are saying, and deliberately replace them with something positive.
Let’s repeat the three ways:
- Deliberately give yourself a positive message;
- Don’t run, look closely at what is making you feel bad;
- Put it into perspective and hold it against your values.
A good exercise against negativity is practicing daily gratitude. Start a gratitude journal today and change your mindset!