As today dawns, we become part of the almost one-third of the global population who are under some form of lockdown. During extraordinary times of adversity, it is imperative for each of us to put our unprecedented situation into a more helpful perspective but, above all, positive change requires action from all of us. Our coach training school is offering you some advice on changing your negative thoughts into positive ones.
Build Positive Thoughts and Inner Strengths
Positive thoughts are used to identify and direct inner strengths outward for the greater good. It is a widely accepted fact that thoughts lead feelings and action. If your thoughts are negative, distressing feelings arise. Then, you have an increased impulse to behave in unhelpful ways. How? Either by doing nothing when action is needed, or by doing things that harm yourself and others in the short and long run.
The most therapeutic interventions and self-development methods involve identifying and eliminating negative thoughts. The first step to changing a habit or condition is always to become aware of it.
Become Aware of Your Negative Thoughts
One of the most effective ways to recognize your negative thoughts is to keep a daily journal. By writing down your thoughts that are distressing or are associated with unhelpful feelings and behavior, you start to identify patterns of what can cause or trigger these thoughts.
Known as Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANT’s, these ideas, assumptions and beliefs are usually very intrusive. These types of thoughts are often divided into 10 categories:
Categories of Negative Thoughts
- Mental filtering. You tend to focus on negative aspects or events while neglecting the positives. An example is “There is nothing positive or good in my life.” To address these negative thoughts, take time to consider how the positives outweigh the negatives.
- Emotional reasoning. You tend to interpret your experience based on your feelings now. An example is “I feel worthless, therefore I am worthless.” To address these thoughts, look for evidence that suggests that you’re not seeing an accurate picture.
- Discounting the positive. You are inclined to magnify the positive aspects of another person while minimizing your own. An example is “Getting one bad evaluation proves how inadequate I am.” To reduce this thinking, consider the difference if you believe you are deserving and capable.
- Personalization. You often take the blame for absolutely everything that goes wrong in your life. An example is “I am responsible for everything bad that happens to me.” Instead, look at who or what else could have played a part that you didn’t have control over.
- Black-and-white thinking. You tend to see things as all-or-nothing, either good or bad, right or wrong. An example is “If I’m not a total success, I’m a failure.” As an alternative, consider the many ways that something could be interpreted.
- “Should’ing and must’ing.” You tend to make unreasonable and unrealistic demands of yourself or others. An example is “I should always be perfect.” To counter these thoughts, ask yourself whether there are better alternatives and why things must always be this way.
- Jumping to conclusions. You have a habit of making irrational assumptions about people and circumstances. An example is “I should always be perfect.” Instead, always consider if there is another explanation.
- Catastrophizing. You tend to blow circumstances out of proportion by making problems larger than they are. An example is “If something can go wrong it always will.” Challenge this way of thinking by considering what if things are not as bad as you make them out to be.
- Overgeneralizing. You often make broad generalizations based on a single event and minimal evidence. An example is “Because I felt uncomfortable at the meeting, I don’t have what it takes to make friends.” To discount these thoughts, always look for evidence that things are different.
- Labeling. You tend to make global/unconditional statements about yourself or others based on behavior in a specific context or situation. An example is “They are just stupid and worthless.” Instead, explore if there is evidence that your thought is true in other situations too.
Being able to identify and categorize an automatic negative thought is helpful to guide your efforts to challenge and replace it with a more positive and logical thought. In other words, knowing and understanding the type of thought that you most regularly have, already suggests the best ways to argue against it.
Developing a Belief Framework
The supervisors from our coach training school suggest that when you experience negative events repeatedly, especially from childhood, our brain develops a framework that connects events and people with unpleasant outcomes. In other words, you develop your own belief system through your experiences in the past.
So, from childhood you learn to trust – or distrust – that we are worthy, that we are lovable or unlovable, that others are our equals and deserving of respect, are inferior and deserve contempt, or are superior and require submission. Our brains learn to instinctively associate anticipated or real situations with beliefs, which comes out as Automatic Negative Thoughts.
In other words, when your experiences are habitually negative, your thinking patterns become habitually negative and are reinforced by each bad situation that you encounter. You instinctively expect to be abused, cheated, ignored, and so forth. Even when your environment eventually changes, you still feel the same about those around you. But you still feel abuse, fear or distrust without reason.
These automatic negative thoughts are not good for your self-esteem or your relationships, and you tend to feel bad. As a result, the pressure of our unpleasant thoughts and feelings builds until we have to relieve the stress by doing unhelpful things to avoid, escape, or punish ourselves or another. You may get angry, do impulsive and reckless things, withdraw, use alcohol or drugs, cheat, etc. Of course, none of this helps.
So, how do you deal with Automatic Negative Thoughts?
Dealing with Automatic Negative Thoughts
The first step to managing automatic negative thoughts is to become aware of them. As a negative thought arises, you must first consciously notice it. Do not judge it or label it, just accept the thought and let it come and go in its natural rhythm. At the same time try to recognize patterns of negative thinking and explore what beliefs underlie them.
- Use and often review your journal to help you with this process.
- Consider which theme or pattern each thought belongs to.
- Challenge the thought (or group of thoughts) by looking for disproving evidence.
- Formulate a healthier alternative thought that is more appropriate, reliable, and accurate.
- Affirm your new thought every time you become aware of a negative thought intruding.
All in all, these were our tips on making your mission to change your negative thoughts. We really hope that these will help during these difficult times.
If you’re thinking about joining our coach training school – we’re on hand! Our enrollment team would love to have a chat with you to find out more about your goals and main reasons for pursuing a coaching career. Just click ‘speak to an enrollment advisor’ here to get started: https://jayshettycoaching.com.