Tag Archives: negative thinking

Your thoughts aren’t real

thoughts photo

“The quality of your life is determined solely by the relationship you have to your own thinking” – R.Carlson

Your thoughts aren’t real

Okay, hear me out. The idea that your thoughts aren’t real may seem bizarre but once I have finished explaining you will see the logic. Your thoughts are your perceptions about the world. We don’t experience the world directly, we experience the world through our preconceived ideas and attitudes that have been created during our lives. We all have ‘filters’ that change how we perceive things around us. For example, the same event can happen to two people, the exact same experience, yet these two people may take very different lessons and experiences from that one event. If thoughts were real and standardised, we would all experience the world exactly the same way.

Imagine that you are sitting on a park bench with a friend and a dog approaches you. Imagine that you were once attacked by a dog. Your thoughts would be fearful and you would try to escape the dog. Your friend may not have the same filter of fear for dogs and may want to pet the dog. The exact same event yet very different outcomes. The difference between the two people was their thinking. Their thinking influenced their experience.

Your consciousness produces a stream of thought, one after the other. When we pay attention and focus on a thought it seems real but as soon as we distract ourselves the thought and the emotion attached to that thought disappears. Thoughts come and go.

Once you understand that you are the creator/thinker of your thoughts and that your mind doesn’t produce reality, it produces thoughts, you won’t be as affected by what you think.

Thoughts directly affect how we feel. It’s impossible to feel without thinking something first. Try feel angry without first thinking about something that makes you angry – it’s impossible. Focusing on negative thoughts will cause you to feel low. It’s common sense. Analyse less and live more in the moment. By all means, create goals and problem solve but don’t believe that you can think your way our of depression.The more you analyse, the worse it will be. Try mindfulness as a way to distract yourself from your mental torture.

Overthinking is one of the worst things you can do. Learn to let go of the thoughts, dismiss them and picture them passing you by…you can choose the ones you want to focus on and the ones you wish to dismiss. It takes practise but becoming a better ‘thought/mind manager’ will make you a whole lot happier.

Mandy X

 

How to manage negative thoughts

negative thinking photoPhoto by martinak15

 

How to manage negative thoughts

We have somewhere between 40 000 and 60 000 thoughts every day so it pays to be selective about the thoughts you decide to focus on.  In general, I have found that most of my clients tend to worry more when they have spare time. Rumination is the tendency to over think things without finding a solution. It is wasted energy and only serves as mental torture.

The best way to deal with negative thoughts is to remind yourself that thoughts are NOT facts. They are merely a representation of reality and are formed according to your existing ‘filters’ and experiences. This means they can often be distorted and unhelpful – creating anxiety and distress unnecessarily. Have you ever worried about something only to find out that you had made assumptions and all your worry was for nothing? Remember that there is ALWAYS another way to look at an event. Watch what you tell yourself and how you interpret things.

Thoughts affect emotions which in turn affect how we behave. THINK – FEEL – BEHAVE. This is the bottom line of cognitive behavioural therapy. Watch your thinking, challenge your negative thinking and immediately improve your quality of life.

We can all ‘catastrophise’ initially and think the worst. For example, I have had days when I have eaten junk all day and then had the thought “I am never going to be healthy, I may as well just give up”. This thought led me to feeling pretty low and annoyed at myself. I could also choose to think “I may have been undisciplined today but tomorrow I can start again”. The same event and two different thoughts which will in turn lead to two different emotions….the first negative thought will lead to negative emotions whereas the second thought will lead me to feeling more hopeful and optimistic. Watch what you feed yourself – I call it my ‘mental diet’ and I constantly work at talking to myself in an empowering way.

Ask yourself what you might tell a friend to help you think up another way to look at something.

Remind yourself that “this too shall pass”. One good thing about life is that there will always be change and although change isn’t always welcome, at times it can really be a good thing.

Accept that negative and intrusive thoughts are part of life. They will keep coming but you can train yourself to let the thoughts pass without really giving them attention. Distract yourself if necessary…another thought will soon be coming along.

Learn to choose the thoughts that work for you and empower you. You can choose your thoughts and beliefs.

Don’t compare yourself to others as you never truly know what is going on, Instead focus on yourself, your strengths and your goals.

If you find it really hard not to worry, schedule yourself some ‘worry time’, say half an hour in the evening and then don’t allow yourself to worry until then. Make sure that when worry time comes around, you do your best to be resolution focused rather than allowing your scary thoughts to ‘bully’ and scare you. Fear paralyses us and often there is no need for the fear in the first place.

Think of these three options: Change, accept or let go.

Decide on a plan of action and do it. Try not to allow thought to just keep running through your mind over and over. The more you worry, the more you lose time to be content and at peace.

Keeping negative thinking in check takes practise and the job will never be perfect but I work at it every day and I have definitely improved my happiness levels and ability to cope over time…a work in progress and you can do it too.

Mandy X

 

The curse of thought

 

thought photo

The curse of thought

Your thoughts and beliefs have the power to create heaven or hell for you. The thoughts you choose to listen to and focus on influence the quality of your life. The curse of thought is something we all have to manage. Thoughts will continue to enter your mind, some invited and some uninvited. You can’t control who knocks at your door but you can control and decide how long you wish to entertain them for. The same goes for your thoughts. We all have something like 70 000 thoughts whizzing through our minds daily. If we don’t manage our thoughts effectively, it will show in the form of chaotic lives. Show me an unhappy person, and I will show you at least 80% of the time, someone who has not learned how to become an effective thought manager. A positive thought is often just as valid as a negative thought. There is always a number of ways to look at a particular situation. Pessimistic, depressive personalities will tend to focus on the worrisome thoughts and believe the negative thoughts whereas optimists will tend to lean towards the more positive thoughts.

Here’s an example: When my son as very young, we went on holiday with my partner and his parents. When my son cried in the night, my mother-in-law would jump out of bed and take charge.

Neutral interpretation without emotional interpretation: my son is crying. my mother in law has gone to tend to my son.

Negative interpretation of neutral event (this was my intitial perception): She is so rude and she obviously feels she is more competent and soothing my son than I am. I felt put out an annoyed. A negaive appraisal and negative thinking led me to feeling unhappy and angry.

Another rational alternative: My mother in law is just trying to help. She is not necessarily trying to show me up to be an inferior parent. When she tends to my son it also means I can get more sleep. This interpretation leads to less and anger and a happier mood.

Cognitive behavioural therapy states that it isn’t what happens to you but rather your perception of what happens that leads to emotions and the further behaviour in line with that feeling. So if we nip the thinking in the bud and get into the habit of looking for rational alternatives, we increase the likelihood that we can see things in a more positive light and therefore feel happier in life.

Thinking and beliefs can make or break a person. We have much more choice about what we choose to believe. Clients resist this idea but it’s true. Clients tell me that they cannot help the anger or the resentment and that they will never be able to see things differently because it is reality BUT there are MANY versions of your reality. I know which version of reality I would prefer to believe….

Mandy X

Do you hold dysfunctional attitudes?

 

crazy

Do you hold dysfunctional attitudes?

It’s safe to say that we probably all hold some type of dysfunctional attitude at some time in our lives. Dysfunctional attitudes are also called “rules for living” by therapists and usually take the form of “if this…then that”.  Many of us hold rules for living that we don’t consciously acknowledge, yet these ‘rules’ impact upon what we do immensely.

  1. Dysfunctional attitudes lack flexibility

Dysfunctional attitudes are often rigid and generalised and involve concepts like “always, never, must, should, have to, need to…”.

2. Dysfunctional attitudes are self limiting

When you ‘buy into’ dysfunctional thinking, it becomes harder to reach your goals. For example: thinking along the lines of: “I believe that I must never fail so I withdraw and don’t try at all” will ultimately allow self limiting thoughts to override potential opportunities.

3. Often focused on approval

Dysfunctional attitudes often focus on approval from others, achievement or/and control. Many of the situations we cannot control in life lead us to developing dysfunctional attitudes when we would be far better off accepting the status quo. For example – we may have romantic feelings for someone and feel insecure about how they feel about us. Instead of dealing with the situation and asking the person directly, which takes bravery, we tell ourselves they don’t care and we pull away or we tell ourselves they do care and behave inappropriately.

4. Often related to various roles

Eg: I must be perfect, I must get it right every time, I must be loved, I must be accepted, I must gain respect.  Ask yourself WHY you “must”?? Who says? Where’s the rule book stating this? Challenge this type of attitude as it only serves to create personal pressure and stress. Replace must and should with “could”.

5. Dysfunctional attitudes are linked to self experience

Sometimes we have a rule for living such as: I feel bad if a rule is broken but good if successful. This rule for living ensures that our pleasure comes from an external source and this is a precarious way for us to feel good about ourselves. When we receive approval from others, it feels good and makes us feel successful but the best strategy to use is to find ways to feel good about yourself without approval from others. Approval from others should be a bonus, not a necessity. Dysfunctional attitudes begin to form when we are very young and become reinforced over time due to our childhood experiences and subsequent life experience.

6. They are linked to basic hopes in the future

Example: If I am loved then I will be happy; If I am successful then I will be worthy – a somebody rather than a nobody.

7. Often culturally reinforced

Example: We should be individualistic and achieve; women should always be loving and caring.

Further common examples of dysfunctional attitudes:

People will probably think less of me if I make a mistake (mind reading – there is no evidence for this thought)

If a person asks for help, it’s a sign of weakness (this is not a fact)

If other people know what you are really like they will think less of you. (there is no concrete evidence for this and no doubt there will be at least one example in your life of someone knowing you well who still loves and cares for you).

I cannot trust other people because they might be cruel to me (over generalised).

To be happy I must be admired, respected. I must show others that I am competent.

I must always try hard. I must avoid making mistakes and never be seen to fail.

I have to achieve things to maintain my sense of self worth.

To feel good about myself I have to have others’ admiring attention.

You are more likely to have dysfunctional attitudes if you have not received recognition from your parents, have been made to feel less than or not good enough in some way ( a common cause is from parents who offer conditional love to children – eg. only when they gt good grades at school, uni etc)

How to challenge dysfunctional attitudes:

Remember that thoughts aren’t facts – learn to challenge your thinking and look for the evidence.

Look for other ways to view a situation. What would a friend say?

Look at the advantages and disadvantages of possessing a dysfunctional attitude.

Work on loving and accepting yourself. You are worthy just being you, you don’t need to DO anything to be valuable.

Mandy X