Tag Archives: negative thoughts

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

 

intrusive thoughts

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

We all have ‘noise’ going on in our minds. Odd thoughts pop into our minds that surprise us but usually we never act on them. Many of my clients don’t realise that intrusive thoughts happen to all of us. The trick is to realise that thoughts will always keep coming. Learning to filter your thoughts and not pay each thought equal attention is the key to a more contented life. When we focus on the negative thoughts, it can often lead to anxiety and/or depression.

Optimists are very good at buffering themselves from their negative thinking, they are just somehow good at placing less importance on negative self critical thoughts and spend more mental energy on the positive hopeful thoughts.

Imagine that you are a bus driver and you need to drive your bus from A to Destination B. On your bus you have a few intrusive difficult passengers who keep yelling, “What if we get lost?”; “You can’t drive a bus, you’re pathetic!”; “What if we get a flat tyre?”; “What if we have an accident?” or “You’ll never be able to do it”.

What would happen if you listened to these passengers? It would certainly make the task a lot harder and would probably distract you or lead you to avoiding driving the bus altogether.

Our intrusive thoughts are like these passengers on the bus – they can be ignored. If we pay attention to them they distract us and affect our confidence and our behaviour. Learning to focus our attention only on thoughts that are helpful is a skill that takes practise but we are all capable of doing it.

At times, we have to distract ourselves completely in order to stop the thoughts. One clever technique is to practise mindfulness which means being fully present in the moment. To help bring you back to the present moment rather than engaging with mad thoughts in our minds – try this technique:

  1. Look for 5 things you can see around you
  2. Listen our for 4 things you can hear
  3. Three things you can touch
  4. Two things you can smell
  5. One thing you can taste

It’s possible that not all the above will be possible depending on where you are, but engaging as many of your senses as you can leaves your brain with less space for mindless thoughts.

Thoughts are not facts – they are just part of how your brain works. Learn to ignore the thoughts that are unhelpful. Look for evidence of your thinking to ensure you are not assuming or mind reading (imagining you know what other’s are thinking), overgeneralising, catastrophising (thinking about the worse possible scenario) or personalising (eg. assuming someone isn’t talking to you because of something you have done – it could be that they slept badly or have a worry completely unrelated to you that has made them seem unfriendly). All of the above examples are not evidence based yet cause us stress.

Learn to be discerning with your thoughts – many of them are just complete nonsense!

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

 

What’s stopping you?

 

what's stopping you

What’s stopping you?

When you look at your life, do you feel that the life you have is the one you wanted? Often, misery and dissatisfaction comes from the wide gap between how our life really is and how we wished it would be. Thing is, many of us place mental barriers in the way that stop of us from achieving what we’d like to. Let’s see if you are grappling with any of the following:

  1. Negative Filter

If you like to use your ‘negative filter’ too often, you may as well give up now. It is one of the most self defeating strategies that we can use to stop us from getting what we want.

Statements like “It will never work”; “I am too old” or “No one else is doing it” are examples of negative filter. Instead of looking at the possibilities, we focus on all the reason why something won’t work out. As a result we don’t even try. We use negative filter for a variety of reasons. If we don’t even try, we can’t feel embarrassed if it doesn’t work out. So, in the short term we avoid failure but in the long term we remain frustrated and fed up with our mundane lives.

Force yourself to consider possibilities and use the words “Why Not??”

2. Limiting self belief

If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re unlikely to be brave in life. Self belief overrides what others thinks and keeps us on the path that is true for us. When we lack self belief, we are easily swayed by the fears and negativity of others. Learn to believe in yourself more. Yes, you may fail – that’s a part of life but failure is just a learning curve, it doesn’t mean YOU are a failure, it just means that what you tried didn’t work. Pat yourself on the back for being someone who tries – you’re ahead of those who are all talk and no action.

3. Fear

This is a biggie. Fear cripples many of us. Squashing dreams and leaving many cowering in the corner instead of living their lives to their full potential.

Yes, we all have fears and life offers no guarantees. Learn to harness your fears so that they don’t control you. The more we give in to our fears, the greater they become. The  key to reducing fear is to face them head on. If you worry that showing your true self will lead to rejection, set up an ‘experiment’. Test it out. For example – reveal something small about yourself that is quirky or particular to you and that you feel someone else might judge or reject you for. See what happens…either they won’t judge or reject you and will have won a small victory over a long head fear OR, they will judge/reject you – I know the second option may seem unbearable but we almost ALWAYS overestimate the threat and underestimate our ability to cope.

No doubt, if your fear did come true you would find the reality isn’t half as bad as the nightmare versions you anticipated in your mind. Get out there and start experimenting – it’s called LIFE.

4. Too much “what if” thinking

There are real problems in life and then there are hypothetical (What if) problems in life. Make sure that you know the difference. A real problem requires immediate attention – eg. the dishwasher has broken down. A hypothetical problem is something like “what if I make a fool of myself and no one likes me at the party tomorrow?”. It is wasted emotional and mental energy engaging with ‘what if’ thinking.

What if thinking leads to negative filter, fear and lowered self belief – learn to dismiss those thoughts. Say to yourself – “There I go again trying to find certainty and plan ahead”. What if thinking won’t change the outcome. Deal with issues as they arise rather than worrying about something that might never happen.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? I like this question because it removes many mental barriers that we create for ourselves. Live a life that is brave and open minded. See yourself as a winner who is experimenting with life. You will be happier for it. Rather try and fail than live a life full of regrets.

Mandy X

worrying unnecessarily

Strategies to manage worrying unnecessarily

worry photo

Strategies to manage worrying unnecessarily

We all do it far too much for our own good but it is a habit that we can manage. The questions and exercises below are a fantastic effective way to put manage worrying and put you back in the frame in a more objective mindset.

 

Ask yourself the following questions to manage worrying:

  • Is this something with a very low probability of occurring?
  • What prediction am I making?
  • What is the problem that needs to be solved?
  • What specific actions can I take?
  • Are these actions reasonable?
  • Am I worrying about things over which I have little or no control?
  • Is this a productive (resolution focused) or unproductive worry?
  • Why or why not?

 

My negative predictions/worries:

1) for example: I will end up alone and miserable.

2)

3)

4)

5)

How I make these predictions come true:

Example: I avoid meeting new people because it’s a pointless exercise anyhow.

 

An alternative way to look at it that can disprove my negative predictions:

Example:

It’s not a ‘given’ that I will end up alone. I need to meet more people but I don’t need someone in my life to be happy. Being lonely is a state of mind. I might prefer to have a relationship but I am responsible for my own happiness.

 

 

How I’ll feel about what is bothering me now in:

1 week

1 month

6 months

1 year

 

Why I would not feel as bad about this in the future…

 

 

Negation of problems:

 

The problem

Example: I am single

 

Why it’s not a problem….

Example: I know many people in relationships who feel alone and miserable.

I have the choice to fill my life as I wish. Being single means making my own choices.

 

The above worksheet/exercise is a great way to introduce rational aspects into emotional reasoning. It can decrease your level of anxiety instantly and help you to manage worrying when it is just wasted energy.
worry photo

Photo by symphony of love

Photo by StormKatt