Following on from the widespread belief that our thoughts create our reality, I am going to share with you some suggestions on controlling the constant chatter in our heads and not engaging with all the thoughts that constantly float in and out of our minds on a daily basis. This applies to all our thoughts, some of which are often based upon limiting beliefs, learned behaviour and environmental conditioning from both our past and present environments.
Both positive and negative thoughts serve a purpose in terms of the way our brains function. For example sometimes a negative thought can pop up as a warning to slow down, be careful or take extra care. However, it is not that we need to ignore every negative thought or replace it immediately with a positive thought. Rather the idea is to evaluate the thought and decide how useful and real it actually is. What we choose to do with these thoughts is the focus and is part of the journey of self-awareness.
While researching some strategies and perspectives of changing our self-talk, I came across an interesting quote which serves as the perfect metaphor to describe the human brain: “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf”.
So how can we learn to surf the wave of negative thinking and challenge the negative thoughts that ripple through our heads on a daily basis? The real outcome is to identify the thought and the self-talk that accompanies it, before allowing it to spiral out of control.
It is interesting to note that most of our self-talk comes from a place of fear and self-doubt. Because the actions we take are influenced by our thoughts, negative self-talk affects the way we feel and consequently impacts on the way we act. The inner dialogue and running commentaries that characterise our inner voice may seem or sound true, but are often based on our perceptions and our interpretation of a particular situation, which can be unreasonable.
It can be difficult to get into the habit of positive self-talk but learning to challenge the unhelpful thoughts in a conscious way can motivate you to look at your situation from a different and more positive perspective. This will assist you in making decisions that support the outcomes you are seeking, improve your mood and enhance general well-being.
Positive self-talk needs to become a habit. The brain needs to be reprogrammed to immediately notice a negative thought pattern and the negative self-talk that accompanies it. Once noticed, the thought needs to be consciously and deliberately replaced with a positive alternative. The technique used is called “reframing “and replaces negative chatter that limits, criticises and defeats us, with supportive and encouraging statements that improve our chances of success and create positive energy which makes us feel empowered.
Here is a quick acronym that is easy to remember and will help you get started on creating this powerful new habit:
CATCH your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control, turn into negative self-talk and start affecting your decisions and actions.
For this to be effective you should be observing your thoughts and negative self-talk to observe a pattern. Become consciously aware of how you speak to other people, how you speak to yourself, how your mind wanders and gets caught up with certain thoughts, and how certain situations affect you.
CHECK the negative thoughts by asking these few questions:
- Are my thoughts based on fact or my own interpretation?
- What is the evidence that shows these thoughts are true?
- Am I making negative assumptions? In essence a reality check.
CHANGE your negative thoughts into positive self-talk by “reframing”.
Use positive language to reframe the thought by challenging the underlying assumption to see if it is based on a limiting belief that is not even true, and look for a different perspective. Some useful questions to ask: What other ways could I look at this situation?
- If I looked at the situation from a positive angle, how would I perceive it?
- Will this matter five years from now?
- What am I learning?
- Are these thoughts moving me forward to my desired outcome?
- Of course, to create any new habit takes patience, practice, commitment and time. To reinforce the new thought and positive self-talk, think of your brain as a computer and reframing as the new software that needs to be installed. Then download these new resources over and over again to reinforce your new framework and eventually it will become automatic.
This is how you slowly learn to surf the waves. Mahatma Ghandi’s famous quote is perfect for this month’s mantra:
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviour.
Keep your behaviour positive become your behaviour becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
Always remember to Catch, Check and Change when caught in a challenging wave. It could be the difference between make or break.
With love and inspiration