We talk about the power of positive thinking, but what if that feels fake? It’s not about a Pollyanna view or ignoring that bad things happen. For me, it’s believing that things will all work out. As a Jesus follower, I believe what he said in John 16:33:
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, you can benefit from these 3 simple steps to turning your negative self-talk around.
Sometimes the non-stop mental chatter that we all have becomes so normal that we don’t even think about it. Simply tuning in and noticing what you’re saying to yourself can be a big eye-opener. And do this without judgment.
Consider if what you’re saying to yourself is something that you would say to a friend. If the answer is no, move on to step 2.
Really examine your thoughts, or if you’re talking to someone else, pause and think about the words you’re saying.
Are they true? There is often an element of truth to them, but we tend to be overly hard on ourselves and generalize, often in a negative way.
For example, if you’re running behind, you may have thoughts like this: “I’m always running late. I’ll never get it together. I just can’t seem to get caught up.”
And it can absolutely feel that way. But pause for a moment.
Are you really always late? Most likely not
Will you never be able to get it together? This can be seen as negative thinking, but it can also be an excuse to stay stuck where we are.
When we talk to and about ourselves this way, it becomes something unchangeable. “It’s just the way I am.” In reality, most of the things that we don’t love about ourselves can be changed, it just may take some effort.
The more accurate, and positive, thought might be “I’ve got to do something different if I want things to be different,” and then figure out how to improve in this area. Or maybe you’ll decide that it’s not enough of a priority to put forth the effort. Either way, you’re making a decision instead of just having a passive negative thought.
The most important part of this step is to avoid beating yourself up. We often have very ingrained patterns of negativity, especially toward ourselves.
I still have issues with negative self-talk. Thoughts pop up that are overgeneralized and negative, but I recognize them, most of the time quickly, and I challenge them. This leads us to the third and final step.
Challenge your negative thoughts. After you’ve determined what isn’t true, move on to what is.
It’s often a version of what you’ve identified in step 2, but not nearly as dramatic. It's a reminder that even though we make mistakes, there’s often a lot of good in there, or at least important lessons to be learned.
I was on a call with my coach, and I was talking about being back home from my travel contract and getting into a new routine. I made the comment that nothing went as I’d planned for my time in Kentucky, and that I didn’t accomplish very much business-wise, but that I was thankful for the time I had to focus on what really mattered, like being home for the holiday celebrations and having time to be with my friend as she was sick and passing.
This is something that may sound positive - and in some ways, it is - I focused on gratitude for the things that worked out. And gratitude is a wonderful thing to have and to practice.
But, and this is a big but, I can sometimes use gratitude to deflect from what I’m really saying to myself, which was “nothing went as I’d planned for my time in Kentucky, and that I didn’t accomplish very much business-wise”. So here I am at step one, being aware of the thought.
Now I move on to step two. I pause and examine the thought. Is that really true? Did nothing go as planned? And hmmm, if I didn’t accomplish very much, what did I accomplish?
And I finish out with step three. I turn it around and focus on the good that came from it. Actually…
So did it go exactly as I had planned? Nope. Life rarely does. But when we take a minute to really evaluate things, there is so much good to be found!
When we feel better, we make better choices. I’ve got a great tool that you can incorporate into your day that will quickly and efficiently let you see the impact of the choices you're making on how you feel. You can get your free copy at https://www.jennylytle.com/body-budget-tracker